Station upkeep and inspection - It's more than just for appearances.

Does your department invite guests into the station? The answer to this question is almost always yes. Having members of the public, governmental officials or other visitors can be a huge positive for a company. It can be a great way to show outsiders what you do and can make members of the public feel like they are a part of your organization. Just as going on emergency calls has risks, so does having outsiders on your property. But, I would not suggest restricting visitors, only to understand the risks.

As I have written about in the past (see Fire Companies are immune from negligence, aren't they?), a company must be diligent in properly maintaining its property. A recent PA Commonwealth Court decision re-affirmed the fact that a local governmental agency does not have immunity from claims involving injuries that involve real property.*

However, this case did not involve a firehouse, it involved a public school in the City of Philadelphia. The case (Brewington v. City of Phila, No. 886 C.D. 2015) involved a suit for injuries on behalf of a nine year-old who tripped and fell during a relay race in the school’s gym. The child struck a concrete wall in the gym. The trial court dismissed the claims against the school, citing immunity. The decision was appealed to the Commonwealth Court which reversed the dismissal finding that the suit could proceed because the injuries alleged involved claims of negligence in the care, custody and control of real property by the school and school district.

A fire or EMS organization should take care in maintaining its station. This involves regular inspection of premise. Make sure that access to areas of especially high hazards (such as a medical supply closet or engineering area) are properly restricted. Where problems are discovered, they should be corrected or proper warnings put in place. Additionally, make sure that insurance policies are in place in the event a claim is filed. The answer is not to exclude members of the public but only to make sure that when you have visitors they are safe on your property. This will also keep your own emergency responders safe while they are on station.

*Whether your company is a local governmental agency which has the benefit of immunity is a completely separate issue and one that would be fact dependent.

#Immunity #Negligence #RealProperty

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