Saturday, June 08, 2013


Philadelphia Cancels Safety Inspections, Cripples C&I Fire Unit.

I don't know whether I would have written about this except for the recent building collapse on Market Street. Everyone is talking about Mayor Nutter and L&I on the radio. They talk like it was a conspiracy. It isn't. It is just the same old bureaucratic maze. People have little jobs doing little things the same way over and over. A lot of things just aren't anyone's assignment, or there are so few people to do so much that it can NEVER get done.
There have got to be ten thousand places to eat in Philadelphia. Just how many health inspectors can we afford to pay for, anyway? Say there are, how many involved? Ten? Twenty? With supervisors, and trainings and paperwork and cars and offices and reports...and what do they get paid, thirty thousand a year? So we spend two million dollars a year on it. ...and these fifteen inspectors get to go into the office and spend at least three hours a day on rote office operations, then breaks and lunch and getting started and shut down and organized to do something. There goes another two hours. Apiece. That leaves three hours a day to inspect - you think I'm kidding? Get a car, put it away, gas it up go somewhere, leaving an hour and a half for inspection, half of which gets spent on paperwork and phone reporting. So each inspector gets to one place a day each, if they are lucky. And one day a week they have to meet with supervisors. So maybe 60 places get looked at each week for less time than it takes to eat lunch. Vacations, holidays ... maybe two thousand places get inspected each year, in the most cursory way possible. That means, with any luck, it takes five years for a restaurant to get inspected. When you consider that 90% of new businesses close in less than a year, it means that an inspector NEVER looks at where we eat!
This is just to give an example.
What I really want to talk about is emergency lighting, you know the little spotlight heads all over the place in all the stores that are supposed to light up when the power fails, the exit signs that show where the door is in the dark or a fire? How many times have you been somewhere where the power failed and the emergency lights didn't work? A lot, I bet. The reason is that people don't check them....and they don't know they don't work until the lights go out and the emergency lights don't come on.
These systems should be checked every month, and tested to make sure they operate long enough once a year for an hour and a half. A log book should be kept showing the test and the result of the annual test, but most people don't keep one.
The City of Philadelphia required an annual inspection, test and certification of exit and emergency lighting by a licensed contractor. The certification was sent to the C&I [Commercial & Industrial] Fire Unit at 900 Spring Garden Street. This meant that at least that one time each year, the emergency systems were checked by someone qualified and maintained in working order.
I just found out that Philadelphia cut the L&I budget by one third a couple of years ago, discontinued that requirement and moved the C&I inspectors from Spring Garden to the local district offices, where they now perform any and all inspections, leaving this critical function in the hands of store owners and landlords.

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