Property Owner Obligations

As a volunteer fire fighter for over 45 years, I’ve seen a lot of tragedies that could’ve been avoided with a little planning, common sense or basic maintenance. When I founded Echelon Protection & Surveillance in 2001, I was confident I could utilize my firefighting training by offering fire watch services to our growing list of clients. In the past 20 years we’ve performed fire watch projects of every shape and size for clients who needed a reliable security partner. Some were large properties that required services for many months after the fire, many were city  mandated building fire watches, and some were smaller public or private watches that lasted only a few weeks. Reliable fire watch companies are hard to find because they need to be specially trained, respond immediately, be well organized, extremely flexible and know how to work in tandem with all sorts of clients, the local Fire Marshal and county authorities.

Philadelphia has mandated fire watch services.

In September 2020, our home city of Philadelphia issued a Code Bulletin from the Department of Licenses and Inspections mandated that all active construction sites must maintain a fire watch on building construction and demolition sites.The Code was enacted because unattended jobsites present a real potential risk to the people and properties in the surrounding community.

A fire watch is required on a construction site if a building’s fire alarm, sprinkler, or suppression system is compromised, including special hazard conditions or planned impairments as determined by a Safety Manager or local Fire Code Officials.A general rule is that if any of these fire safety systems are down for more than 4 hours in a 24-hour period the building must evacuated or begin a fire watch. The main duty of fire watch personnel is to perform frequent patrols watching for signs of fire. Fire watch responsibilities may be performed by state licensed security guard firms in addition to their regular security duties.

It is the property owner’s responsibility to establish the fire watch during building and construction anytime fire safety systems are not working properly. If a proper fire watch is not in place, you will likely be fined or issued a citation by the local Fire Marshal. If you do not comply, the fire department will facilitate a fire watch for you — and bill you for the services.

Key steps the property manager should take to avoid liability.

  1. Notify the fire department when a fire safety system is being installed, not working, and after it was been repaired.
  2. Hire a licensed contractor to install the fire safety systems, to make repairs and to pull the required regional permits.
  3. Contact a state licensed security partner that has experience with fire watches.
  4. Work with your general contractor to be sure your fire watch officers are knowledgeable in all aspects of your jobsite, including:site map, floor plans, building occupants, potential hazards, on-site materials, emergency shutdown procedures, fixed fire alarm systems, and access to portable fire protection gear.

Once the owner or property manager has completed their due diligence in setting up the fire watch, it’s the security company’s job to be sure their officers are on task and accountable using the latest patrolling and reporting technology. In my next blog installment, I’ll layout the tested and proven practices Echelon uses to guarantee a successful fire watch.Build a relationship with a reliable fire watch security services company. Contact Echelon Protection & Surveillance to discuss and advise on your next fire watch. Call 610-831-0277 or email