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Fire marshal to continue to implement recommendations


September 12, 2012
By Olivia D'Orazio

Sept. 12, 2012, Aurora, Ont. – Harold Pothier, Nova Scotia’s new fire marshal, says he will continue to work to improve the province’s inspections system and implement recommendations from a 2011 auditor general’s report.

Sept. 12, 2012, Aurora, Ont. – Harold Pothier, Nova Scotia’s new fire marshal, says he will continue to work to improve the province’s inspections system and implement recommendations from a 2011 auditor general’s report.

The report, which was released in May 2011, claimed that the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) was inadequately protecting the public from fire-safety risks in buildings, and specifically pointed to the lack of fire inspections at schools and other public buildings in the province.

Pothier, who has been with the fire marshal’s office for 20 years, most recently as deputy fire marshal and as acting fire marshal, says these issues arose mainly from documentation errors.

“It’s not that [the OFM] was not doing inspections, but the documentation wasn’t being done properly,” he said in a press release.

“A lot [of the inspections] were done by telecommunications and without the paperwork, without following up.”

The report pointed to the OFM’s central database – the fire department management system (FDM) – which is available for use by staff and management. At the time of the audit, the system did not include an inventory of all buildings requiring inspections, or all completed inspections and investigations. Of the 70 inspection files that the auditor general tested, 76 per cent were not recorded in the FDM.

The report recommended that the OFM “evaluate its operational information needs and its management information systems to ensure that all necessary information is being collected and is available for use by staff and management,” and for the office to “ensure that at a minimum, a complete inventory of all buildings requiring inspections by that Office, and all inspection and investigation activities, are entered into the system in a timely manner.”

By January, Pothier had already taken these recommendations into account. CBC News reported that his staff of fire inspectors were conducting about 120 inspections per month, while other members of his staff were working on a plan that would set priorities for buildings that require more frequent inspections.

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe told CBC News in January that said he was impressed with the response.

“From what I can see, they’ve taken this very seriously,” he said. “I know they did when we were talking to them at the time and I’m quite heartened by the extent of their response. They’re taking action to overhaul the whole system and I really couldn’t ask right now for any more of a response from them.”


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