By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Firefighters are using a new inspection tactic that they hope will make Mankato businesses safer without too much extra work.
A pilot program that will ask business owners and managers to inspect their own property for fire safety will be launched soon. It is targeting about 60 Madison Avenue businesses, roughly the ones between Dane Street and Victory Drive.
Self-inspection forms will be sent to the businesses soon along with letters explaining the project, said Jeff Bengtson, Department of Public Safety deputy director.
Owners and managers will be asked to go through a checklist of items that should be inspected for safety. The list includes items such as testing smoke detectors and checking exits to make sure they are not cluttered.
The area on Madison Avenue was chosen because those businesses have received full inspections by the Fire Department during the past couple of years, Bengtson said. Firefighters will be made available to answer fire code questions and visit the businesses if needed.
One thing being tested during the pilot project is how willing business owners are to complete the forms and return them.
“If we get a good response to this, it will give us a chance to reevaluate the way we do inspections now,” Bengtson said. “I don’t see this entirely replacing our periodic inspections. The intent is to supplement our existing program.”