How to Implement Remote Fire Inspections During COVID-19

Bassem Khalil

Remote fire inspections can help essential businesses ensure fire safety while enforcing social distancing guidelines.

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Since governments across the globe began taking response measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many of us have been confined to our homes. While many construction projects and inspections have been put on hold until the crisis is over, some experts have touted the benefits of remote fire inspections, and how they can keep construction — and the economy — moving while grappling with the coronavirus.

What are Remote Fire Inspections?

A decade ago, remote fire inspections were unheard of. Around that time, I developed the method while working in the United Arab Emirates, where it is now widely used and has been adopted by NFPA. Simply put, remote fire inspections are a method of commissioning active and passive fire safety systems using audio-visual filming. Someone who is already on-site can film their facility and send it back to a Fire Protection Engineer (FPE), who can then conduct their evaluation remotely. Overall, a remote fire inspection can be a tool to enhance overall safety by regulating the typically unregulated in-person portions of inspections.

Just like an in-person fire inspection, remote fire inspections cover:

  • Passive and active fire protection
  • Egress systems
  • Fire detection and alarm
  • Smoke management
  • Fire pump performance and functional tests
  • Sprinklers, automatic wet standpipes/hose reels, and private external hydrants
  • Emergency and standby power supplies
  • Integrated cause-and-effect testing

Throughout all this, it is still critical to engage a qualified FPE who can evaluate the film and conduct the inspection.

Remote Fire Inspections During COVID-19

It requires keen oversight and adherence to a detailed phased plan, but once these factors are finalized, remote fire inspections provide huge benefits. Most importantly during COVID-19, they can help essential businesses ensure the fire safety of their building while enforcing social distancing guidelines. It also allows essential personnel who are already on site to relay data back to the FPE, who can then conduct a detailed fire inspection.

Essential businesses navigating their way through COVID-19 still need to consider their building’s fire and life safety. The key benefit to utilizing remote fire inspections is reducing the number of personnel on site, which reduces the threat of infection. A balance between maintaining operations and the health and safety of key workers can be achieved in this way.

What’s Next?

Right now, remote fire inspections aren’t regularly used in North America. But the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted its value and may be a catalyst for change. Technological advances and economies of scale have made obtaining audio-visual equipment easy and low-cost, broadening its appeal across the fire and life safety industry.

While COVID-19 shows no signs of abating over the coming months, essential businesses will need to find innovative ways to address their fire safety challenges. Remote fire inspections provide an effective solution to a complex problem and allow essential businesses to continue operating safely through this crisis and beyond.

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