OC To Outsource Part Of Fire Inspection Program

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City has hired a third-party to assist with the Fire Marshal Office’s Quality Assurance Program, resulting in a couple code amendments to come before the Mayor and City Council for approval.

During a work session on March 31, Deputy Chief David Hartley and Captain Josh Bunting of the Fire Marshal’s Office came before the Mayor and City Council to request outsourcing Quality Assurance Program (QAP) correspondence and billing.

According to Hartley, the local QAP allows the office to monitor the inspection and testing services of 15 to 20 third-party fire protection companies servicing the nearly 2,500 fire protection systems throughout the city in about 1,500 buildings.

“… we have about 30,000 sprinkler heads throughout town, and about 10,000 smoke detectors, so this program for us makes sure the systems are maintained and tested,” Hartley said at that time. “When we initiated the program, we found out just over 50 percent of the systems were being tested as required.”

The focus of the program is to ensure proper operation of fire protection systems in the event of an emergency by verifying all fire protection systems are regularly tested; making certain that reported deficiencies are repaired in a timely manner; and ensuring property owners receive quality testing and repair service.

The Fire Marshal’s Office currently bills property owners $30 per system tested. Currently, QAP data management, correspondence, deficiency management and billing are done in-house on several different software platforms, none of which are able to be integrated with each other or with the inspection companies and system owners.

Hartley calculated the estimated cost of outsourcing data management, correspondence and billing to a third party web-based system is $10 per system or $22,000. The projected revenue for a QAP in Fiscal Year 2016 is $66,000.

Hartley requested permission to send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for outsourcing portions of the QAP for a third party web-based system and draft amendments to the existing ordinance to allow the changes. The vouncil voted unanimously to approve.

Since then a contract was formed with a third-party data collection system company, Brycer LLC, and last week Hartley returned before the Mayor and City Council proposing two code amendments to implement the third-party automated system.

In working with Brycer LLC, saved employee hours would be redirected towards reducing permit/plan review turn-around, complaints/referrals and construction field inspections. Also, Fire Protection Contractors will be charged by Brycer a $10 filing fee per required fire protection system test report with the Fire Marshal’s Office continuing to bill property owners $30 per system tested.

The amendments came before the Mayor and City Council on first reading this week. The first amendment is to the section titled “Periodic inspections, testing, and maintenance” and states,  “Periodic inspections, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm signaling, fire suppression, and any other fire protection systems, devices, and equipment shall be conducted in accordance with the appropriate National Fire Protection Association’s Code and Standards, as adopted and/or modified by this Code. The required inspection, testing, and maintenance service shall be conducted by a sprinkler company licensed by the State Fire Marshal Office…It shall be the responsibility of the owner of the protected property to see that the required periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system are conducted, as well as having the system serviced whenever an unexplained activation of the system occurs or if the system is found to be inoperative.”

The amendment would add, “Fire protection systems inspected or tested more than 90 days outside of the required periodic inspection and testing frequencies may be subject to double fees.”

The second amendment would fall under the section titled, “Certificate of inspection” and states, “A certificate of inspection from the appropriate National Fire Protection Code is required to be forwarded to the Office of the Fire Marshal for the Town of Ocean City after each inspection/test is conducted on all fire protection systems…The fire protection company shall, within 30 calendar days of performing the inspection, test or maintenance, submit to the Office of the Fire Marshal a completed inspection form.”

The amendment would add, “A third-party or vendor system data collection agency/company may be required to be utilized for the collection of completed certificates of inspections, with any associated collection filing fees.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the amendments on first reading on Monday night. The amendments will return in their second and final reading on Aug. 17.