CONSUMER ALERT — DON’T BE SCAMMED
KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR FIRE EXTINGUISHER SERVICE COMPANY
January 1, 2009 — It has been brought to the attention of the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES) that a handful of companies servicing portable fire extinguishers and fixed extinguishing systems in the county are misrepresenting themselves when going into local businesses. Reportedly the technicians state or imply they are from the fire marshal’s or fire inspector’s office or threaten to call one of those offices to have the business shut down if the fire extinguishing appliances in the premises are not inspected, serviced or tested at that moment.
The truth is that no municipality — village, town, county or state — employs personnel to service fire extinguishing equipment in private businesses. Local fire marshals or other code enforcement officials working for a municipality will routinely inspect businesses and the equipment within including portable fire extinguishers and automatic extinguishing systems. As a normal practice the fire marshal or code enforcement officer will properly identify themselves immediately upon entering the premises and state their purpose for being there. Except under extraordinary or life threatening circumstances, a business will not typically be shut down immediately for non-compliance with codes.
The Suffolk County Portable Fire Extinguisher and Automatic Fire Extinguisher Systems Servicing Board, more commonly referred to the Fire Extinguisher Licensing Board or FELB, is in the process of licensing companies that service portable and fixed fire extinguishing equipment in Suffolk County. As of January 1, 2009, eighteen (18) licenses have been issued and an additional forty-eight (48) companies are being allowed to provide services as their applications are being processed. Fortunately the vast majority of companies servicing portable fire extinguishers and automatic fire extinguishing systems in Suffolk County follow good business practices and have not been the subject of complaints.
To promote awareness of proper fire extinguisher and extinguishing system servicing the Suffolk County Fire Extinguisher Licensing Board offers the following guidance:
To obtain further information or to report any incident you may call the Suffolk County Fire Marshals Office at 631-852-4855.
- Portable fire extinguishers, at a minimum, are required to be serviced annually.
- Most automatic fire extinguishing systems protecting kitchens and other hazard areas generally require semi-annual (twice a year) servicing.
- If uncertain as to which company to use, call several for estimates to help decide if the prices offered are fair and reasonable.
- Inquire whether a company is qualified to service the brand, model and type equipment you have. In many instances the manufacturer will provide information on which companies are qualified and/or certified to service their specific equipment.
- Make certain that the company selected is licensed or permitted to conduct servicing by Suffolk County. This can be verified by contacting the FELB Board at 631-852-4855.
- Should an individual identify him/herself as fire marshal or fire inspector — especially when not in uniform — ask for photo identification. A quick telephone call to the municipality can often verify or refute such claims.
- Except under extraordinary or life threatening circumstances, a fire marshal or code enforcement official will not typically shut down a business immediately for non-compliant fire extinguishers or extinguishing systems.
- Misrepresentation, fire marshal or inspector impersonation or threats to close down a business should be reported immediately to the local police department as well as to the local fire marshals office or the Suffolk County Fire Marshals Office.
- Any other perceived wrongdoings such as excessive charges, servicing equipment several months before required or retagging without servicing should also be reported to your local or Suffolk County fire marshals office.