Houston Fire Inspectors Refuse to Follow Department-Mandated Shortcuts

They say new standards could be dangerous in the long run.

By Alain StephensMay 23, 2016 12:05 pm,

Houston fire inspectors are refusing to perform inspections as ordered. Workers say they’re being asked to perform watered down procedures mandated by top administrators, which could endanger the lives of citizens and firefighters.

It’s a story St. John Smith, reporter for the Houston Chronicle, is following. Smith says new orders – some long-term goals for the department – came from the Fire Marshal last year.

“I think the idea generally was to try and make the job more efficient to have them do more inspections and get a more comprehensive look at buildings across Houston,” Smith says.

Some of the responsibilities include inspecting apartments, high-rises, and hazmat facilities.

“The problem is that the inspectors fear that these protocols really put the public at risk,” Smith says. “One of the instructions they told me was that they were supposed to only inspect every third floor of a high rise and that, for them, was very troubling.”

Smith says inspectors feel like they’ve been ordered to cut corners in the name of metrics. But they want to get a full picture of what’s going on in a particular building, and they would not be able to do as detailed of an inspection as they would have previously.

There’s a need for change according to inspectors. Smith says one solution would be to revise the inspections goals and standards. Another solution would be for the city to quadruple the size of the fire marshal’s office.

In the meantime, inspectors are refusing to follow orders.

“They’re not saying they’re not willing to thoroughly inspect these buildings,” Smith explains. “Their point is that they they feel like they’re being told to do something which is unsafe.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.