Apartment Inspection Program 1
Running head: APARTMENT INSPECTION PROGRAM REVIEW
Apartment Inspection Program Review
Gwinnett County Department of Fire & Emergency Services, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Apartment Inspection Program 2
I hereby certify that this paper constitutes my own product, that where the language of others is
set forth, quotation marks so indicate, and that appropriate credit is given where I have used the
language, idea, expressions, or writings of another.
Apartment Inspection Program 3
In Gwinnett County, since 2008, 6 fire fatalities have occurred in apartments. Causality and
fatality rates from apartment fires in Gwinnett County were twice the national average. During
January, 2010, an apartment inspection program was initiated. The problem was that Gwinnett
County continues having monetary loss and civilian casualties attributed to apartment fires. The
purpose of this research was to determine if the department’s current apartment inspection
program will decrease these losses. Descriptive research was used to answer the 4 research
questions: (a) Under state and local law, what legal restrictions exist in reference to apartment
inspections in Gwinnett County, (b) what procedures do other jurisdictions in Metropolitan
Atlanta follow when conducting apartment inspections, (c) what procedure does Gwinnett
County Fire and Emergency Services follow when conducting apartment inspections, (d) what
are the causes of apartment fire casualties in Gwinnett County? Procedures included interviews
of fire prevention personnel from career departments around Metropolitan Atlanta to provide
insight into regional apartment inspection procedures. Results indicated that state and local code
defines how inspections are completed. Two jurisdictions did not complete inspections, 4 did not
conduct annual inspections, 2 used suppression personnel, and 6 completed annual inspections.
Inspections consisted of life safety inspections of the common areas and excluded occupied
apartments. Results also showed that a majority of apartment fires started inside the dwelling and
cooking was a major contributor. Recommendations included modifying local codes to mandate
sprinkler or stove hood suppression systems, train and allow suppression personnel to perform
apartment inspections, allow access into living units to inspect rated assemblies, provide fire
prevention education to apartment management and tenants, confirm enforcement restrictions in
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structures 2 stories or less, and conduct an impact analysis of the apartment inspection program
bi-annually and benchmark the program to other local jurisdictions.
Apartment Inspection Program 5
Table of Contents
Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 3
Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................ 5
Background and Significance ......................................................................................................... 8
Literature Review.......................................................................................................................... 10
Procedures ..................................................................................................................................... 25
Results ........................................................................................................................................... 29
Discussion ..................................................................................................................................... 37
Recommendations ......................................................................................................................... 50
References ..................................................................................................................................... 52
Appendix A: Results of Inspection Questionnaire........................................................................ 56
Appendix B: Causes of Apartmetn Fires in Gwinnett County ..................................................... 57
Appendix C: Apartment Fire Casualties by Cause ....................................................................... 58
Appendix D: Interview Questions for Metropolitan Atlanta Fire Marshalls ................................ 59
Appendix E: Interview Responses from Metropoltan Atlanta Fire Marshalls ............................. 60
Appendix F: Email from B. Mitchell ............................................................................................ 65
Appendix G: Emails from M. Phillips .......................................................................................... 67
Appendix H: Interview notes with Assistant Fire Marshall J. Yoder ........................................... 70
Appendix I: Gwinnett County Inspection Consent Form ............................................................ 73
Appendix J: GCFES NFIR Query Incident by Property Type 2007-2010 ................................... 75
Appendix K: GCFES Incident Query Causality by Heat Source 2007-2010 ............................... 79
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Appendix L: GCFES Apartment Inspection Forml ...................................................................... 83
Appendix M: U.S. Census Bureau Fact Finding Website ............................................................ 85
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Apartment Inspection Program Review
As the population of a community increases and more housing is constructed, the risk of
fire in a community increases. Karter (2010) states “78% of all structure fires occur in residential
properties” (p i). Karter (2010) continues, “76% of all civilian injuries occur in residential
properties” (pii). The report Fire in the Unites States 2003–2007 shows that 28% of all
residential fires occur in multifamily buildings (U. S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data
Center [USFA], 2009).
In Gwinnett County, during the last 10 years, the population has increased 37% to an
estimated 805,321 citizens (Gwinnett County Department of Planning and Development, 2010).
Additionally, during the last 10 years, single family housing units have increased 37% to a total
of 72,127 units while multifamily housing units have increased 38% to a total of 58,351 units
(Gwinnett County Department of Planning and Development, 2010).
Nationally, apartment fire deaths have increase seven percent and injuries have increased
4% between 2003 and 2007 (USFA, 2009). In Gwinnett County, these statistics hold true. During
2009 and 2010, six fire fatalities have occurred which is a 300% increase from the previous 5
years (Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services [GCFES], 2011). Fifty
percent of all fire injuries in Gwinnett County occur in apartment structures (GCFES, 2011).
Dollar loss from apartment fires has increased 64% during the time period of 2007-2010
(GCFES, 2011). From 2007-2010, monetary fire loss increased from $8.7 million to $13.7
million (GCFES, 2011).
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The Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services (GCFES) identified
this trend and initiated an apartment inspection program in January, 2010. The problem is that
Gwinnett County continues to have dollar loss and civilian casualties attributed to apartment
fires. The purpose of this applied research paper is to determine if the department’s current
apartment inspection program will decrease these losses.
Descriptive research will be used to answer the following four research questions: (a)
Under state and local law, what legal restrictions exist in reference to apartment inspections in
Gwinnett County, (b) what procedures do other jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta follow
when conducting apartment inspections, (c) what procedure does GCFES follow when
conducting apartment inspections, and (d) what are the causes of apartment fires casualties in
Background and Significance
The Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services (GCFES) provides
fire protection and EMS services for all of Gwinnett County and is a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.
The county encompasses 432 square miles and protects a population of 805,321 citizens
(Gwinnett County Department of Planning and Development, 2011). The department currently
staffs 30 fire stations, 30 ALS capable engines, 11 ALS capable trucks, 23 ALS ambulances, and
2 ALS squads staffed by dual role firefighter paramedics and firefighter EMT’s. The department
employs 845 personnel and all sworn employees are required to obtain Georgia EMT-I and
Firefighter certification. The department operates on a three-platoon schedule with a 24/48 work
schedule. During 2010, the department responded to an excess of 63,000 calls for service.
Gwinnett County has experienced rapid population growth over the last 10 years. The
county has added 212,852 residents and is the second most populous county in the Metropolitan
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Atlanta (Gwinnett County Department of Planning and Development, 2011). During the period
of rapid growth, the GCFES Fire Marshall Office was inundated with requests for new
construction inspections. Due to these requests, existing buildings and maintenance inspections
became a lower priority (J. Yoder, personal communication, July 13, 2011).
This decision caused the county some embarrassment in 2007. “Fire Inspectors Skipped
30 Schools-Missed Checks Lead To Department Shake-Up” was the headlines in the local paper
(Diamond & Stanford, 2006, p. j1). This report caused the resignation of the Fire Chief, Fire
Marshall, a prevention Captain and one inspector (J. Yoder, personal communication, July 13,
2011). One of the key recommendations of the report was to create an Assistant Fire Marshall
position to oversee the annual maintenance inspection program, especially for schools, daycare
centers and personal care homes (Ghirardini, 2006). During 2007 and 2008, the maintenance
inspection division completed inspections of all the required occupancies (J. Yoder, personal
communication, July 13, 2011).
Since 2008, the housing crash and recession has severely affected the county. Gwinnett
County leads the metropolitan area in home foreclosures during the last two years. In 2010, the
county had 14,371 foreclosures and so far this year, the county had logged 13,602 foreclosures
(Hunt, 2011). Since new construction has diminished greatly, more inspectors were available to
continue and expand the maintenance inspections. At the same time, Gwinnett County has seen a
rapid increase in apartment fires. Data from internal reports show that fire injuries and deaths
have increased 50% since 2007 (GCFES, 2011). Additionally, a third of all monetary fire loss in
the county is attributed to apartment fires (GCFES, 2011).
With this backdrop, the GCFES apartment inspection program was initiated. Myers
(2003) states “as is the case with any organization, perception, whether or not reality based, can
Apartment Inspection Program 10
be the driving force behind the decision making process” (p10). The reality is that there are
significant losses due to apartment fires in Gwinnett County. The perception is that initiating an
apartment inspection program will reduce those losses. If the current inspection program is not
routinely reviewed, then the desired results may not be achieved. As the population continues to
grow and the structures in Gwinnett County continue to age, increased fire loss is probable.
This research will produce recommendation that can be used by GCFES to analyze and
review the current apartment inspection program. This project is linked to Unit 1,
Introduction/Integrity and the course goal ‘the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) will develop the
ability to conceptualize and employ the key processes and interpersonal skills used by effective
executive-level managers (United States Fire Administration [USFA], 2005, p. sm 1-3). Further,
this research supports the USFA strategic goal to ‘reduce risk at the local level through
prevention and mitigation” (United States Fire Administration [USFA], 2011, p. II-2).
The literature review was organized around the four research questions: (a) Under state
and local law, what legal restrictions exist in reference to apartment inspections in Gwinnett
County, (b) what procedures do other jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta follow when
conducting apartment inspections, (c) what procedure does GCFES follow when conducting
apartment inspections, and (d) what are the causes of apartment fire casualties in Gwinnett
The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives the legal basis for state
and local government to enforce state and local codes (Diamantes, 2007). Diamantes (2007)
further clarifies that “…local governments have only those powers expressly conferred by the
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state constitution, state statutes, or home rule charter” (p. 13). When reviewing what legal
restrictions apply to apartment inspections in Gwinnett County, one must start with state law.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Title 25, Chapter 2 contains the
Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally (Regulation of Fire and
Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006). Section 25-2-12 (a) (1) gives a county
governing authority with a population greater than 45,000 the mandate to adopt the minimum
state fire safety standards and all additional revisions (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to
Persons and Property Generally, 2006). Section 25-2-12 (2) allows any local government to
enforce fire codes and standards within its jurisdiction and shall be required under section (a) to
“conduct fire safety inspections of existing buildings and structures” (Regulation of Fire and
Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006, § 25-2-12 (2) (A)).
OCGA 25-2-13 (b) (1) (A) applies the minimum state fire codes to buildings or structures
more than three stories tall with the exception of individually owned residential units in that
building (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006).
Section 25-2-13 (b) (B) clearly gives authority to apply the minimum codes to any building
three or more stories in height that is used as a residence by three or more families, and is
equipped with individual cooking and bathroom facilities of each family. The section continues
by stating “nothing in this Code section shall apply to any individually owned residential unit
within any such building” (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property
Generally, 2006, § 25-2-13(b) (B)).
OCGA 25-2-40 (a) (2) requires the installation by the owner and maintenance by the
occupant of an approved battery operated smoke detector within an apartment, house or
townhome (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006).
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Section 25-2-40 (d) requires any smoke detector to be installed per NFPA 72 (Regulation of Fire
and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally). Section 25-2-40 (f) (1) states
The provisions of this code may be enforced by local building and fire code officials in
the case of residential buildings which are not covered by Code Section 25-2-13;
provided, however, that this code section shall not establish a special duty on said
officials to inspect residential facilities for compliance with this Code section; provided,
further, that inspections shall not be conducted for the purpose of determining
compliance with this Code section absent reasonable cause to suspect other building or
fire code violations. (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property
Generally, 2006, § 25-2-40 (f) (1)).
Further mandate in Georgia Law is found in Chapter 120-3-3, Rules and Regulations for
the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards. Section 120-3-3-.03, provides several key definitions
when applying the code. 120-3-3-.03 (6) defines a story as a story occupied by people on a
regular basis (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010).
Section 120-3-3-.03 (8) describes the primary level of exit discharge as “that story which is level
with or above finished grade by more than 50% of the cubic volume of the occupiable story.
Building levels below the primary level shall not count as a story in determining the height of a
building” (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010, p2).
Section 120-3-3-.03 (10) further defines stories as “……. That level starting at the primary level
of exit discharge and ending at the highest occupiable story. A building level below the primary
level shall not count as a story in determining the height of a building” (Rules and Regulations
for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010, p2).
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Section 120-3-3-.04 addresses modifications of the International Fire Code (IFC), 2006
edition. Section (b) (2) mandates application and enforcement of the code to certain residential
occupancies including apartment buildings (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire
Safety Standards, 2010). Section 120-3-3-.04 section (e) (6) addresses modifications to the Life
Safety Code to include the application and enforcement of that code to apartment buildings
(Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010).
Gwinnett County’s local code is titled Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire
Prevention and Protection. Section 46-26 mandates the adoption of the International Fire Code,
2006, as amended by the state laws OCGA 25-2 and Chapter 120-3-3 (Gwinnett County
Ordinance Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection, 2006). Section 46-28 gives the authority
to enforce the fire code ordinance to “authorized personnel of the county fire and emergency
services, authorized officers of the county police and any authorized officers of any city police
department operating in the county” (Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention
and Protection, 2006). Section 46-29 gives the county authority to fine offenders of the code,
issues stop work orders, and provide notifications of non-compliance (Gwinnett County
Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection, 2006). Section 46-30 further clarifies that
the fire prevention code shall be enforced by the fire prevention section of the department and
shall be under the Fire Marshal (Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and
When reviewing the code further, apartment buildings are addressed at two specific
sections. In section 46-40, apartments are not required to have fire sprinkler protection while in
section 46-42, each individual apartment unit is required to have a 1 hour fire resistance rating
(Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection, 2006).
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In Georgia, state law does not regulate landlord-tenant relationships. General
responsibilities of landlords and tenants are contained in OCGA, Title 44, Chapter 7. If there is a
dispute between a tenant and landlord, then both parties would need to go to court. Because of
this, there is an extensive history of case law that applies to landlord-tenant relationships. The
Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc has produced the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook that
is commonly used in Georgia to clarify landlord-tenant relationships.
In addition to state code, the management of residential rental property can be regulated
by local codes (Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc., 2011). A landlord is “responsible to keep
an apartment safe, make repairs, select tenants and collect rent” (Georgia Legal Services
Program, Inc., p. 5). A tenant is “one who pays rent for exclusive right to use the premises,
usually for a defined period” (Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc., p. 5). A tenant has the right
to “use, occupy and enjoy the premises in accordance with the lease or rental agreement”
(Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc., p. 5). Unless is it stated specifically in the lease, a tenant
can refuse to allow a landlord to enter an apartment except in the case of an emergency (Georgia
Legal Services Program, Inc.)
When reviewing the state and local law, it appears that state and local fire codes do apply
to apartment buildings that are three or more occupied stories in height. It also appears that the
first level is the level of “primary exit discharge”. The state code also clearly specifies that
nothing in this code shall apply to any “individually owned residential unit within any such
building" with the exception of smoke detectors. Smoke detectors must be installed and
maintained by the owner per NFPA 72 in each floor of an apartment unit. In Georgia, under
Code 25-2-40, the occupant of the apartment is required to maintain the detector. State code also
states that code officials are not required to inspect apartments for compliance unless there is
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reasonable cause to suspect other code violations. State code also does not mandate the
frequency of inspections in apartment buildings. Diamantes (2007) agrees in that the model
codes include within their scope residential dwellings but does not require routine inspections.
With concerns to tenant law, the landlord is required to maintain a building in a safe
condition and provide smoke detectors. The tenant has the right to use the premises for a
specified time period. Unless it is specifically stated in the lease agreement, the landlord or their
agent has no right to enter a tenant space unless there is an emergency situation.
Gwinnett County’s Fire Prevention Ordinance gives authority for the Fire Marshall and
Fire Prevention Section to apply and enforce local and state codes. In reference to apartments,
the only local requirement is one hour rated fire protection for each apartment unit.
Metropolitan Atlanta Apartment Inspection Procedures
Metropolitan Atlanta is composed of 13 counties surrounding the City of Atlanta. Each
county has a career fire department and is tasked with either protecting the whole county or the
unincorporated sections of their jurisdiction. Either the Fire Marshall or an inspector from each
jurisdiction was contacted and interviewed to provide insight into their apartment inspection
program. Two jurisdictions, Cherokee County and Hall County, replied by email. The results of
the interview are summarized in Appendix A. Each interview is detailed in the Appendix E.
The City of Atlanta and DeKalb County do not complete apartment inspections. Both
jurisdictions state they are only inspecting mandated maintenance inspections and new
construction. The DeKalb County Fire Prevention office has been reduced from 6 to 2 inspectors
due to budget restraints and does not have the staffing to complete apartment inspections (W.
Wright, personal communication, August 3, 2011). Fayette County did not have any apartment
buildings in their jurisdiction.
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Fulton County and Clayton County complete apartment inspections annually by utilizing
Engine and Truck companies. In Fulton County, each company is given an inspection list for
apartment complexes in their first in territory. In Clayton County, the inspections are divided up
by zone to one of six inspectors. Those inspectors then assign the apartment inspections to the
first in Engine companies. The Engine companies inspect the complex and then report back to
the inspector. Clayton County claims that the advantage to this system is if an Engine company
needs technical advice about a code enforcement situation, the inspector assigned to the territory
is familiar with the complex (M. Griffin, personal communication, August 2, 2011).
The remaining county jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta utilize Field Inspectors
assigned to their respective Fire Marshall office. Cherokee County and Rockdale County have a
goal of completing inspections once every two years. In both jurisdictions, the reasoning was the
same. In Cherokee County, the staff of the Fire Marshalls office has been decreased 50 % to four
inspectors (R. Ruh, personal communication, August 7, 2011). In Rockdale County, staffing has
been cut to two inspectors with one inspector assigned to maintenance inspections (B. Norton,
personal communication, August 3, 2011).
Douglas, Hall and Henry Counties all utilize one inspector for maintenance inspections
which includes apartment inspections. These jurisdictions also have the goal of completing
inspections annually. Douglas County has maintained this goal due to there being less than 10
complexes requiring inspections in their jurisdiction (T. Furr, personal communication, August
2, 2011). Henry County also has less than 10 complexes to inspect and is able to meet their goal
(M. O’Brien, personal communication, August 3, 2011). Hall County has not been able to meet
this goal due to only having one inspector available for maintenance inspections county wide and
Apartment Inspection Program 17
prioritizes their inspections to high risk occupancies such as schools and daycare centers (S.
Cagle, personal communication, August 17, 2011).
Cobb County has one inspector dedicated to apartment inspections. This inspector
completes all the inspections annually and inspects approximately 200 complexes (N. Thomas,
personal communication, August 3, 2011). Inspector Thomas (personal communication, August
3, 2011) also advised his inspection consists of spot checks of the common areas and reviews of
the annual sprinkler test, fire extinguisher records, alarm test records, and fire hydrant test
records maintained by the complex management on site.
Forsyth County divides its complexes into zones and requires the inspector assigned to
each zone to complete the inspection (K. Wallace, personal communication, August 2, 2011).
The inspector in that zone is required to inspect new construction as well as existing buildings
with new construction receiving the priority (K. Wallace, personal communication, August 2,
2011). The county has less than 10 complexes in their jurisdiction and the inspections have been
completed annually (K. Wallace, personal communication, August 2, 2011).
Review of census data for each jurisdiction listed above is shown in Appendix A.
Gwinnett County has the most population at 805,321 followed by DeKalb County at 691,893,
Cobb County at 575,519 and the City of Atlanta at 486,411(U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). The
City of Atlanta had the most multifamily housing units at 119,586 followed by DeKalb County at
105,013, Gwinnett County at 53,042, and Cobb County at 41,262 (U.S. Census Bureau).
Clayton County was the next most populous at 259,424 with 28,609 multifamily units
(U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). Fulton County had 18,330 multifamily housing units with a
population of 82,844 (U. S. Census Bureau). The remaining county jurisdictions in Metropolitan
Atlanta had less than 10,000 multifamily units listed (U. S. Census Bureau).
Apartment Inspection Program 18
All jurisdictions that did complete apartment inspections did complete a life safety
inspection. These inspections consisted of checking the common areas, leasing office, clubhouse
and grounds of the complex. Emergency lighting, fire extinguishers and sprinkler inspection
letters are reviewed. Clayton, Hall and Rockdale Counties inspect the actual sprinkler riser in the
building. Cobb County reviews the inspection reports from the sprinkler companies, fire
extinguisher companies, and hydrant maintenance companies while only conducting spot checks
of the common areas and vacant apartments (N. Thomas, personal communication, August 3,
2011). Rockdale County also confirms that the mandatory sprinkler, alarm and fire extinguisher
inspection records are complete (B. Norton, personal communication, August 3, 2011). Cherokee
County does make it a practice to spot check vacant apartments during their building inspections
(R. Ruh, personal communication, August 7, 2011).
What the interviews show is that all except two of the jurisdictions conduct apartment
inspections. Most have a goal of an annual inspection with the exception of Cherokee and
Rockdale Counties. Diamantes, (2007) agrees in that model codes do not establish the frequency
of inspections. Cobb, Douglas, Hall and Henry County each use one inspector. Cobb County’s
inspector is dedicated to apartment inspections but is also responsible for 200 complexes.
Forsyth County divides their jurisdiction into zones and the inspector assigned to the
zone is responsible for both new and existing structures. New inspections, due to the time
constraints of the contractor, get a higher priority. In many other jurisdictions this is common.
Smith (2006) explains that this is a common practice in the Austin Texas Fire Department and is
acceptable unless there is a state mandate to complete the inspections.
Fulton County and Clayton County were the only two jurisdictions interviewed that used
Engine companies to conduct the inspections. Even though Diamantes (2007) agrees that Engine
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company inspections are a great opportunity to establish relations with the community and
familiarize themselves with the structures in the community, he also cautions that “…an
uneducated or untrained inspector essentially is not noticed until a disaster occurs” (p24). Both
(Gillettee, III, 2001; Webb, 2008) agree that engine company personnel, properly trained as
inspectors in their jurisdiction, can be utilized as fire inspectors. Both Fulton and Clayton County
inspect each of their complexes annually. Perez (2008) agrees and recommends that using
Engine companies is an effective way to increase the number of multifamily residential
All jurisdictions that have an apartment inspection program complete a life safety
inspection that includes the common areas. None of the departments ask to inspect occupied
apartments. Cherokee County will make it a practice to spot check any vacant apartment during
an inspection. Due to the Fourth Amendment and case law rulings on the police power of the
state vs. the public rights to privacy, it is common practice for inspectors not to inspect private
dwellings (Diamantes, 2007). Diamantes (2007) continues, “The nonconsensual warrantless
entry of a dwelling is an especially serious breach, unless the entry is in response to an
emergency” (p21). Since a vacant apartment does not have a tenant, it is not considered a
dwelling, and an inspection can be conducted in that unit.
GCFES Apartment Inspections
In 1947, Harry Truman led the Presidents Fire Prevention Conference. From it came the 3
E’s of Fire Prevention, Engineering, Enforcement and Education (United States Fire
Administration [USFA], 2002). When GCFES initiated their apartment inspection program, they
included all three E’s with a focus on Fire and Life Safety code compliance within the apartment
communities (B. Mitchell, Personal Communication, August 11, 2011).
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A preliminary site visit is scheduled that includes an inspector from the Special
Enforcement Section, a fire educator from Community Risk Reduction and an invitation to the
local engine company for preplanning purposes (B. Mitchell, Personal Communication, August
11, 2011). Prior to the inspection, the property representative is asked to complete an Inspection
Consent Form (Appendix I). During the inspection, enforcement activities are conducted by the
inspector, a community educational assessment is conducted by the fire educator and the
suppression personnel update preplans and conduct building familiarization (B. Mitchell,
Personal Communication, August 11, 2011). Any additional inspections that need completion
due to notices of non compliance are conducted by the inspectors.
The inspectors are part of the Special Enforcement Section of the Fire Marshall’s office
which was created in late 2009 to address the increase of apartment fires and civilian casualties
(J. Yoder, personal communication, July 13, 2011). The section consists of one Captain and three
inspectors (M. Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011). Their main responsibility is to
inspect all of the apartments as well as the complaints received throughout the county (M.
Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011).
When an apartment inspection is completed, any notices of non compliance are filled out
and the complex is rated by a color score of Red, Yellow or Green. Red will have an inspection
rescheduled within 6 months, Yellow within one year and Green will have the lowest priority
(M. Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011). An average inspection takes
approximately three hours while a reinspection is quicker (M. Phillips, personal communication,
August 8, 2011). To date since January, 2010, 136 of the county’s 200 complexes have been
inspected with an expected initial inspection completion period of fall 2011 (B. Mitchell,
Personal Communication, August 11, 2011).
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The inspectors utilize an apartment inspection form (Appendix L) and complete an
inspection of all the common areas, mechanical rooms if they are outside of a dwelling unit,
attics and draft stops. Grounds are inspected and spot checks are conducted on fire hydrants.
Knox box activation of the complex gates is verified. Required annual fire alarm, fire
extinguisher, sprinkler inspection, and fire hydrant test certificates are checked. Upon arrival at
the complex, the inspector requests a list of vacant units and inspects each one. Previous
inspections have found occupants illegally staying in the units (J. Yoder, personal
communication, July 13, 2011). As of August 1, 2011, 42 citations have been issued to apartment
complexes and $32,485 has been collected (B. Mitchell, Personal Communication, August 11,
Another feature of Gwinnett’s apartment inspection program is the requirement of a Fire
Emergency Planning Guide. This requirement is based on the interpretation of the International
Fire Code, section 408.9 which requires owners and managers of rental properties to develop a
specific Fire Emergency guide (Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services
[GCFES], 2010). A fire educator will meet with the apartment management to assist with the
creation of the guide. In return, the department requests the guide to be included with the lease
agreement and is displayed at the leasing office (B. Mitchell, Personal Communication, August
When reviewing the literature, several sources agree with the concept of public education
and enforcement. The NFPA clearly recommends that “…more widespread public safety
education is needed on how to prevent fires and how to avoid serious injury or death should a
fire occur” (National Fire Protection Association [NFPA], 2008, p. 20-39). The editors of
Firehouse magazine agree that since inspectors cannot inspect individual apartment units, then
Apartment Inspection Program 22
community education and awareness is the best strategy (Inspections - which do we do first,
2007). Karter (2010} further adds that fire safety education that is brought to the home is still the
best method to reduce the overall casualty rate in residential fires. The International Fire Code
(IFC) does state in section 408.9 that an emergency guide shall be created, maintained and
distributed to each tenant prior to initial occupancy (International Code Council, 2006).
Since January 1, 2010, the program has inspected 68% of the complexes in the county
(B. Mitchell, personal communication August 11, 2011). The inspections are scheduled to be
completed prior to the end of 2011. It is expected that after the wave of initial inspections,
reinspections should occur faster and a goal of annual inspections will be achieved (M. Phillips,
personal communication, August 8, 2011). “From a liability standpoint, it is better for inspectors
to conduct fewer, but more thorough inspections and to follow up on all violations than to
perform more frequent inspections in a haphazard, incomplete, or negligent manner”
(International Fire Service Training Association [IFSTA], 2009, p. 29). A contrary opinion
offered by the Fire Protection Research Foundation found that completing many inspections was
more effective the completing fewer inspections with a higher quality (The Fire Protection
Research Foundation, 2008). The reasoning is that lower fire incident rates have been attributed
with more frequent inspections (The Fire Protection Research Foundation).
In summary, Gwinnett County’s apartment inspection program encompasses inspection
of the common areas, any unoccupied apartments and attic areas. The inspector reviews all
required annual inspection documentation and spot checks hydrants and any mechanical systems
outside of the dwelling unit. Enforcement is obtained with issuances of notices of non
compliance and citations if needed. In addition, the program has a public safety effort with a
needs assessment completed in the complex and the requirement for management to create and
Apartment Inspection Program 23
display a Fire and Emergency guide. The program also includes suppression personnel to
conduct building familiarization, pre planning, and to conduct public relations. The program
since inception has completed approximately 2/3 of the complexes in the county.
Causes of Apartment Fire casualties in Gwinnett County
“Analyzing fire data is an important initial step in determining what risks the community
is facing due to fire” (Newby, 2008). Crawford (2005) expands this further and feels that EMS
reports and other data should also be used when designing a fire prevention program. With that
thought, it is imperative to determine the most common causes of apartment fires in Gwinnett
When reviewing queries of NFIR reports from the previous four years (Appendix J),
cooking fires are almost as frequent as structure fires. During the four year period 2007–2010,
392 apartment structure fires occurred and 356 apartment cooking fire occurred. When reviewing
a query of NFIR reports listing casualties for the same time period (Appendix K), structure fires
caused 31 casualties and cooking fires caused 12 casualties. Six fatalities occurred and were
attributed to structure fires. A summary of the NFIR reports are available in Appendixes B and
When reviewing the causes of the fatalities, all were listed as undetermined. One life
threatening injury was reported with an undetermined cause. Major injuries were attributed to
three cooking fire incidents, three heat from operating equipment incidents and one
undetermined cause. Three severe injuries were reported. One was due to cigarettes, one was
spontaneous combustion and one was heat from operating equipment. The majority of injuries
reported were minor. Cooking was attributed to 5 injuries. Heat from operating equipment
Apartment Inspection Program 24
attributed to 12 incidents, followed by undetermined at five incidents. Cigarettes and candles
were attributed to 2 minor injuries each.
In Gwinnett County, cooking fires are a frequent cause of apartment fires. During 2009,
107 cooking fires occurred which was the greatest cause of apartment fires. FEMA concurs with
this finding and explains that cooking fires account for the majority of apartment fires. (Federal
Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], 2010). Ahrens (2011) reports that nationally, 64% of
apartment fires are caused by cooking fires. Cooking fires are twice as likely to occur in
apartments as in one or two family residences (NFPA, 2008).
When reviewing casualties tied to apartment fires in Gwinnett County, 8 are attributed to
cooking fires. 17 were caused by heat from operating equipment, 3 by cigarettes, 2 by candles,
and 1each due to fireworks and spontaneous combustion. Four were undetermined. Gwinnett
County has shown an increase in casualties due to both apartment structure fires and cooking
fires during the last two years. During 2009-2010, 16 injuries occurred in structure fires
compared to 15 for 2007–2008. Injuries from cooking fires increased from 2 during 2007–2008
to 10 from 2009-2010. There were 6 fatalities during the last 2 years in apartment fires compared
to zero during the 2007–2008 time period.
Karter (2010) found a 19% increase in apartment fire fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008.
FEMA (2010) reports an average of 0.3 fatalities per 100 fires and 2.9 injuries per 100 fires
during the three year period of 2005-2007. In Gwinnett County, during the four year period of
2007-1010, 0.75 fatalities per 100 fires and 5.6 per injuries per 100 fires were reported.
The data also shows that a majority of apartment fires occur in the occupied parts of the
structure. When a fire is unconfined and becomes a structure fire, 32.1% of those fires originate
Apartment Inspection Program 25
in the kitchen, followed by bedrooms at 15.8%, and family rooms at 7.0% (FEMA, 2010). The
least common area of origin is the exterior balcony or porch at 3.6% (FEMA).
Cooking fires are a major contributor to apartment fires in Gwinnett County.
Additionally, the majority of apartment fires occur in the occupied part of the structure.
Compared to the national averages, Gwinnett County far exceeds the national average in both
casualties and fatalities per 100 apartment fires.
The purpose of this applied research paper was to determine if the department’s current
apartment inspection program will decrease the dollar loss and civilian casualties attributed to
apartment fires. The procedures undertaken include a query of population and housing
demographics of the 13 county fire districts in Metropolitan Atlanta and interviews with either
the Fire Marshall or a Fire Inspector in each districts department.
The U. S. Census Bureau Fact Finder website was accessed to determine population and
housing data for each county in Metropolitan Atlanta (Appendix M). Queries were completed for
the City of Atlanta, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall,
Henry and Rockdale Counties. Fayette County was deleted from the study because the county
did not have any multifamily dwelling units within its jurisdiction. Using the researcher’s
knowledge of the jurisdictional boundaries of the fire service in Metropolitan Atlanta, it was
determined whether or not the county fire jurisdictions listed above included both incorporated
and unincorporated portions of the county.
Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, Hall
County and Henry County all had incorporated cities in their jurisdictions that provided city fire
services. Each of these cities identified had their own fire prevention bureau and provided
Apartment Inspection Program 26
inspections within their city limits. The researcher queried these cities on the U. S. Census
Bureau Fact Finder website and subtracted the population and multifamily housing units listed
for each city from the totals listed on the county query.
When querying the data for Clayton County, the City of Morrow’s data was subtracted.
When querying the data for Cobb County, the Cities of Marietta and Smyrna’s data was
subtracted. When querying the data for DeKalb County, the City of Decatur’s data was
subtracted. When querying the data for Douglas County, the City of Douglasville’s data was
subtracted. When querying the data for Fulton County, the Cities of Alpharetta, Atlanta, College
Park, East Point, Roswell, Sandy Springs and Union City’s data was subtracted. When querying
the date for Hall County, the City of Gainesville’s data was subtracted. When querying the data
for Henry County, the City of McDonough’s data was deleted. The results of this quantitative
data are shown in the population and multifamily housing unit’s columns in Appendix A.
Based on the literature review of research question 1, the researcher then developed a
questionnaire (Appendix D) to be utilized to interview either the Fire Marshall or Fire Inspector
of the county fire jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta. The questionnaire was designed to be
short and determine if other local county jurisdictions complete apartment inspections, the
frequency of inspections, what areas of the building are inspected, and who completed the
inspections. The results of the interviews are shown in the apartment inspection program,
frequency of inspections, and company or field inspector’s columns in Appendix A.
Each jurisdictions Fire Marshall office was contacted by phone to determine an email
address and contact information for the questionnaire recipient. During this initial phone call, all
but Cherokee and Hall County were able to provide the information by phone during the initial
contact. Members of Cherokee and Hall County’s prevention office were identified and the
Apartment Inspection Program 27
questionnaire was emailed to those individuals. The notes of the interviews are located in
Personal interviews were then conducted with members of the Gwinnett County
Community Risk Reduction (Appendix F), Special Enforcement Division (Appendix G), and the
Assistant Fire Marshall (Appendix H) of the departments Fire Marshall Office. The Assistant
Fire Marshall was chosen due to his tenure in the division and was able to provide a historical
perspective of events leading up to the creation of the program. The Special Enforcement
Divisions Captain was interviewed due to his duties of managing the operation of that division.
The supervisor in charge of the Community Risk Reduction Division was able to provide insight
on how that program interrelates with the enforcement divisions operation during an Apartment
Quantitative data was developed from a NFIR query of causes of multifamily fires in
Gwinnett County for the period 2007-2010 (Appendix J) and used to produce the chart
multifamily incident types in Appendix B. Quantitative data was developed from a NFIR query
of type of casualty due to apartment fires in Gwinnett County for the period 2007-2010
(Appendix K) and used to produce the chart multifamily casualties in Appendix C.
The researcher chose to limit the questionnaire to departments in Georgia due to the
restrictions of state law. State fire codes vary from state to state. Therefore, the design of
inspection programs due to legal restrictions also vary. The researcher chose to limit the
interviews to county departments due to similarities between those departments and GCFES.
Most county departments in Metropolitan Atlanta are responsible for the protection of a larger
geographic area, larger population and more housing units than a smaller city. The exception to
Apartment Inspection Program 28
this was the City of Atlanta and it was included in the research due to its population and number
of multifamily residential units.
The researcher chose to select the specific county departments within Metropolitan
Atlanta because they consist of career personnel and protect a mix of either urban or suburban
populations with a portion of the population residing in multifamily housing. Those
demographics are similar in nature to the demographics of Gwinnett County and allow a valid
During the research, one member of the Fire Marshall’s office resigned and data obtained
from that individual could not be validated and had to be discarded. The researcher had to limit
the history of the NFIR queries due to a change in the NFIR software reporting program during
The literature and information obtained during the interviews was assumed to be factual,
objective and unbiased. The researcher did have a professional relationship with members of the
GCFES Fire Marshalls office.
Definition of Terms:
Those structures containing three or more living units with independent cooking and bathroom
facilities, whether designated as apartment homes, tenements, condominiums, or garden
apartments (NFPA, 2008, p. 20-37)
A house, an apartment, a mobile home or trailer, a group of rooms, or a single room occupied as
separate living quarters, or if vacant, intended for occupancy as separate living quarters. Separate
Apartment Inspection Program 29
living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other individuals in the
building and which have direct access from outside the building or through a common hall. For
vacant units, the criteria of separateness and direct access are applied to the intended occupants
whenever possible (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010, glossary).
A building that contains more than one housing unit such as an apartment building (U. S.
Census Bureau, 2010, glossary).
Research Question 1:
Gwinnett County’s apartment inspection program is restricted in several ways by both
state and local law. OCGA Section 25-2-12 (a) (1) allows the county to adopt the minimum state
fire safety standards and any revisions (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and
Property Generally, 2006). Section 25-2-12 (2) (a) allows GCFES to enforce the codes and
standards within its jurisdiction and conduct inspections of existing buildings (Regulation of Fire
and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally). These two laws allow GCFES to adopt
and enforce the state fire code.
OCGA 25-2-13 (b) (1) (A) allows the application of state fire codes to any building or
structure more than three stories tall with the exception of individually owned residential units in
the building (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006).
Section 25-2-13 (b) (B) allows the application and enforcement of the state fire code to any
apartment building three or more stories in height but does not allow enforcement in any
individually owned residential unit within the building (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to
Persons and Property Generally). These laws allow GCFES to enforce state fire codes to any
Apartment Inspection Program 30
apartment building three or more stories in height but cannot enforce the code in any individual
OCGA 25-2-40 (a) (2) requires the installation of a smoke detector by the owner of a
multifamily building and requires the occupancy of any dwelling unit to maintain the detector in
operating condition (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally,
2006). Section 25-2-40 (f) (1) further clarifies that an inspection official is not required to inspect
each smoke detector in a dwelling unit unless there is reasonable cause to suspect other building
or code violations (Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally).
This provision of the law requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors in
residential occupancies but does not mandate the inspection of those detectors. Unless an
inspector has probable cause due to another fire safety or code violation, the inspector cannot
enter a dwelling unit without permission of the owner.
Further state mandates clarify building height and what is considered a story for code
purposes. State Minimum Fire Safety Standards Section 120-3-3-.03 defines a story as a level
that is occupied on a regular basis (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety
Standards, 2010). Section 120-3-3-.03 (8) defines the primary level of exit discharge must be at
or above ground level, 50% of that level must be above finish grade, and any level below the
level of primary exit discharge shall not count as a story when considering building height (Rules
and Regulations For the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards). These sections clarifies what is
considered a story and how building height is determined. The language states that in order for a
building to be considered three stories, all three stories must consist of occupiable space, the first
level is considered the main level of discharge, and that level is at least 50% above the finished
Apartment Inspection Program 31
Section 120-3-3-.04 (b) (2) modifies the application and enforcement of the International
Fire Code 2006 to apartment buildings to within the definitions of the state fire code (Rules and
Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010). Section 120-3-3-.04 (e) (6)
addresses the same definitions to the Life Safety Code (Rules and Regulations for the State
Minimum Fire Safety Standards). These revisions modify the difference between R1 and R2
structures but do not affect the R2 listing of apartment buildings.
Section 46-26 of the Gwinnett County Ordinance mandates the adoption of the
International Fire Code as amended by the state (Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire
Prevention and Protection, 2006). Section 46-28, 46-29 and 46-30 provides the authority to
enforce the code and fine offenders by the Fire Marshall, fire prevention section of the Fire
Marshall’s office and any local police authority within Gwinnett County (Gwinnett County
Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection). These code sections allow GCFES
inspectors the power to apply and enforce the state fire safety standards within Gwinnett County.
Section 46-40 specifies that apartments are not required to be sprinkled as long as each
dwelling unit maintains a 1 hour fire rating as required in section 46-42 (Gwinnett County
Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection, 2006). This provision in the local code
will allow a builder to either build an apartment building without sprinkler protection and allow a
an existing building being remodeled to remove a sprinkler system if each unit is a one hour
rated assembly (J. Yoder, personal communication, July 13,2011).
Research Question 2:
The data from the interviews provided the results for research question 2. The responses
to the interview questions are listed in Appendix E. Appendix A provides the results of the
questionnaire. The City of Atlanta and DeKalb County do not conduct apartment inspections.
Apartment Inspection Program 32
Chief Gregory Favors with Atlanta Fire advised that his department has not undertaken that
project and there were no plans to start an inspection program in the near future. Chief Wayne
Wright with DeKalb Fire advised he did not currently have a program in place. His inspection
division is busy with state mandated inspections such as existing schools, personal care homes
and daycare centers. Additionally, new inspection requests have recently increased. His division
has received a personnel cut due to early retirements and there currently a freeze on new hires.
All the other jurisdictions contacted did conduct apartment inspections. All jurisdictions
verified that they conduct a life safety inspection that consists of the common areas, club house,
leasing office and exterior portions of each apartment building. None of the jurisdictions
conducted inspection of occupied living units. Below is a summary of the differences of how
inspections are completed by different jurisdictions.
Both Clayton County and Fulton County conduct apartment inspections and utilize
suppression personnel. Chief Jack Butler with Fulton County Fire advised that each company is
given an inspection list of apartment complexes in their first in territory. The inspections are
completed annually and the inspection forms are sent to the fire prevention office. In Clayton
County, Lieutenant Mitch Griffin supervised the apartment inspection program. The inspections
are assigned to fire companies by their first in territory. Each complex is inspected annually.
Visual inspection is completed of each sprinkler riser. If a code violation is found, then one of
six inspectors is available to meet with the Engine Company or management of the complex.
Cherokee County and Rockdale County both complete apartment inspections with fire
prevention inspectors but utilize a time frame of greater that one year. Chief Rick Ruh with
Cherokee County Fire has a time frame of 12 to 24 months to complete inspections. His division
has gone through a 50% reduction in work force and had completed inspections of all complexes
Apartment Inspection Program 33
within the last two years. Chief Ruh did advise that they will spot check vacant apartments as an
inspection is being conducted. Chief Bill Norton with Rockdale County Fire schedules apartment
inspections with a 12 to 18 month window to completion. Rockdale County uses field inspectors
but only has two inspectors currently assigned. Besides the standard life safety inspection, his
inspectors also check inspection records for fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and alarm
system tests if the building is so equipped.
Douglas County completes apartment inspections but also checks handicap access.
Captain Thomas Furr advised that the inspections are completed annually but his jurisdiction is
only responsible for eight complexes. One inspector in his division is assigned to maintenance
Henry County utilizes field inspectors and inspects their complexes annually. Lieutenant
O’Brien advised that they are responsible for 10 complexes and one inspector is assigned to
maintenance inspections which includes apartments.
Hall County has a goal to complete apartment inspections annually but that is not the
reality. Captain Scott Cagle explained that his division was cut from 6 inspectors to 2 inspectors.
One inspector is assigned to maintenance inspections and mainly handles mandatory inspections
and high hazard inspections. Some examples include schools, daycare and hi hazard businesses.
Captain Cagle advised that they are only responsible for 8 complexes in their jurisdiction.
Forsyth County completes apartment inspections annually. The complexes are divided up
by zone to 1of 5 inspectors. Captain Kevin Wallace advised that each inspector was responsible
for new and maintenance inspections in his zone and could schedule the inspections as time
permits. Besides the common areas, the inspectors also key in on grills on balconies since that
Apartment Inspection Program 34
has been the cause of several fires in his jurisdiction. Captain Wallace advised they had 10
complexes in their jurisdiction.
Cobb County completes apartment inspections and utilizes one inspector. Inspector Nate
Thomas is assigned to all maintenance inspections in the county and completes them annually.
He advised that he is responsible for 200 complexes and utilizes spot checks of the common
areas and an extensive review of the required alarm system, fire extinguisher, sprinkler test, and
fire hydrant test records that are maintained by management.
Research Question 3:
Interviews with GCFES fire prevention personnel were conducted to determine what
procedures GCFES follows when conducting apartment inspections. A summary of the
interviews will be presented here. Each interview is documented in the appendices.
The interview with Assistant Fire Marshall Jeff Yoder occurred on July 13, 2011
(Appendix H). Jeff Yoder has been assigned to the fire prevention division for 6 years. Prior to
2007, inspection priority went to new inspections. After the negative press in early 2007 about
missing school inspections, the Fire Marshall’s office was reorganized and a maintenance
division was created. As the economy weakened in 2008, inspection requests decreased and
more inspectors were available for maintenance inspections. During 2009, several apartment
fires occurred that caused loss of lives. At the same time, a need was evident for the inspection
of night clubs and the enforcement of illegal occupancy changes.
During January, 2010, a Special Enforcement Section was created to inspect all
apartment buildings consisting of three units or greater. The decision was made to go strictly
with those criteria. The inspection completed is a common life safety inspection and utilizes a
standard sheet (Appendix L). Due to 4th amendment issues, individual occupied apartment units
Apartment Inspection Program 35
are not inspected. If the unit is vacant, then it is owned by the management company and is not
considered occupied. Therefore, any vacant unit can be inspected. In addition, attic draft stops
and any required fire walls that are accessible from the common areas are inspected. Right now
the inspections are taking longer than anticipated. But once all complexes have been inspected,
then reinspections are expected to be much quicker and each complex should be inspected
yearly. Jeff Yoder also advised that the apartment inspection program also consisted of a public
education element that was currently being organized by Safety Educator Brandy Mitchell
Captain Matthew Phillips is the supervisor in charge of the Special Enforcement Unit. He
was able to provide some clarifying information about the staffing, procedures and timeframe to
completion (Appendix G). Captain Phillips advised that currently there are 3 inspectors assigned
to the unit. The inspectors are charged with apartment inspections as well as handling any
complaints. Captain Phillips also advised that as a complex is inspected, it is given a potential
hazard rating code of Red, Yellow or Green. Red is considered poor and should be reinspected
within 6 months, yellow is average and should be inspected annually and green very good and
can be inspected less that annually. Logs are not maintained on how long each inspection takes
but the average for the initial inspection is 3 hours. Currently, 68% of the complexes have been
Fire Educator Brandy Mitchell was contacted to provide some information on the public
safety aspect apartment inspections program (Appendix F). Brandy Mitchell makes the initial
contact with the complex and schedules the initial site visit. In addition to the enforcement
aspect of the inspection, a fire safety educator is present to assess the educational needs of the
apartment management and the occupants of the complex. Additionally, suppression personnel
Apartment Inspection Program 36
from the first due stations are invited to take part in preplanning, territory familiarization and to
make contact with the apartment management.
During the public education needs assessment, assistance is provided in developing a Fire
Emergency Planning Guide. Once this guide is produced, it is requested that the guide is given to
any new lessee and made available to current occupants.
The interviews show that Gwinnett County’s apartment inspection program includes
enforcement and public education. The inspections are completed by field inspectors and consist
of a standard life safety inspection and an inspection of all common areas. Vacant apartment are
inspected and have been found to contain illegal occupants. In addition, suppression personnel
are invited to conduct territory familiarization, preplanning, and make contact with apartment
management. The inspections of all complexes are scheduled to be completed by fall of 2011
which would be within 2 years. It is the goal of Captain Phillips to inspect all apartments based
on a hazard rating which would include a variable inspection interval.
Research Question 4:
When determining the most common causes of apartment fire casualties in Gwinnett
County, data from NFIR reports queries (Appendix J and K) were obtained from departmental
incident reports. The quantitative data for those reports are displayed in Appendix B and C.
During the four year period from 2007-2010, 392 apartment structure fires occurred and 356
cooking fires occurred. During that same time period, 31 casualties occurred due to structure
fires and 12 casualties occurred due to cooking fires. There were 6 fatalities in apartment
structure fires during the 2007-2010 time periods.
When reviewing the causes of the fatal fires, all were coded undetermined. Additionally,
one life threatening injury was caused by a fire of undetermined origin. Severe injuries were
Apartment Inspection Program 37
limited to 3 and were caused by cigarettes, spontaneous combustion and heat from operating
equipment respectively. Major injuries were attributed to 3 cooking incidents, 3 heat from
operating equipment and 1 undetermined cause.
The majority of injuries in apartment fires were minor. Cooking attributed to 5 injuries
and heat from operating equipment caused 12 injuries. The listing undetermined was attributed to
5 injuries. Cigarettes and candles contributed to 1 minor injury each.
In Gwinnett County, a high percentage of fires in apartment buildings are attributed to
cooking fires. FEMA (2010) reports similar findings with cooking fires accounting for the
majority of apartment fires. Casualties from cooking fires have increased. During the 2009-2010
time period, 10 injures have occurred due to cooking fires compared to 2 injuries for the 2007-
2008 time period.
Overall, the casualty rate and fatality rate in apartment fires in Gwinnett County exceeds
the national average. During the 4 year time period of 2007-2010, 0.75 fatalities have occurred
per 100 fires and 5.6 injuries per a 100 fires have been reported. FEMA (2010) reports an
average of 0.3 fatalities per 100 fires and 2.9 injuries per 100 fires nationwide.
When reviewing the causes of apartment fires and apartment fire casualties in Gwinnett
County, the data shows that the majority of fires start in the occupied portions of the structure.
FEMA (2010) confirms this trend with approximately 32% of uncontained apartment structure
fires originating in the kitchen, followed by the bedroom at 15% and family rooms at 7%
Gwinnett County, as other jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta, is legally restricted by
state and local law. Diamantes (2007) clarifies that local governments only have the powers that
state constitutions, statuettes or charter allow. In Georgia, OCGA Title 25 Chapter 2 section 12
Apartment Inspection Program 38
and the subsections provides local counties and city governments with a minimum population of
45,000 the mandate to adopt the minimum state fire codes, the ability to impose these mandates
and the ability to conduct inspections of existing buildings and structures (Regulation of Fire and
Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006).
OCGA 25-2-13 (b) (1) (a) allows local governments to apply and enforce the minimum
state fire codes to buildings more than three stories tall unless the building is a private residence
(Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006). The code has a
slight change in wording if the building is an apartment building. Section 25-2-13 (b) (B) allows
the state fire code to be applied to an apartment building three or more stories in height but the
code cannot be enforced in any individually owned unit in the building (Regulation of Fire and
Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally). This ruling has been interpreted by Gwinnett
County Government to allow inspections of apartment buildings within the jurisdiction with the
exception of individual dwelling units. The law clearly states the building must be three or more
stories in height. Further State Mandate clarifies what is considered a story.
Chapter 120-3-3-.03 defines a story as a level of a building normally occupied by people
on a regular basis (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010).
This section defines what is considered a story and will qualify the difference between a 2 story
and 3 story building. Further clarification concerning building height and the affect of code
restrictions is provided in section 120-3-3-.03 (8) and (10). These sections both state that the
ground level is either the level or primary exit discharge or the level than has 50% of its area
above ground level (Rules and Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards). The
importance of this code is the requirement to change occupancy requirements to a high rise if an
Apartment Inspection Program 39
apartment building is greater than 75 feet high at its level of discharge and each level above
grade is an occupiable level.
The state codes provide guidance with the apartment building inspections. The buildings
must be below 75 feet in height from the primary exit discharge grade. The buildings must be a
minimum of three stores high. The code clarifies, for enforcement purposes, a story must be an
occupiable level. This provision clarifies that the common 2/3 split apartment building (2 stories
in the front, 3 stories in the rear) falls under the code requirements. What the state code does not
allow, in this researchers opinion, is the enforcement or inspection of two stories or less
Section 120-3-3-.04 modifies the application of the International Fire Code 2006 in
reference to apartments and the separation of R2 and R1 occupancies (Rules and Regulations for
the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010). This section does allow an authority having
jurisdiction to require management of apartment complexes to provide residents a fire safety
guide (GCFES, 2010). This guide will provide education to the occupants of apartment
OCGA 25-2-40 mandates the installation of smoke detectors in all dwelling units per the
requirements of NFPA 72 but requires the occupant to maintain the detector (Regulation of Fire
and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 2006). Regulation of Fire and Other
Hazards to Persons and Property Generally also mandates that inspectors are not required to
inspect the smoke detectors in individually owned units. State codes also do not mandate the
frequency of inspections. Diamantes (2007) agrees in that model codes include residential
occupancies within their scope but do not mandate an inspection frequency.
Apartment Inspection Program 40
Local County Fire Ordinances regulate the authorities and specific building restrictions in
Gwinnett County. Section 46-26 of the Gwinnett County Ordinance mandates the adoption of the
International Fire Code and amended by the state code (Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46,
Fire Prevention and Protection, 2006). Sections 46-28, 46-29 and 46-30 provide the Fire
Marshall, fire prevention officers and local police the authority to enforce the county ordinance
(Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection).
Section 46-40 allows the deletion of sprinkler protection in an apartment building as long
as each unit has a 1 hour fire resistive rating. This code applies to both new construction and
remodeling. In the researcher’s opinion, especially with the restrictions to enter individual
apartment units to verify compliance, this code prevents the installation of an automatic
engineering suppression device that also contacts the fire department upon activation. The
researcher feels that this code section should be amended to allow sprinkler protection only.
Additional restrictions on inspectors are imposed due to tenant law. A lease is a binding
contract between the apartment buildings management and the renter. In exchange for rent, the
occupant can “use, occupy and enjoy the premises in accordance with the lease or rental
agreement” (Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc., 2011, p. 5). The management of residential
rental property can be regulated by local codes (Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.), The
possibility exist, via changes to local codes, that language concerning apartment inspections,
maintenance of 1 hour fire rated enclosures, and/or interconnected alarm systems can be placed
in either the local housing codes or lease agreements to allow further enforcement or engineering
practices to lessen the likelihood of uncontained apartment fires.
In summary, Georgia State Code provides the minimum standard for fire protection in the
state. State code gives Gwinnett County the ability to inspect the common areas of apartment
Apartment Inspection Program 41
buildings with three occupiable stories. Local code has the capability to require stricter standards
if the need is evident. Local codes can be modified via enforcement, engineering and education
requirements to allow more effective apartment inspection and more effective fire prevention
When reviewing what procedures other county fire departments in Metropolitan Atlanta
use to complete apartment inspections, common traits exist. There were also some alarming
differences. Neither the City of Atlanta nor DeKalb County conducts apartment inspections.
Neither jurisdiction had any future plans to conduct them. Atlanta is the 4th most populous
jurisdiction in the metropolitan area with 486,411 citizens (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). The city
contains 119,586 dwelling units, which is the highest number of multifamily dwelling units in
the area (U. S. Census Bureau). DeKalb County is the 2nd most populous jurisdiction with
691,893 citizens and protects 105,013 multifamily units (U. S. Census Bureau). The numbers
show that the greatest potential for fire or life loss in apartment fires is the two jurisdictions that
do not complete inspections. To Chief Wayne Wright’s credit, he advised that the need is there
but with staffing cuts, only mandatory maintenance inspections are being completed at this time
(W. Wright, personal communication, August 3, 2011). The researcher feels that this situation
should be monitored and a great opportunity exists for future study to see the impact on
monetary loss and civilian casualties when comparing DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta to
similar jurisdictions that conduct apartment inspections.
The rest of the jurisdictions contacted did complete life safety apartment inspections.
The main variables were the frequency of inspection, the number of complexes that needed
inspecting, who completed the inspections, and how the specific prevention office was
organized. Both Fulton and Clayton Counties utilized suppression units to conduct the
Apartment Inspection Program 42
inspections. In both jurisdictions, apartment complexes were assigned by station territory. Both
departments complete their inspections annually. Clayton County protects a population of
259,424 and 28,609 multifamily dwelling units (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). Fulton County
protects a population of 82, 844 with 18, 330 multifamily dwelling units (U. S. Census Bureau).
The use of suppression personnel can be an effective way to increase the number of
apartment inspections (Perez, 2008). Both (Gillettee, III, 2001; Webb, 2008) agree that properly
trained suppression personnel can be utilized as fire inspectors. Diamantes (2007) cautions that
the work of an untrained inspector is not noticed until a disaster occurs. Clayton County makes it
a point to visually inspect each sprinkler riser in a complex (M. Griffin, personal communication,
August 8, 2011). Clayton County and Fulton County rank 5th and 6th in multifamily housing
unit’s protected and complete annual inspections. Both departments provide fire prevention
inspectors to clarify and support any issues found during the inspections. It appears that using
suppression personnel has been effective for these two jurisdictions.
Cherokee and Rockdale Counties complete apartment inspections with fire inspectors but
do not conduct them annually. Both departments have suffered personnel cutbacks. Rockdale
County had two inspectors assigned, one for new construction and one for maintenance
inspections (B. Norton, personal communication, August 3, 2011). Bill Norton (personal
communication, August 3, 2011) added that when an inspection is completed, all inspection
records for required inspections by management were checked. Rockdale protects a population
of 85,215 and has 4918 multifamily units in its jurisdiction (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010).
Cherokee County protects a population of 214,346 and inspects 7,663 multifamily units (U. S.
Census Bureau). Chief Rick Ruh (personal communication, August 7, 2011) advised that his
staff was reduced by 50% to 4 personnel. He did add that when an inspection is completed, they
Apartment Inspection Program 43
spot check vacant apartments for compliance and only have inspectors assigned to maintenance
inspections (R. Ruh, personal communication, August 7, 2011).
Douglas, Henry and Hall Counties all have a population of approximately 200,000 or less
and are responsible for 6000 or less multifamily housing units (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010).
Douglas and Henry County inspects apartments annually and utilizes one field inspector that is
assigned to maintenance inspections. Douglas County also checks handicap access during
apartment inspections (T. Furr, personal communication, August 2, 2011). Hall County has a
goal of inspecting apartments annually, but due to one inspector assigned to maintenance
inspections, prioritizes state mandated inspections (S. Cagle, personal communication, August
17, 2011). Scott Cagle (personal communication, August 17, 2011) admits that this goal is
Forsyth County divides the county into zones and each inspector assigned to a zone is
required to complete new and maintenance inspections (K. Wallace, personal communication,
August 2, 2011). Apartment inspections are completed annually and the inspector schedules the
inspections between mandatory and new inspections. Smith (2006) aggress with this policy in
that it allows flexibility to conduct maintenance inspections while scheduling new work Forsyth
County is similar to Douglas and Henry counties in which the population is less than 200,000
and the jurisdiction protects less than 6000 multifamily housing units (U. S. Census Bureau,
Cobb County was the only jurisdiction that has an inspector that is solely assigned to
apartment inspections. Nate Thomas (personal communication, August 3, 2011) conducts
inspections annually and is responsible for 200 complexes. Cobb County is the third most
populous jurisdiction is Metropolitan Atlanta with 575,519 citizens and 41,262 multifamily
Apartment Inspection Program 44
housing units within its jurisdiction (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). When asked how he completed
so many inspections annually, he advised that his inspection consisted of reviewing required
documentation maintained by the management company of the annual sprinkler inspection
certificate, annual alarm testing certificates, fire extinguisher inspection reports and fire hydrant
testing reports (N. Thomas, personal communication, August 3, 2011). Nate Thomas (personal
communication, August 3, 2011) also advised that he spot checks common areas during his
inspections. What is interesting to note is Cobb County is the only jurisdiction with more than
40,000 multifamily housing units that completes annual inspections. Even though it appears that
the inspections completed are not as in depth as other jurisdictions, all of the engineering
protections are verified via required mandatory inspections by private contractors. This
researcher at first disagreed with this theory and the literature is mixed. The Fire Protection
Research Foundation (2008) states that at times performing more inspections is more effective
than fewer detailed inspections. IFSTA, (2009) counters that to reduce liability, it is better to
conduct more in depth inspections with follow up inspections than to conduct frequent
In summary, two jurisdictions in Metropolitan Atlanta do not complete apartment
inspections and the remaining complete a life safety inspection that includes the common areas
of the complex. None of the jurisdictions questioned inspected occupied apartments. Diamantes
(2007) aggress that it is common practice not to inspect private dwellings. Two jurisdictions
utilize suppression personnel with annual inspections, and the remaining departments utilize fire
prevention inspectors. Three Departments, Cherokee, Hall and Rockdale complete apartment
inspections less than annually. Each department has 8000 or less multifamily units to inspect.
Diamantes (2007) explains that the model codes do not establish the frequency of inspections.
Apartment Inspection Program 45
Not requiring a frequency of inspection is in the best interest of fire departments in the
State of Georgia and reduces a potential burden if a requirement was mandated. Douglas, Forsyth
and Henry counties complete annual inspections but have less than 7000 multifamily dwelling
units in their jurisdiction. Cobb County, with greater than 40,000 multifamily units, utilizes an
inspector that is dedicated to apartment inspections and inspections are completed annually.
Cobb county is the only jurisdiction utilizing one fire prevention inspector with greater than
7,000 multifamily units that complets annual inspections. If the goal of a department is to
conduct annual inspections, then the research shows that either a dedicated apartment inspector
or the utilization of suppression personnel will assist with that goal.
When reviewing Gwinnett County’s apartment inspection procedures, there are several
similarities and difference with the rest of Metropolitan Atlanta. Gwinnett County has the most
populous jurisdiction in Metropolitan Atlanta with 805,321 citizens and it protects 53,042
multifamily dwellings, which is the third most in the metropolitan region (U. S. Census Bureau,
2010). Gwinnett County completes apartment inspections utilizing field inspectors assigned to
the Special Enforcement Unit (J. Yoder, personal communication, July 13, 2011). The unit is
staffed with three inspectors and one Captain and are tasked with apartment inspections and
handling complaints (M. Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011).
Prior to starting the inspection, a preinspection agreement form is given to management
clarifying the inspection and obtaining permission to inspect the premises (Appendix I). As with
other jurisdictions, the inspectors utilize a check sheet and complete a standard life safety
inspection of the common areas and verify required documentation of the annual fire alarm, fire
extinguisher, sprinkler inspection and fire hydrant inspections. In addition, inspections are
completed of attics, attic draft stops, any exterior mechanical areas that can be reached from the
Apartment Inspection Program 46
common area, a visual inspection of balconies for grills and vacant apartments (J. Yoder,
personal communication, 2011). After the inspection, which normally takes 3 hours to complete,
any needed notice of non compliance are issued and the complex is given a color rating of Red,
Yellow or Green (M. Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011). The purpose of the
rating is to prioritize future inspections after any reinspections are completed. The objective is
twice annual inspections for red properties, annual inspections for yellow properties, and
biannual inspections for green properties (M. Phillips, personal communication, August 8, 2011).
Due to the complexity of the inspections, the initial phase of inspection process has been
delayed with the hopes of completing that phase during the fall of 2011 (B. Mitchell, personal
communication, August 11, 2011). As the properties become more compliant, it is expected that
the inspections process will become faster. Some of the violations have been significant and to
date, 42 citations have been issued and fines of $32,485 has been collected (B. Mitchell, personal
communication, August 11, 2011). Diamantes (2007) states it is “better to do less inspections,
than less than-adequate inspections” (p24). Even though other literature had different opinions
(The Fire Protection Research Foundation, 2008), this researcher agrees that a more complete
inspections, especially initially, is a better practice.
Two unique elements not found in other departments in Metropolitan Atlanta was the
inclusion of a public education aspect and suppression personnel being invited to the inspection.
During the initial site visit, a fire educator meets with management to conduct a needs
assessment of the complex and occupants (B. Mitchell, personal communication, August 11,
2011). At the same time, management is assisted in developing a Fire Emergency Planning
Guide per Gwinnett County’s interpretation of the International Fire Code in section 408.9
(GCFES, 2010). The International Fire Code (IFC) does state in section 408.9 that an emergency
Apartment Inspection Program 47
guide shall be created, maintained and distributed to each tenant prior to initial occupancy
(International Code Council, 2006). Several sources of literature (Karter 2008; NFPA 2008)
agree that public education that is brought to the home is the best method to reduce residential
fires and casualties.
By including the local suppression personnel during the initial inspections, you are
benefitting from territory familiarization and preplanning combined with public relations
between the property owners and suppression personnel. The suppression personnel are exposed
to the functions of the fire prevention division and the aspects of apartment inspections. As
(Diamantes, 2007) stated:
The opportunity to preplan hazards, provide building familiarization, and the chance to
establish cordial relations with the community can literally make in-service inspections
the excuse that every chief wants to advertise the department. Training for company
inspections should be prefaced with the fact that the goals of the in-service inspection
program are building familiarization to increase firefighter safety, fire and hazard
reduction, and community relations-in that order. (p19)
What Gwinnett County is accomplishing with their apartment inspection program is the 3
E’s of fire prevention, Engineering, Enforcement and Education (USFA, 2002). The education
aspect, tied to enforcement, appears to be unique for the Atlanta area. A disadvantage to the
program to date is the timeframe to completion, with only 68% of the complexes being inspected
(B. Mitchell, Personal Communication, August 11, 2011).
The purpose of this research paper was to determine if the GCFES current apartment
inspection program will decrease dollar loss and civilian casualties attributed to apartment fires.
In order to determine this, one must determine the common causes of apartment fires in Gwinnett
Apartment Inspection Program 48
County. Crawford (2005) and Newby (2008) agree that analyzing data must be completed to
determine community risk and while designing a fire prevention program.
After reviewing NFIR queries for the time period 2007-2010, the data clearly shows that
in Gwinnett County; nearly as many contained cooking fires occur as apartment structure fires.
Specifically, 393 apartment structure fires occurred and 356 contained cooking fires occurred.
Ahrens (2010) confirms that nationally, 64% of apartment fires are caused by cooking fires. The
literature shows (FEMA 2010; NFPA 2008) that cooking fires are more likely to occur in
apartments than single family dwellings.
When reviewing casualties in Gwinnett County, the results are even more alarming.
During the four year period, 2007-2010, 0.75 fatalities per 100 fires and 5.6 injuries per 100 fires
have occurred. FEMA (2010) reports a nationwide average of 0.3 fatalities and 2.9 injuries per
100 fires respectively. Gwinnett County’s rate is near double of the national average. Six
fatalities occurred during 2009-2010. Karter (2010) found a 19% increase in apartment fire
fatalities during 2009 compared to 2008.
When reviewing the causes of casualties during apartment fires, all 6 fatalities and 1 life
threatening injury were coded undetermined. Severe injuries were reported at 3 and included
cigarettes, spontaneous combustion and heat from operating equipment. Seven major injuries
were reported. They were broken down as 3 from cooking, 3 from heat from operating
equipment and 1 undetermined.
The remaining 23 minor injuries reported were 12 from properly operating equipment, 5
from cooking, 5 undetermined and 1 each due to candles and cigarettes. What is interesting to
note is that all reported casualties with a determined cause originated inside the dwelling and
outside the scope of the common life safety inspection for apartments. FEMA (2010) confirms
Apartment Inspection Program 49
this and explains that 54% of uncontained apartment structure fires occur in the kitchen,
bedroom or family room. FEMA (2010) continues by stating less that 4% of apartment structure
fires start on an exterior balcony or porch.
The data is clear yet alarming. In Gwinnett County, as is the case nationwide, the
majority of apartment fires occur in occupied areas of apartment buildings. In Georgia,
Metropolitan Atlanta, and Gwinnett County, these areas are outside the scope of apartment safety
inspections. The restrictions to inspect occupied apartment units stem from fourth amendment
rights and model codes exempting the requirement to inspect dwellings routinely (Diamantes,
2007). State code also does not mandate the inspection of private dwelling units (Rules and
Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 2010).
State code also clearly defines what multifamily structures can be inspected. Rules and
Regulations for the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards (2010) clearly state that the structure
must contain 3 occupied levels. This researcher’s opinion is, with a strict interpretation of this
law, any 2 stories or less apartment building cannot legally be inspected.
The authority having jurisdiction can enact more stringent local codes with the approval
of the governing body. I feel that the opportunity exists for Gwinnett County to enact stricter
engineering controls such as mandatory sprinkler requirements for apartments, fire suppression
hood systems, or enact local housing codes that provide language in lease agreements to provide
access to inspect fire rated assemblies and mechanical rooms.
When reviewing the way inspections are conducted in Metropolitan Atlanta, the use of
suppression personnel seems a viable option. This option is especially viable for Gwinnett
County since suppression personnel are already attending the initial inspection visits. This
researcher feels, with a minimum of training and experience, suppression personnel can be
Apartment Inspection Program 50
utilized to conduct follow up inspections in apartment complexes when reinspections are
scheduled in the future. I feel this option is especially valid with properties that are rated green
and yellow. This option will also allow the Special Enforcement Division of the fire prevention
office to inspect other high risk occupancies such as extended stay motels and personal care
homes. As a note, if this option was to be valid, then the local Gwinnett County code must be
modified to allow company inspections (Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire
Prevention and Protection, 2006).
If local codes can be modified to allow either more stringent engineering protection or
enforcement, then the researcher feels that both dollar loss and civilian casualties attributed to
apartment fires can be reduced. In the researcher’s opinion, combing both public education and
enforcement together with preplanning and building familiarization is unique and probably
currently the best option for Gwinnett County. The researcher feels that this concept should be
shared with other jurisdictions nationwide and can be modified to meet the local need.
The purpose of this research paper was to determine if the GCFES current apartment
inspection program will decrease dollar loss and civilian casualties attributed to apartment fires.
The literature clearly showed that the GCFES apartment inspection program was restricted due
to Georgia State Law and Gwinnett County Code. Two main issues identified were the
inspection of individual dwelling units and local code not requiring mandatory sprinkler
protection in apartment buildings. Further, the researcher identified that the majority of
apartment fires in Gwinnett County started in occupied apartments and are outside the scope of
the inspection program.
Apartment Inspection Program 51
With the current restrictions noted, I recommend the following: (a) Modify the Gwinnett
County Code to mandate fire sprinkler protection in all apartment buildings per the
applicable NFPA 13 standard, (b) modify the Gwinnett County Code to read in lee of
sprinkler protection in existing apartment buildings, mandate the installation of a
residential hood fire extinguishing system in all apartment buildings, (c) Modify the
Gwinnett County Code to allow apartment inspections by properly trained suppression
personnel, (d) develop a partnership with local apartment management groups to provide
educational opportunities for management and residents, (e) work with the partnership
and the local housing code to allow inspections of fire rated assemblies and mechanical
rooms in individual apartment units.(f) train and utilize suppression personnel to conduct
apartment safety inspections under the supervision of a prevention fire inspector, (g)
clarify the legality of apartment inspections in 2 story or less apartment buildings, (h)
conduct an impact analysis of the apartment inspection program biannually, benchmark
the results to other jurisdictions in the Atlanta area, and share the results with other fire
“A fire that does not occur is the one that is most easily controlled” (IFSTA, 2009, p. 13).
The researcher hopes that this research will provide recommendations for all fire departments to
utilize by reducing the likely hood of apartment fires and their related casualties.
Apartment Inspection Program 52
Ahrens, M. (2011). Home structure fires [White paper]. Retrieved June 7, 2011from National
Fire Protection Web Site: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OS.Homes.pdf
Crawford, B. A. (2005). Reducing fire risk for the poor. Fire Engineering. Retrieved June 7,
2011 from: http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/generic-article-tools-
Diamantes, D. (2007). Fire prevention inspection and code enforcement (3rd ed.). Clifton Park,
NY: Thomson Delmar.
Diamond, L., & Stanford, D. D. (2006, February 17). Fire inspectors skipped 30 schools-missed
checks lead to department shake-up. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, p. J1.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2010, May). Multifamily residential building fires
(FEMA). Emmitsburg, MD: FEMA.
Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.. (2011). Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook (10 ed.)
[Brochure]. Atlanta, GA: Author.
Ghirardini, J. (2006, July 7). Fire officials taking report to heart. The Atlanta Journal-
Constitution, p. J1.
Gillettee, J. K., III (2001). Criteria for selecting program guidelines for engine and medic
company fire inspections. Unpublished manuscript, National Fire Academy, Emmitsburg,
Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services. (2010). Fire safety handbook for
apartment managers [Brochure]. Lawrenceville, GA: Author.
Apartment Inspection Program 53
Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services. (2011). Fire F.A.C.T.
Lawrenceville, GA: Author.
Gwinnett County Department of Planning and Development. (2011, July). Gwinnett County 2010
population, households, and housing unit estimates. Lawrenceville, GA: Planning data
Gwinnett County Ordinance, Chapter 46, Fire Prevention and Protection, Gwinnett County GA
§ Chapter 46 (2006).
Hunt, A. (2011, August 13). DeKalb envisions bank for struggling properties. The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, pp. B1, B3.
Inspections - which do we do first? Past incidents in your district build a foundation for strategic
planning. (2007). Firehouse.com. Retrieved June 7, 2011from:
International Code Council. (2006). International fire code. Country Club HIlls, IL: Author.
International Fire Service Training Association. (2009). Fire inspection and code enforcement (7
ed.). Stillwater, OK: Author.
Karter, M. J. (2010, August). Fire loss in the United States during 2009. Retrieved June 7, 2011
from : http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/os.fireloss.pdf
Myers, B. (2003). Non-emergency medical transport and the gwinnett county department of fire
and emergency services. Unpublished manuscript, National Fire Academy, Emmitsburg,
National Fire Protection Association. (2008). Fire protection handbook (20 ed.). Quincy, MA:
Apartment Inspection Program 54
Newby, S. J. (2008). Developing a residential risk reduction program for the Wichita Fire
Department. Unpublished manuscript, National Fire Academy, Emmitsburg, MD.
Perez, W. (2008). Possible solutions to increase the number of residential fire inspections
completed in three family and greater residential dwellings. Unpublished manuscript,
National Fire Academy, Emmitsburg, MD.
Regulation of Fire and Other Hazards to Persons and Property Generally, 25 GA Code § 2
Rules and Regulations For the State Minimum Fire Safety Standards, 120-3-3 GA Safety Fire
Commissioner § 120-3-3 (2010).
Smith, D. (in press). Inspector accountability: Managing inspections in an expanding
community. Fire Engineering. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from
The Fire Protection Research Foundation (2008). Measuring the effectiveness of fire prevention.
Retrieved June 7, 2011from:
U. S. Census Bureau (2010). American Fact Finder [White paper]. Retrieved June 7, 2011 from
U. S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center (2009, October). Fire in the United States
2003 - 2007 [White paper]. Retrieved June 7, 2011 from:
Apartment Inspection Program 55
United States Fire Administration. (2002). 1947 Fire prevention conference [Fact sheet].
Retrieved June 7, 2011 from http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/about/47report.shtm
United States Fire Administration. (2005). Executive leadership (5th ed.). Emmitsburg, MD:
United States Fire Administration. (2011). Executive fire officer program applied research
guidelines. Emmitsburg, MD: Author.
Webb, J. Q. (2008). An inspection and prevention program for multi-family dwellings in the town
of Derry, New Hampshire. Unpublished manuscript, National Fire Academy,
Apartment Inspection Program 56
Results of Inspection Questionnaire
Atlanta No N/A N/A 486,411 119,586
Cherokee County Yes 12 to 24 month Field Inspector 214,346 7,663
Clayton County Yes Annual Suppression 259,424 28,609
Cobb County Yes Annual Field Inspector 575,519 41,262
DeKalb County No N/A N/A 691,893 105,013
Douglas County Yes Annual Field Inspector 103,388 2,699
Forsyth County Yes Annual Field Inspector 175,511 2,050
Fulton County Yes Annual Suppression 82,844 18,330
Gwinnett County Yes 12 to 18 Months Field Inspector 805,321 53,042
Yes Undetermined Field Inspector 143,277 2830
Henry County Yes Annual Field Inspector 203,922 6104
12 to 18 Field
Rockdale County Yes 85215 4918
Apartment Inspection Program 57
Causes of Apartment Fires in Gwinnett County
2007 2008 2009 2010
Structure 98 88 100 106
Cooking 69 90 107 90
Other 15 11 19 11
Apartment Inspection Program 58
Apartment Fire Casualties by Cause
Apartment Inspection Program 59
Interview Questions for Metropolitan Atlanta Fire Marshalls
I am currently completing a research paper on fire code/safety inspections of existing apartment
buildings. If you could please return this information within the next two days, it would be
appreciated. If you have any questions, I can be reached by email or the cell phone number listed
1. Does your department complete existing fire code/safety inspections of existing apartment
2. How often are the units inspected?
3. What areas of the building do you inspect?
4. Who completes the inspection? Personnel assigned to apparatus or dedicated fire inspectors?
5. If available, could you please provide a copy of the inspection form currently used by your
Apartment Inspection Program 60
Interview Responses from Metropolitan Fire Marshalls
As the researcher called each jurisdictions Fire Marshalls office to obtain contact
information, most respondents preferred to answer the questionnaire by phone.
Interviews are listed below:
Phone conversation with City of Atlanta, August 2, 2011:
Chief Gregory Favors advised that the city does not conduct inspections and does not have a plan
to conduct inspections in the future. He also advised that Dallas, Texas had a good program.
Phone conversation with DeKalb County, August 3, 2011:
Chief Wayne Wright advised that he does not conduct apartment inspections. His division has
lost personnel due to an early retirement offer and he is under a hiring freeze. All available
personnel are either conducting new inspections or required maintenance inspections.
Phone conversation with Fulton County, August 2, 2011:
Chief Jack Butler advised that each engine company is assigned inspections of apartment
complexes in their first in territory. The inspections are completed annually. After the inspection,
the forms are submitted via interdepartmental mail. If a situation occurs that cannot be handled
by the company officer, an inspector is available for assistance. The inspection is a standard life
safety inspection is performed of the common areas. A standard form is used and was emailed to
Phone conversation with Clayton County, August 2, 2011:
Lieutenant Mitch Griffin supervised the apartment inspection program. The apartment
inspections are assigned to each engine companies first in territory. Each complex is inspected
annually. A standard life safety inspection is completed and each building that is equipped with
Apartment Inspection Program 61
sprinklers has the riser checked. Only the common areas are inspected. If a code violation is
found, then one of six inspectors is available to meet with the engine company.
Phone conversation with Fayette County, August 2, 2011:
The researcher was advised that Fayette County did not have any apartment buildings in their
jurisdiction and ended the conversation prior to getting contact information.
Phone conversation with Douglas County, August 2, 2011:
Captain Thomas Furr advised that apartment inspections are completed and are done annually. A
standard life safety inspection is conducted and handicap access is checked also. Only the
common areas are inspected. The department does not use a standard sheet and one inspector is
assigned to all maintenance inspections. Captain Furr also advised that they are only 8
complexes in his jurisdiction.
Phone conversation with Forsyth County, August 2, 2011:
Captain Kevin Wallace advised that apartment inspections are completed annually, a standard
life safety inspection of the common areas is conducted and a visual check from the common
areas of balconies is completed. The county is divided up into 5 zones and each inspector is
responsible for both new and existing maintenance inspection in that zone. This allows his
inspectors to schedule inspections as time permits. He also advised that they do use a standard
form and his jurisdiction is responsible for 10 complexes.
Phone conversation with Rockdale County, August 3, 2011:
Chief Bill Norton advised that 2 inspectors are assigned to his division. One handles new
inspections and the other handles existing to include apartments. Inspections are scheduled to
occur every 12 to 18 months but are a lower priority than required mandated inspections. A
standard life safety inspection of the common areas is completed. Additionally, the inspector will
Apartment Inspection Program 62
also check the required paperwork reference mandatory sprinkler letters, smoke detector and fire
extinguisher tests that should be conducted by management of the occupied apartments.
Phone conversation with Cobb County, August 3, 2011:
Inspector Nate Thomas is responsible for and completes all apartment inspections. He advised
that he inspects 200 complexes a day. He utilizes a check list from a tablet and conducts a
standard life safety inspection. His inspection includes a review of all required inspections
maintained by management of the protective devices such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, alarm
systems and fire hydrants. He conducts spot checks of common areas during the inspections. He
also advised that he is a very busy man.
Phone conversation with Henry County, August 3, 2011:
Lieutenant O’Brien advised that one inspector handles maintenance inspections in the county and
conducts annual inspections of apartment complexes but they are only responsible for 10
complexes. A standard life safety inspection is conducted of the common areas and the
Cherokee County Replied by email on 8/7/11: All contact information has been removed by the
Please see my comments in red below.
Rick Ruh, CFPS
Fire Marshal’s Office
1130 Bluff’s Pkwy
Canton, GA 30114
I am currently completing a research paper on fire code/safety inspections of
existing apartment buildings. If you could please return this information within
the next two days, it would be appreciated. If you have any questions, I can be
reached by email or the cell phone number listed below.
Apartment Inspection Program 63
1. Does your department complete existing fire code/safety inspections of
existing apartment buildings?
We currently make every effort to conduct annual inspection of all
apartment building in the county. All apartments were inspected 2 years
2. How often are the units inspected?
Every two years (manpower permitted) Note: Fire Marshal’s Office has gone
through a 50% reduction in workforce.
3. What areas of the building do you inspect?
All common areas and some of available vacant units.
4. Who completes the inspection? Personnel assigned to apparatus or dedicated
Certified Fire Inspectors (state and nationally certified)
5. If available, could you please provide a copy of the inspection form
currently used by your department?
We don’t use forms per se, our data base has drop down menus and each
report is basically a unique report for the occupancy.
Hall County also replied by email on 8/17/11. Note that all contact information was removed by
Good morning Captain Cagle,
This is a follow up to a phone message I left you yesterday.
I am currently completing a research paper on fire code/safety inspections of existing apartment
buildings. If you could please return this information within the next two days, it would be
appreciated. If you have any questions, I can be reached by email or the cell phone number listed
1. Does your department complete existing fire code/safety inspections of existing apartment
2. How often are the units inspected? Try once a year but may move this type of occupancy to
once every two years due to lower staff
3. What areas of the building do you inspect? Common areas (egress corridors, laundry facilities,
pools, exercise rooms etc)
4. Who completes the inspection? Personnel assigned to apparatus or dedicated fire inspectors?
5. If available, could you please provide a copy of the inspection form currently used by your
department? See attached
Battalion Chief Ken Chadwick
Apartment Inspection Program 64
Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 1:04 PM
To: Scott Cagle (Fire Services)
Subject: RE: inspection questions
Thank you so much Scott for your reply. Two additional questions.
1. Very rough estimate, approximately how many complexes do you have in the
county that you inspect?
2. Are the inspections divided up by zone, by inspector, or are certain
inspectors assigned only to apartments.
Battalion Chief Ken Chadwick
Gwinnett County Department of Fire & Emergency Services Battalion 5 C Shift
LOL! My staff has went from 6 to 2!
- one person does all new construction (50%, 80% and 100% inspections)
- the other does all maintenance/annual inspections...or tries too! In the
real world I know one person cannot do all 6,000 businesses in Hall County.
So, we do the schools, daycares, and other high -hazard or high-occupancy
buildings every year. The rest...we do the best we can.
- I do all plans review, lead on all investigations, handle complaints, and
"other duties" as needed.
I am guessing we only have around eight or fewer. Most of the apartment
complexes are in the city of Gainesville's jurisdiction because they want on
sewer...so the city deals with most of them.
Capt. Scott Cagle
Hall County Fire Marshal
Hall County Fire Services
P.O. Box 907730
Gainesville, GA 30501
Apartment Inspection Program 65
Email from Brandy Mitchell
This email was in response to general discussion about community risk’s involvement in
the apartment inspection program. This email was received on August 11, 2011
Here is some information as of 08-05-2011 for the year of 2011 only. I
put hotel info in there for a comparison if needed. I could elaborate on
ANYTHING you need. I would have added more info if I knew the specifics.
Sorry! Let me know if I can be of anymore help!
The Apartment Inspection Program focuses on Fire and Life Safety Code
compliance within apartment communities in Gwinnett. The program is
1. Preliminary visit from deputy fire marshals, fire educators, and
field personnel to conduct compliance inspections, educational needs
assessments, and perform pre-plan activities
2. Subsequent inspections are conducted to achieve compliance
The program is projected to complete the initial compliance inspections
for all Gwinnett apartment complexes by Fall of 2011.
(59% completion as 1st quarter 2011)
Internal restructuring has expanded enforcement efforts in detection of
Fire and Life Safety Code violations in existing commercial occupancies.
The numbers of documented violations have increased by 50% in the first
quarter comparison of 2010 to 2011. Strategic efforts to enforce the
Gwinnett County Safety Ordinance continue with night inspections and
collaborations with other local government agencies.
Apartment Inspection Program 66
The following program update was attached to the email above.
Community Risk Reduction Program Update 05-10-11
Apartment Inspection Program
Total Apartment Complexes 200
Total Apartment Complexes inspected 136
Total Apartment Complexes in compliance 74
Total Apartment Complexes issued citations 28
Apartment Complexes complete 68%
Apartment Complexes in compliance 54%
Apartment Complexes with citations 20%
Total inspections performed on apartment complexes 5115
(Includes pre-inspection meetings, inspections, re-inspection, court inspections, & report
Initial inspections 09/2011
Annual inspections 2012
Annual Apt Manager Conference June 2012
Fire F.A.C.T. (Pending)
Apartment Inspection Program 67
Email Chain from Matt Phillips
The following email was received with specific questions about the enforcement section
of the apartment inspection program.
From: Chadwick, Ken
Sent: Sunday, August 07, 2011 9:27 PM
To: Phillips, Matthew
Subject: number of inspectors completing the apartment inspections
I have a couple of quick questions.
1. Could you please provide me the number of inspectors that you use for the apartment
2. Do you have any idea how many man hours were dedicated to the program both during 2010
and so far this year?
3. Do you have a dollar amount of fines that you have collected during 2010 and so far during
I was going to do a quick cost/benefit analysis if those figures are available.
Thanks for all your help,
From: Phillips, Matthew
Sent: Mon 8/8/2011 07:48
To: Chadwick, Ken
Subject: RE: number of inspectors completing the apartment inspections
1. There are currently three inspectors and one captain assigned to our Special Enforcement
Section. We are responsible for inspecting all of the apartments as wells as the
complaints received throughout the county. We utilize color coding to determine the
potential hazard that exists. Green being very good, Yellow being average, and Red being
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poor. Our goal is to inspect green at close to a one year increment, yellow annually, and
red every 6 months.
2. We don’t record our hours spent on each inspection. However, on average it is about 3
hrs. We typically start about 0900hrs and conclude around lunch. Obviously this will
depend if I have all of my inspectors, or if it’s like today and I am the only one here.
3. This I will have to get to you hopefully tomorrow. It is available, but the person who
tracks these numbers is not in today.
Special Enforcement Captain
From: Chadwick, Ken
Sent: Monday, August 8, 2011 8:41 AM
To: Phillips, Matthew
Subject: FW: number of inspectors completing the apartment inspections plus a few other things
Hi Matt, sorry to bother you again. A couple of short items:
1. If you can get the dollar amount of fines you collected, that would be great.
2. I was also wondering the total number of apartment complexes you have listed that need
inspection in the county?
3. You also mentioned the color coding system. I'm assuming that apartment complexes are
"green" rated? Thus the goal for 'near annually"
4. Who would have an organizational chart of the CRR section and a listing of personnel in each
division? I just need it for the background section of the paper.
Thanks for all your help. I'll stop pestering you next week.
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From: Phillips, Matthew
Sent: Mon 8/8/2011 09:10
To: Chadwick, Ken
I am still waiting for the fines and dollar amount, but the rest is:
1. 178 apartments (that we know of) in Gwinnett County
2. Green (the very few and the proud): 18months-24months, Yellow: annual, Red: every 6
3. The org chart could be obtained from Chief Yoder.
Ultimately, we would like to do the vast majority of apartments annually. I think there might
have been a dozen that got a green tag, but the vast majority is yellow and probably 2 dozen that
need constant attention.
Gwinnett County Community Risk Reduction
Special Enforcement Captain
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Interview notes with Assistant Fire Marshall Jeff Yoder
This interview took place on July 13, 2010. The subject was chosen due to his tenure in
the Gwinnett County Fire Marshall office and had information concerning the evolution of the
1. What prompted the initiation of the apartment inspection program?
The inspection program got its roots from the fall out of the missed school inspections
that occurred in 2006. After the reorganization of the Fire Marshalls office in 2007,
an Assistant Fire Marshall Position was established and tasked with maintenance
inspections. The first priority was schools. During 2007 and early 2008, the schools
became more compliant and inspectors were available for other inspections. At the
same time, the economy slowed and new construction slowed. During 2009, early
retirements and a work force reduction were put into place. Many of the new
construction inspectors were available for reassignment. Hence the office was
reorganized again and the Special Enforcement division was created in mid 2009. At
first the design was to check night clubs and handle complaints throughout the county
in addition to mandatory inspections. During 2009, we had several high profile
apartment fires with several fatalities. The need became apparent that apartment
inspections were needed and hence the organization of the program.
2. How are the inspections conducted?
The inspections use a standard life safety inspection form that is loaded on the tablets.
Captain Matt Phillip is supervising the program and has three inspectors under him.
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They are currently tasked with the apartment inspections, investigate any complaints,
and assist other inspectors if the need arises.
3. What is inspected during an inspection?
All the common areas are inspected including the clubhouse, office and laundry
facilities if they are separate from the apartments. Due to 4th amendment rights, we do
not inspect individual apartments. We also, especially on the initial inspection, try to
inspect any accessible mechanical room and check attic draft stops. We also inspect
any vacant apartments because we have had several incidents of squatters staying in
those units. We also try to visualize the porches and decks to check for BBQ grills.
Part of the safety inspection includes checking mandatory alarm test records,
sprinkler test records, fire extinguisher test records and hydrant test records.
4. How is enforcement handled?
The inspectors issue a notice of noncompliance unless the issue is an immediate life
threat. A reinspection is scheduled within 14 days. If the issued is not resolved, then
the inspector has the discretion to cite the offender. Due to current language in the
Gwinnett County Code that reference the National Fire Code instead of the
International Fire Code, some cases in the County Court system have been thrown
out. Most of the city courts have ruled favorably. The current County Code is due to
be revamped and a new code should be approved in early 2012.
5 Is there anything else you would like to add?
Community risk reduction is working with enforcement during the apartment
inspections and offering education to both managers and tenants. A new supervisor
will soon be in that position and they can provide you with more information. One
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thing they are doing is requiring management to produce a fire safety emergency plan
for their complex. The requirement is in the International Fire Code and we have just
started enforcing it. I also have been told that involving the local suppression
personnel has been very successful.
I ended the interview with the acknowledgement that I head good things about the
program and the inspections would soon be starting in my Battalion. My personnel
were looking forward to partake in the inspections.
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Gwinnett County Inspection Consent Form
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GCFES NFIR Query Incident by Property Type 2007-2010
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GCFES Incident Query Causality by Heat Source 2007-2010
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GCFES Apartment Inspection Form
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U.S. Census Bureau Fact Finding Website
The website address is http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en Each
jurisdiction identified was entered into the fast access to information portion of the website. The
data was then analyzed as stated in the procedures section.