Honorable William L. Gordon
Santa Barbara Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93121
Re: Response to Santa Barbara County Grand Jury Interim Final Report Regarding City of Santa Barbara Fire Prevention and Inspection
Dear Judge Gordon:
At the July 9, 1996, City Council meeting, the Council voted to accept the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury 1995-96 Interim Final Report on the City of Santa Barbara Fire Prevention and Inspection.
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the Grand Jury for the conscientious and thoughtful analysis reflected in the report. Public Safety, including fire prevention and inspections, continues to be a priority for the City of Santa Barbara.
The City's responses to the specific findings and recommendations as requested by the Grand Jury are as follows:
Finding 1: The Santa Barbara Fire Department (SBFD) would benefit from a computerized record management system.
Recommendation 1: The Grand Jury urges the SBFD, in conjunction with the City Data Processing Department and Finance Department, to proceed as rapidly as possible with the acquisition of the "Fire Department Network Configuration" and the parallel design and/or purchase of a total software system. This system should:
. Communicate and share files among the entire department;
. Have a state-of-art records management system designed for fire suppression and inspection. The system should include, but not be limited to the following: incident reporting, inspection reports, reinspection reports, referrals and follow up;
. Create a tickler system which "red flags" inspections that are due.
Response: The Department is working with the Data Processing Division on a project to replace the existing computer system and convert applications currently in use, including Fire Incident Reports, Training Records, and standard business applications. Funding is expected to be appropriated in FY 96-97 and implementation is scheduled to begin in late August. The addition of a Fire Inspection System remains a high priority of the Department and may be implemented in FY 96-97 if staff time and funding are available.
Finding 2: There is no consistent method of assuring that routine inspections are performed within the time span as required by the SBFD's SOP.
Recommendation 2: Each Battalion Chief must be held accountable to the Fire Marshal for a quarterly status report of completed inspections. The Fire Marshal should report in writing to the Fire Chief with a copy to the City Administrator.
Response: The chain of command for the Santa Barbara City Fire Department requires the Battalion Chiefs to report to the Assistant Fire Chief in charge of Operations. The Battalion Chiefs shall follow the "Quality Control Program" and each quarter give a written report to the Operations Chief on the progress of each Captain's prevention work load by actual numbers. This report will be reviewed by the Operations Chief with the Battalion Chiefs and passed on to the Fire Chief and Fire Marshal. Each quarter, the Battalion Chiefs will meet with each Captain and review selected occupancy files to assure proper documentation, frequency of inspection and monitor quality.
Finding 3: The SBFD does not have a check list/guide to be used while conducting routine inspections.
Recommendation 3: The FSIN should be used as a check list/guide in each inspection. The SBFD should consider revising the FSIN to include a check box indicating that each area has been examined in addition to the "Violation" and "Correction" boxes.
Response: The Department has recently updated the Fire Safety Inspection Notice to reflect changes in the 1994 Edition of the Uniform Fire Code.
The Fire Safety Inspection Notice serves as a checklist for our engine companies. However, if there are not violations found, a notice is not issued. Instead, a card will be mailed to the business as a record of the inspection.
Finding 4: The Inspection Quality Control Program procedure is not adequate to assure quality control. "One or two reviews of inspections" as stated in the SOP does not provide the quality assurance needed.
Recommendation 4: The Fire Marshal/Assistant Chief should do a random examination of approximately five percent of all inspections records every year as a quality control measure. Any deficiencies must be reviewed with the responsible personnel. The result should be submitted to the Fire Chief in writing with a copy to the City Administrator.
Response: The new quarterly status report generated as a result of Finding #2 will provide the necessary ongoing audit system that will be reviewed regularly by the Fire Chief and the Fire Marshal.
Finding 5: Fires have resulted from existing violations that were not detected during previous fire inspections.
Recommendation 5: When the cause of a fire can be traced to an existing but undetected violation, additional training should be required of the responsible engine company.
Response: While such occurrences are extremely rare, the Department agrees that if such an event were to take place, additional training would be appropriate.
Finding 6: The Fire Prevention Division's scope of duties include time-consuming arson investigations.
Recommendation 6: The SBFD should explore the feasibility of transferring arson investigations to a law enforcement agency.
Response: The Police and Fire Department currently work together as a team while investigating arson caused fires. Specific technical knowledge required of each agency to successfully conclude these typically difficult cases is vital. Fire Investigators have unique training and experience in fire cause and origin determination. The Police contribute expertise in criminal investigations.
Finding 7: Activities such as fire suppression, shift scheduling and community activities may preclude adhering to the schedule for inspection and re-inspection which must be completed within 20 days.
Recommendation 7: The re-inspection period should not be extended for more than 10 additional days or a total of 30 days.
Response: The Santa Barbara City Fire Department agrees with Recommendation number 7. The "Quality Control Program" and quarterly Fire Prevention training will reinforce the importance of gaining compliance in the appropriate time frames.
Finding 8: Non-corrected violations often are not referred to the Fire Prevention Division after 20 days per SOP 204.01.
Recommendation 8: Engine companies should follow existing SOP 204.01.
Response: This issue is seen as an ongoing training process, and special attention will be given to assuring that the Fire Department's SOPs are followed closely, accurately, and in a timely fashion by all department members.
Finding 9: The Fire Prevention Division is an integral part of the Fire Department. The Grand Jury found there is poor communication between the Operations Division and the Fire Prevention Division.
Recommendation 9: The Fire Prevention Division and the Operations Division should take steps to improve communication. A computerized link would aid in solving the problem.
Response: A monthly status report of all referrals to fire prevention by operations has been implemented and has already proven to be very beneficial. The new status report, while an interim measure, will become a component of the new data processing system and continue to provide an ongoing improved level of dialogue between both divisions.
Finding 10: The property owner does not necessarily receive a copy of the FSIN.
Recommendation 10: The property owner should receive a copy of the FSIN. The owner should also be notified when the violation is corrected.
Response: Fire employees deal with the responsible person at the site of the inspection. Quite often this person is the owner of the property. If the Department issues a citation for noncompliance, the property owner will be notified if he is not already aware of the situation.
Finding 11: The SOPs for Fire Prevention do not have standardized wording, which results in confusion and misinterpretation.
Recommendation 11: SOPs need to be revised to insure standardized working.
Response: The SBFD agrees with recommendation number 11. The Fire Department began reviewing and revising the Fire Prevention SOPs in November 1995 and will continue to improve and standardize the wording in these SOPs. This area of concern was covered with the Operations division in the Fire Prevention training class given in the second quarter of this year.
AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c) requires that comments to all Findings and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days. The Grand Jury requires all responses be submitted on computer disk along with the printed response):
In closing, I would once again like to thank the members of the Grand Jury for the conscientious and thoughtful analysis regarding the City's Fire Prevention and Inspection Program.
cc: Spencer Boise, Grand Jury Foreman
Sandra E. Lizarraga, City Administrator
Monroe J. Rutherford, Fire Chief
bcc: Peter K. Wilson, Deputy City Administrator