Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Annual Fire Escape Inspection Service?
There are three aspects to the service:
1. We perform maintenance and testing for the drop ladder.
2. We check the path of egress.
3. We visually inspect the entire system.
What is the cost of Annual Inspection Service?
The cost for annual inspection is $125 per drop ladder system and $60 per fixed ladder system. A fire escape system extends from the roof to the ground.
Can any other expenses arise during inspection?
There are three incidental charges that can arise during inspection service. They are replacements of:
1. Retracting cables: $170
2. Safety chains: $50
3. Instruction placards: $55
These replacements are required by the Fire Department and/or Dept of Building Inspection if needed. These are the only repairs done during inspection. All other concerns will be noted on the inspection certificate. These replacements are typically one time replacements. But if the building has not been inspected for many years, it is more likely one or more of these things could be needed.
How is the service documented?
We provide a certificate of inspection. The certificate is a service record. It documents the service we provided and observations we made about the condition of the fire escapes.
How do we prepare for the inspection?
Clear the path of egress. This includes the platforms,ladder ways, and the path from the drop ladder to the street. The path should be completely unobstructed. Fire escapes should be kept clear at all times. This is the law in SF regarding fire escapes.
What do I do with the certificate?
Keep it on file so you have a record that the fire escapes have been serviced. There are two main agencies that may request to see the certificate at their discretion:
1. The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD).
2. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (SFDBI)
It is also possible that a Section-604 inspector may ask to see it in order to complete the 5-year structural affidavit. Escape Artists does not automatically submit the certificate to any government agency.
Did this building pass or fail the inspection?
Neither. We document the service we provided and note areas of concern within the inspection certificate. Almost all escapes have some areas of concern (comments) since they are weather exposed.
Do I have to get the comments fixed?
It’s up to you. If you want to clear the certificate by having the comments removed, then you have to get them fixed. But there is no requirement that you completely clear the certificate. Government agencies (such as the SFFD and SFDBI) are primarily concerned about three issues:
1. Obstructions to the path of egress.
2. The functionality of the drop ladder.
3. The integrity of the anchor bolts.
These comments should get fixed sooner. You should be able to clear the path of egress on your own. Repairing a dysfunctional drop ladder or a damaged or missing anchor bolt probably requires a professional repair service. Many other comments do not require immediate attention. Government agencies are not concerned with minor disrepair such as mild rust. It is beneficial, over the long term, to have these concerns addressed.
How urgent are these comments?
The following types of comments should be addressed quickly:
1. Dysfunctional or undeployable drop ladders. This means the escape will not be usable in case of an emergency. This is the primary directive of the section 908 code.
2. Obstructions to the path of egress. People should be able to make their way to the street from where the escape lands on the ground. There should be no barriers such as locked doors or gates. If there is no clear exit, that should be remedied with an architect or contractor. There should also be no objects stored on the escape or cluttering the path of egress. You can remove the obstructions and send us photos of the cleared path of egress and we will remove the comment. This is another primary directives of the section 908 code.
3. Missing, damaged, or rusted out anchor bolts and primary structural members of the escape. Anchor bolts secure the escapes to the building. If they lose their integrity, the escape could collapse. Severe rust damage relating to structural integrity of the escape should also be addressed quickly.
The following types of comments are non-urgent repairs that we recommend completing on a longer timeline:
1. Weather-exposed anchor bolts. Anchor bolts should be sealed with caulk in order to prevent them rusting from rain.
2. Mild to moderate rusting. Rust just gets worse over time. It might not be necessary to remove rust and paint the escape right away. In the long term, it will help maintain the integrity of the metal.
3. The drop ladder rungs, rivets, retaining/slide washers and cotter pins are beginning to rust. The moving parts of the drop ladder can also develop rust which can inhibit the drop ladders function in an emergency. This is something to attend to in the near term.
Would you tell me if there was an urgent issue?
Yes. We note dangerous conditions directly in the body of the certificate. We also provide recommendations for repairs that need attention in the near, mid, or long terms.
Can you do these repairs?
We are capable of doing most repairs we point out. It takes up to 10 weeks to generate a repair bid. Pending approval, it can then take 2-4 weeks to schedule the actual repairs. We do expedite bidding and scheduling for urgent cases. We cannot design or install new fire escapes or drop ladders. We also do not paint whole fire escapes.
Can you provide any references for these repairs?
We have a couple of references for repairs:
1. Gomez Ironworks
2. Alberto’s Iron Works
(650)-755-0244 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Does the repair job change the month for annual inspection?
No. Repairs do not substitute for inspections. We do not perform drop ladder testing and maintenance during repairs, nor do we check the path of egress.
What should I do after the path of egress is cleared of obstructions?
Send us photos of the cleared path of egress. If you cannot send photos, you can just send an email stating that the obstructions have been cleared. We will remove the line about the path of egress being obstructed and reissue the certificate.
What happens if I skip the inspection this year?
We file your field report away and contact you next year when it is due again. Your certificate will expire and no longer cover the escapes.
Am I required to have an annual inspection?
No. Annual servicing is recommended by fire escape manufacturers, fire departments, and housing inspection departments. Escape Artists is not an enforcement agency.
Do I need EXIT signs?
They are a recommendation to make the path of egress clear.
Why should I have EXIT signs?
When an emergency happens it might be the middle of the night. Guests or new residents may not be familiar with the building. People might be panicking or disoriented. In these situations, it helps to make the path of egress extremely obvious.