Local government

Temple businesses will once again be checked for fire code compliance — more than a decade after the city had previously ceased the practice following a state law.

Temple Fire & Rescue officials briefed the Temple City Council last week on plans for a return of the department’s fire safety surveys that look at local businesses for fire code compliance. City officials plan on starting the survey in July, with the expectation of completing the surveys by the end of the year.

Fire Chief Mitch Randles said the goal of bringing back the surveys — which have not been a regular occurrence since 2009 — is to ensure the public’s safety.

“We have not done any routine pre-plans or inspections of any of our businesses since 2009 unless it was a brand-new building or business,” Mitch Randles said. “That is our primary goal in this, to ensure the safety of citizens. We want to help protect our business owners’ investments.”

Randles said that this process will take several months to complete as firefighters check businesses incrementally in between other fire duties. He said the intention is not to penalize business owners, but provide warnings and suggestions on possible fixes given before any tickets are given.

The surveys will have fire staff go out and walk through each of the city’s about 4,000 businesses to check for possible hazards and safety concerns.

“Each station and each shift are going to have a map that they are going to have to cover, and we are still working on the mapping to make it as fair as possible,” Fire Marshal Randy Rodak. “It’s a lot but some of them are vacant and some of them are small and they will go really quick.”

Randles said the city had stopped the inspections previously after the state changed the requirements to only allow fire inspectors to perform the surveys.

The change greatly reduced the number of employees certified for the work to about three as the certification was very costly and time consuming. The city now has about 20 employees who can perform the surveys. Randles said he expects the entire fire department to be certified by next year.

The revival of this survey will also increase the city’s rating with the Insurance Service Office, an advisory organization. The change could help residents see a decrease in their home insurance rates, officials said.

Cities receive a rating between one and 10 on the group’s public protection classification, with cities that receive a one rating being the best protected. Randles said Temple is currently rated at a three, with a hope that these changes, along with other updates, will move the city up to at least a two rating if not a one.

If the city rises to a two rating, residents can expect their insurance rates to decrease up to 15 percent and businesses could see a decrease of up to 25 percent, officials said. A rise to rank one would further help businesses but not residents.

After completion of the surveys, Rodak said, the city intends to continue surveying businesses each year to make sure buildings are safe as well as each time a new business comes into the building.

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