Halifax Fire pledges to fix inspection program
September audit found fire department failed to meet legislative obligations
December 8, 2021, 2:45 pm ASTLast Updated: December 8, 2021, 5:09 pm
Halifax regional council is asking the city’s fire department to improve their fire inspection system.
An action plan approved on Tuesday addressed concerns over flaws in the inspection program identified by auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd in a report in September.
The plan would require Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency to determine and document starting point dates for inspections, work with city planners to better manage building information, and document and track completed fire inspection reports.
“We had asked for the action plan as a result of the auditor general’s report,” Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon said. “I’m really pleased to see the action plan, it’s great.”
The audit looked into HRM’s fire inspection program and made 14 recommendations. It was done over five years, beginning in April 2016 and ending last March, and said Halifax Fire failed to manage important aspects of the fire inspection program.
The plan would also develop performance indicators for the fire prevention division, and regular monitoring to observe their performance.
“This new reorganization would put a lot more robustness around the ability to analyze the work that’s being done, hand out the work that’s being done, and mentor and train people to do that work, as per legislation,” said Fire Chief Kenneth Stuebing.
Documents for the action plan state that it identifies the approach and immediate next steps to meet the audit’s recommendations. The document also acknowledges that current organization and resources for fire prevention are inadequate, and that the action plan addresses this.
“I do think looking at the resource … to be able to meet the recommendations of the auditor general’s report, that this action plan does address that need,” Deagle Gammon said.
The report found that Halifax Fire failed to carry out inspections in a timely manner, and that some buildings had fallen years out of date. The report also found that Halifax Fire failed to work with city planners, meaning that building plans were not adequately vetted for fire safety.
The fire inspection system was found to be insufficient, and 40 per cent of sampled inspections were not completed on time. One building type had an inspection range between “4 to 17 years” without an inspection, and there was no reliable list of inspectable buildings.
The highlighted points in the audit demonstrate that the fire inspection program has failed to meet legislative obligations. It acknowledged efforts made by senior management to address known issues, but said more action was needed. In one case, Halifax Fire said shortage of staff contributed to falling behind on inspections, but had not analyzed how many staff were needed to meet legislative obligations.
Following the auditor general’s report, regional council passed a two-step motion on Sept. 28. The action plan approved on Tuesday is the first step, and will be followed by a staff report in six months, to provide an update on progress.
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