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Frequently Asked Questions


Table of Contents

Administrative Questions

Inspections of Existing Locations

Inspections of New Construction (Permits)

HazMat Response

Investigations


Administrative Questions

Q: How do I obtain records related to a fire in unincorporated Harris County?
A: View the Request Records page.

Q: How do I find out how to become an Investigator, Fire Inspector or Hazardous Materials Technician?
A: Visit the TCFP website to view the curriculum and find out where classes are offered.  To view a list of all open county positions, please visit the employement page on the Harris County main website.


Inspections of Existing Locations

Q: What are the inspection standards for the unincorporated area of Harris County?
A: The inspection standards include the following:
  • International Fire Code 2006 ed.
  • International Fire Code 2003 ed. - for locations permitted before 3/1/2007
  • FMO 316.01 Temporary Food Vendors, Festivals, and Theatrical Performances
  • FMO 1908 Wood Waste and/or Recycling Facilities
  • NFPA 101 Life Safety Standard 2012 ed
  • NFPA 101 2012 ed. (upon state adoption)
  • Cited codes included by reference in IFC 2003, 2006, or NFPA 101 2012 Codeword Interpretations

Q: How do I report a fire hazard?
A:  Please report all fire hazards and complaints through our online complaint form.

Q: I need a fire inspection for my Foster Home 1 to 12 children; what do I need to do?
A: Fill out the HCFMO Inspection Application.

Q: How do I schedule a Multi-Unit Housing inspection?
A: Install the required signs and protected switches as noted in the information packet. Complete the required documentation described in the information packet. Mail or deliver the documentation to the HCFMO offices along with the inspection fee. An inspector will call you within two weeks to schedule an inspection of the project. The fee for an inspection is $50 payable by cash, cashiers check or money order. No company or personal checks.  If the project does not pass initially it can be reinspected for a $25 fee.  If the project does not pass the reinspection however, a Fire Marshal's Order may be issued - a violation of which is a Class B Misdemeanor.

Q: What type of signage for each building is required?
A: The sign must display the individual number/letter of the building and the range of unit numbers within the respective building. It must be easily visible from the vehicular driving areas on the project. There is no required sign size but the letters and/or numbers must be at least four inches high and in a contrasting color compared to the building. The signs should be of weather-resistive material and placed at either the ends or corners of the buildings, as long as they are visible from driving areas. A black background with white, light reflective letters is easily seen in low-light conditions. If the buildings already have numbers/letters showing what unit numbers are in each building and the meet the criteria above, the do NOT need to be replaced.

Q: What are the requirements for gate inspections?
A: At least one approved gated entrance meeting the standards is required. The minimum width of the vehicular gate must be a 14-foot clear opening width. The driveway must be a minimum of 28 feet wide to allow for entrance and egress. This entry must be free and clear of obstructions, which may entail the repositioning of card readers, telephone entry devices or remote control devices. Such equipment may be installed within the curbside area. If a concrete island, where a reader or entry device is located, separates the 28-foot driveway, a 13-foot clearance in both directions is permissible.  The distance from the road to the approved entrance gate shall be no less than 30 feet. This allows for sufficient turn radii and protection for emergency vehicles from roadway traffic.  Pedestrian gates must also afford emergency personnel ready access to all units in each building.  If a gate needs to be installed, the HCFMO cannot recommend a gate company and the customer will need to locate one on their own. Note: even if a project does not have access gates it still needs to be inspected.  Regulations regarding building unit number/letter signage still apply. The costs and penalties are the same.

Q: What is an EAAP and are all locked gates required to have them?
A: An EAAP is a protected switch approved by the HCFMO in the form of a key switch, padlock or lock box. It is in a designated location and readily available to emergency response personnel. It shall not exceed 5 feet in height and must be easily accessible from outside the vehicle or pedestrian access gate. All locked access gates are required to have an HCFMO approved switch as emergency personnel may need to access the property from more than one gated location. If your project already has padlocks, key switches, or lock boxes on the access gate(s), they must be changed out to afford access to emergency response personnel countywide. Existing boxes secured with a padlock only need not be changed. The padlock securing the box, however, must be changed. If your project does NOT already have a lock box, Protected switches must be purchased from the KNOX Company only. The company can be reached at 1-800-552-5669 or online at www.knoxbox.com/store. Prices range from $65-$85 for padlocks or key switches and $180-$310 for lock boxes. Shipping and handling is extra.

Q: Who will have keys to these EAAP?
A: Initially, only firefighters and emergency medical personnel responding to calls for service will have key access. No keys will be provided to access gate companies, project personnel or property owners. Selected law enforcement patrol personnel will be issued keys at a later date. Keys will be issued through a key coordinator with the HCFMO only and a strict accountability program will be enforced. Please see our page on gated and non-gated communities.  


Permits / New Constrution

Q: How do do I obtain a permit?
A:  Contact the Permits Division at 713-956-3000.

Q: How do I get a final inspection for new construction?
A: This depends on when your business opened. Did your business open AFTER January 1, 2005?
Q: What do I need if I am building in the un-incorporated area of Harris County?
A: You will need to contact Harris County Engineering at: 10555 Northwest Freeway - Suite 102Houston, Texas 77092  Phone: 713 316-3580  Hours - Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 4:00 pm

Q: What code standard applies for my permited location?
A: This depends on when you were permitted. Please use the following table:
   
Permit Date Code Standard
Prior to March 1st, 2007 International Fire Code 2003 ed.
On or after March 1st, 2007 International Fire Code 2006 ed.

Q: Are fire alarm and/or fire suppression company required to have plans reviewed and/or get a permit?
A: Yes; all plans are required to be submitted (even on existing facilities) and fire code permits are required.  You will need to contact Harris County Engineering at: 10555 Northwest Freeway - Suite 102 Houston, Texas 77092  Phone: 713 316-3580   Hours - Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 4:00 pm

Q: What construction documents are fire protection companies required to provide?
A: Please view the Fire Protection System Requirements form.

Q: Do I have to have my plans reviewed if I am only MODIFYING a fire alarm or suppression system?
A: For that determination you will need to contact Harris County Engineering at: 10555 Northwest Freeway - Suite 102 Houston, Texas 77092  Phone: 713 316-3580  Hours - Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Q: What do I do if I have received a Red Tag on my building?
A: You will need to contact Harris County Engineering at: 10555 Northwest Freeway - Suite 102 Houston, Texas 77092  Phone: 713 316-3580 Hours - Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Q: Can I open my location before being inspected by the HCFMO?
A: No, a Certificate of Compliance is required to open a facility to the general public.


HazMat Response

Q: Why does the HazMat Response group exist?
A: Following the events of September 11th, 2001 the overall HazMat response capabilities of Harris County were evaluated. With Harris County being located in the petrochemical capitol of the world and having such strong ties to our national infrastructure, a decision was made to create additional HazMat response teams in our area. Here are some interesting facts about the Harris County Team.
  • HC HMRT is a FEMA, Type 1 Hazardous Materials Response Team.
  • The team was established in early 2002 by Harris County Commissioners Court.
  • Currently HC HMRT is the second busiest HazMat Team in the region.
  • The Team is staffed by 12 full time TCFP certified HazMat Technicians and 12 part-time certified Tech.

Q: What do I do if I have a HazMat emergency?
A: If you have a hazardous materials emergency, you can request the Harris County Hazardous Materials Response Team by calling 800-590-0005 Be prepared to give the dispatcher the following information:
  • Your Location
  • The type of hazard you believe may be present (fire, spill, unusual odor)
  • Any exposures or injuries
  • The wind direction at the incident location
  • A call-back number where you can be reached

Q: How do I order the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebooks?
A:All Harris County Fire Departments, EMS agencies, law enforcement agencies, and Offices of Emergency Management may use the following link request the 2012 DOT ERG.


Investigations

Q: How do I obtain records related to a fire in unincorporated Harris County?
A: View the Records Request page.

Q: Does my child need the Juvenile Fire Stoppers (JFS) Program?
A: Concerned parents, teachers, fire departments, members of social services, and the Law Enforcement community all refer youths to try to cease the fire setting behavior. This FREE program is for children age 2 to 17 years of age. Parents concerned about their child and their families safety. Can contact this office for a free one-on-one class with the juvenile and parent. The purpose of the program is to provide education for the child and family’s safety. This program also assists family with further counseling if needed. Call (281)436-8070 if you live in the Unincorporated Portion of Harris County or (713)865-4529 if you live in the City limits of Houston.

Q: How do JFS classes work?
A: A one-to-one fire safety class for the child & parent with financing for counseling services is provided for those youths who have more than a curiosity of fire if the parents are interested in seeking further services. Fire setting sometimes stems from other problems that the juvenile is facing. Counseling can assist the juvenile and the family through this. All material is kept confidential. Participation helps the juvenile, siblings, parents and other family members. Basic safety also helps with fire safety in the home and exit drills.

Q: What can parents do?
A: Parents should :
  • Make matches and lighters “off-limits”. Tell your children to immediately tell you about any matches or lighters that they find. Reward them when they do. Set consequences for your children if they are found with matches, lighters, playing with candles or fireworks. All of which can be very dangerous to your child, another individual or property.
  • Make your home “fire safe”. Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of your children. If you smoke, keep lighters on your person and not scattered about the house. Install smoke detectors in each bedroom and hallway. Check the batteries at least twice a year. Change your clock—Change your Battery. Lock up all flammable items (gas, aerosols, etc.)
  • Teach you children about fire safety. Talk with your children about the good (cooking and heating) and bad (accidents and burns) uses of fire. Teach them that matches and lighters are TOOLS for adults. Practice your fire escape plan, stop-drop-and-roll and crawl-low under smoke.
  • Realize the dangers of fire play. If your child has been found playing with fire, please enroll them in a proper fire safety and prevention class. Acknowledge that punishment will not solve the problem of fire play. This is not a phase they will outgrow.
  • Use CANDLES with care.