The Sandy Springs Fire Department has been officially operating only since Dec. 29, but by Jan. 9 it already had handled 365 emergency medical service (EMS) calls—an average of 40 per day.

And, since December 11, the city’s Fire Marshal’s Office has completed 50 new construction inspections, participated in more than 15 inspections as part of an apartment community sweep in December and conducted 23 overcrowding inspections of clubs on New Year’s Eve.

According to a report made to the Sandy Springs City Council earlier this month by Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Jeff Scarbrough, fire inspectors have found challenges with projects previously approved by Fulton County, a general lack of fire inspections by Fulton County in the past and a significant number of violations—which he classified as “mostly moderate, but some serious.”

During one recent visit, a fire inspector was told, “I have been the manager of Kinder Care for five years, and I have never seen anyone from the fire department, inspectors or fire trucks.” And a manager of a high-rise on Carpenter Drive told the new fire inspectors, “I have been the manager of this facility for 10 years, and I have never seen a fire inspector.”

Through Jan. 9, the Fire Marshal’s Office had approved 32 certificates of occupancy for new construction, inspected 10 of the 29 daycare facilities, two of the 10 assisted living facilities, two of the 19 schools and 16 restaurants, many of which had violations of commercial cooking equipment without required hood/extinguishment systems or out–of– date cooking equipment extinguishment systems.

The office also had done 20 follow-up inspections, conducted one fire drill at Cox Enterprises’ offices, completed 10 liquor license inspections and reviewed 114 building plans and 180 sprinkler/alarm plans.

The Fire Marshal’s Office is staffed by one fulltime fire protection engineer, who has 10 years experience with the State of Georgia and was responsible for 10,000 buildings, one fulltime inspector/investigator with 30 years fire service experience and four part-time inspector/investigators, three of when have experience in the city of Atlanta and one with the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Scarbrough said the number one priority on the inspection plan of action is the city’s 48 schools and daycare centers, followed in order by the 21 hotels and motels, 15 assisted living facilities and 200-plus restaurants, nightclubs and bars. He said the next priority would be 40 of the city’s 62 high-rise buildings that do not have sprinkler systems and the 50-plus apartment complexes. He pointed out there also are 50-plus theaters and churches that need to be inspected and 25 class-A mercantile buildings.

Scarbrough said a high-rise building can take two inspectors 10 hours for an initial inspection. He estimated that 75 percent of the buildings will require at least two follow-up inspections to resolve code violations.

In presenting a timeline for inspection goals, Scarbrough said the office hoped to complete inspections of schools and daycares by the end of January, hotels and motels in February, assisted living facilities in March, unsprinkled high-rise buildings by May, restaurants, nightclubs and bars by September and the rest of the facilities by the end of 2008.

The challenges facing the Fire Marshal’s Office include keeping up with inspections of new construction, redevelopment and remodeling projects, keeping up with liquor license and business license inspections, correcting present occupant load miscalculations at buildings, monitoring overcrowding and egress at restaurant and nightclubs, addressing current buildings that do not have a certificate of occupancy and false alarms.

As part of its report to city council, the department recommended adoption of the Knox Rapid Entry System be required to provide fire crews with immediate access to office buildings and apartment/condominium properties with one master key day or night and the Knox Key Switch electric override for perimeter gates, parking garages, gated residential communities, etc., providing access by the same key as with the Knox-Box.

City council indicated it will follow the recommendation and will establish a timeframe by which the city’s affected facilities would be required to comply and install the equipment. One suggestion was for a 180-day compliance period.