Depending on others to effectively do your job defines a manager’s role. But when the “others” are not your employees or direct reports, the situation takes on a whole new dimension. That in a nutshell describes the dilemma and an important aspect of the job that fire marshal’s must manage today.
AHJ’s, and specifically fire marshals, are responsible for public safety through code and ordinance enforcement. For example, it begins during the initial design and installation phases of Sprinkler and Suppression systems where AHJ’s have responsibility for the review and acceptance –and it continues throughout the life of the systems. Beyond installation, AHJ’s depend on feedback from contractors regarding maintenance and test results of the operational systems to determine if they continue to perform in compliance with mandated safety codes. AHJ’s have the authority to require contractors to submit reports – but have little or no control over the method or timely transmittal of that information.
You can imagine the AHJ’s administrative challenge in receiving a continuous stream of paperwork in various forms from numerous contractors, then sifting through the forms to determine if action is required. If a critical deficiency is found, the time delay between the actual discovery by the technician and the resulting action by the fire marshal could be the difference between preventing or explaining a life threatening event.
The contractor’s primary responsibility, on the other hand, is to his customer, the building owner or tenant, for the continued proper operation of the sprinkler, suppression and alarm systems through periodic maintenance, repair, and testing—he is also required to forward test results, and/or other requested information to the AHJ.
The MobileEyes Contractor Portal is a web-based software application that addresses the problem by serving as a simple communications conduit between the parties. It establishes a standard format for information gathering and delivery from the contractor to the AHJ. It automatically highlights and categorizes deficiencies, associates deficiency severity levels with notification and response preferences, schedules inspections, and initiates other necessary actions. For AHJ’s, the paperwork quagmire is eliminated with an automated process that greatly reduces reaction time and prevents the possibility of looming problems slipping through the cracks. For the contractor, drop-down menus and pre-populated options speed up the communication process reducing the distraction from performing core inspection and support activities.
Needless to say, this solution offers a huge win/win potential as the AHJ’s benefit through increased insight and control with greatly reduced time invested and increased assurance that periodic inspections are conducted for all structure in the jurisdiction, while ensuring prompt follow-up when code violations are discovered. On the flip side, more coordinated oversight benefits the contractors as enforcement actions by the AHJs will result in increased service and repair revenue.
In addition to the mutual value generated, the cost of implementation and usage of the MobileEyes Contractor Portal system is minimal—less than half the cost of other products on the market today! Better, faster, and truly cheaper—what’s not to love?
The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but the aftermath still lingers. The recovery has been glacial for most, and nonexistent for many local economies still suffering long-lasting effects. When local economies struggle with an eroding tax base, fire department budgets often take a major hit. For departments that are already stretched, the options are few—reduce personnel and services, combine with neighboring departments, or find new sources of funding.
Throughout the last decade, fire services have faced expanding demands with increased emergency medical services (EMS), additional public education, expanded technical response to hazardous material, and increased responses to the threat of domestic terrorism. Meeting the needs of an ever-expanding set of services in the face of eroding budgets has created quite a challenge for chief officers.
Of the many services provided by departments, one often overlooked service is a natural source of new funding. No one will dispute the importance of Fire Prevention measures—and yet only an estimated 20% of fire departments nationwide have a system in place for charging for these services. Inspections, reinspections, and re-reinspections cost money! The departments that have instituted inspection fee schedules have discovered some interesting findings—
Perceived value – It’s human nature to place greater value on things that cost money versus the things that are perceived to be free. When businesses recognize inspection fees as one of the legitimate costs of doing business, they tend to take inspections more seriously, which leads to the next item.
Fewer reinspections – Reinspections are somewhat annoying and distracting for everyone involved—they interrupt the business operation while consuming scarce fire department manpower. An escalating fee schedule for inspections, reinspections and repeat reinspections tends to create a natural deterrent.
Improved inspections – Let’s face it, a fully-funded prevention program increases expectations, but also provides the resources to provide full-time, fully-trained inspectors armed with the tools to perform professional life-safety inspections. Not only does this provide an important public safety service, it also reflects well upon the department—providing an important and visible public relations function.
Better results – More and better inspections eventually yields an ever declining number of violations and consequently fewer fire-related losses.
The fire departments that have adopted the “fee for service” approach have generally followed the same basic process to make it happen—create the plan, make the pitch, and implement.
Create the plan – Nothing elaborate, but you need to first create your vision of the new prevention program including the importance of the proposed fee schedule. Your plan should quantify the revenue (estimated fee collections) and expenses (manpower, vehicles, tablet-PCs, and software) required to adequately inspect all of your structures and occupancies within each year, allowing for a reasonable estimate of reinspections and new construction plan reviews and inspections.
Make the pitch – Paint the picture of your vision and summarize the key points of your plan contrasting it against the current scenario (“if we do nothing”) –the expected impact in terms fire safety and budget given an environment that resists higher taxes. Your presentation should be ½ sales pitch, ½ education. Once your city council or board of commissioners understands the situation, they’ll draw their own conclusions.
Implement – Sure, easier said than done, but implementing is the fun part! Just remember, adopting a fee for service model increases the expectations of your community—your citizens will expect to see a professional, capable team of inspectors, so don’t short-change the training and tools required to do a great job and meet the expectation.
Apart from staffing with well-trained personnel, technology is the next most important part of your prevention program. Tablet-PCs and proven software programs such as MobileEyes combine everything you need to schedule, perform and manage a full fire inspection or building inspection including the invoicing and financial management processes. The training and ongoing support provided by the MobileEyes team will also ensure that your fire inspectors and building inspectors know how to use the tools and function like a well-oiled machine. Don’t take my word for it, check around—you’ll hear great things about the MobileEyes software and the support.
Funding for fire services has become a difficult challenge for chief officers. Despite the pushback against higher taxes or new fees, it’s time to think outside the box, create the plan, and implement a solution that has already helped others overcome the funding problem while improving services.
Creating a pump graph may be worse than getting a colonoscopy—at least you’re asleep during the colonoscopy!
According to our customers including fire alarm, fire sprinkler system, and sprinkler & alarm contractors or technicians who do this routinely, creating manual pump graphs is extremely tedious, complicated, and requires hours at the kitchen table or in the office. Hundreds of variables come into play as fire sprinkler and alarm technicians capture, enter, and compare sprinkler and fire suppression pump results with results from previous periods. Applying formulas, plotting points, drawing graphs, and comparing results for hours on end—it makes your head hurt. And in the end, the result is typically just one or two pages of the overall fire inspection report, but it likely represents 90% of the time and effort spent creating the final report that gets delivered to the client.
So here’s some great news if you’re still creating pump graphs by hand—stop it! It’s time to let technology fulfill its long awaited promise of reducing your drudgery, saving time, and automating the process. Get yourself an easy-to-use inspection software product like MobileEyes System Inspector and improve your bottom line! MobileEyes is easy to use, it eliminates the possibility of errors, and best of all, it enables you to complete and deliver your inspection reports much faster. More reports, more invoices, more bottom line.
…and now that you’ll have more time, don’t forget to schedule your colonoscopy if you’re over 50.
Are budget cuts and manpower reductions causing sleepless nights? Do you worry that your fire inspections, building inspections or re-inspection schedules are on a slippery slope? Do you feel like the guy who is up to his neck in alligators?
You aren’t alone; we hear this story every day from fire marshals, first responders and building inspectors coast-to-coast. Dealing with shrinking budgets is a daunting task. How can you provide the same level of safety with reduced resources? As many departments from across North America can attest, MobileEyes software can help solve this conundrum.
TradeMaster, the company that develops and distributes MobileEyes software, is dedicated to helping fire and building departments find practical solutions to the common problems that are faced day to day The MobileEyes team is serious about serving as partners and problem solvers—our sole purpose is helping fire marshals, fire chiefs, responders, life safety and code enforcement inspectors, sprinkler and alarm contractors and building officials. Whether a private-sector sprinkler and alarm contractor or a small municipal fire, building or code enforcement department or a statewide fire prevention agency, MobileEyes is quickly becoming the software of choice for eliminating paper-based inspection and pre-fire plan processes and resulting in 25-40% more inspections without increased personnel.
The MobileEyes suite of software products spans building and permitting inspections, pre-incident planning, life safety and device Inspections. These products can be used individually, or integrated into one seamless system. Scheduling, inspections, reporting, and invoicing processes are automated and coordinated—products can be added as you grow and develop your processes.
The MobileEyes reputation is characterized by excellent products and responsive support. We encourage you to speak directly with our customers and learn how MobileEyes software products have benefited them—and how our customer support team is always available to respond to questions and provide assistance.
Give us a call to discuss your current situation and your future vision. We will listen, asks lots of questions, and help you assess your process—and if it makes sense, we will recommend a solution that includes MobileEyes. Worry won’t solve your problems – but maybe MobileEyes can help.
Information is a wonderful thing, but it’s not always easy to find specifically what you’re looking for. That’s why search engines like Google and Bing are so popular with even minimally proficient computer users. You can find information about any topic you choose just by typing a few key words and having the search engine’s complex algorithms search the worldwide web and return remarkably relevant information.
On the other hand, having a mountain of data without a good search engine is chaotic and far less valuable. It’s like trying to find specific answers by randomly selecting from a massive pile of books in the library parking lot—or looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Fire and building departments likewise generate, acquire, and store mountains of data that pertain to buildings, building permits, occupancies, hazardous materials, contacts, inspection results, schedules, pre-incident plans, invoices, sprinkler and alarm test results, incidents, letters and reports of every conceivable type. Data is not the problem, departments have plenty of data! Searching, sharing and making use of the data is the challenge. The ability to retrieve specific data and produce timely and actionable reports can be time consuming and very costly. For example, departments who are still performing paper-based fire inspections or building inspections have no option but to pour through file drawers of paper each month or each quarter, manually counting inspections, violations of each type based on NFPA or other fire codes, repeat reinspections, past due inspections, and whatever else is deemed important for reporting to the city council, city manager, or the emergency manager. Whereas a paper process may seem like the inexpensive option, it is clearly the most expensive option when you consider the time, inaccuracy, and opportunity cost associated with having limited personnel flipping through thousands of pages and generating manual reports that would otherwise be produced more accurately in seconds.
More and more, software products and technology are making the task of data mining and reporting easier and far less costly. Customer focused software companies are also helping by designing application interfaces that enable their software products to share data with other software products, thus keeping data bases in sync and delivering far greater value to the end user.
With the explosion of inexpensive mobile devices, departments now have the ability to also take their data on the road—or into the field as it were. Mobile software solutions allow building inspectors, code enforcement inspectors, fire inspectors, and sprinkler and alarm technicians to schedule, perform, and deliver faster, better inspections, and then deliver key information on scene to incident commanders and responders to improve fire fighter safety and effectiveness.
Though the haystack gets bigger with every passing day, the ability to mine the haystack for needles and deliver faster, better, less expensive answers improves every day.
Another great technology that helps firefighters improve child safety
The Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) provides rescue services to a broad, diverse, urban region. The department’s mission goes beyond emergency response: MFD personnel lead a variety of initiatives, including fire safety programs and Project Staying Alive, an anger management program delivered in conjunction with Milwaukee Public Schools. With the help of TurningPoint® polling software from Turning Technologies, MFD has been able to increase student engagement and improve program results.
Project Staying Alive educates Milwaukee sixth graders on appropriate anger management techniques with an aim of reducing the incidence of injuries due to violence within the city. Patterned on a highly successful predecessor initiative, the program consists of several sessions that are delivered by MFD personnel with the students’ teachers. The program is funded by a Safe Schools / Healthy Students grant and is presented at no cost to the schools. Read more of this article by www.fireengineering.com here.
Taking some time today to prepare for an emergency saves times and property later.
It’s impossible to plan for or predict every possibility of water damage from wind, rain, ice or snow. To minimize damage to a commercial building in the event of a roof leak, soaked carpets or basement flooding, make sure staff are prepared to address such situations as quickly and efficiently as possible using the following tips:
Check out this new program from the NFPA
Enabling the Enforcers
by NFPA President Jim Shannon
One of the greatest strengths of the NFPA standards-development process is the effort that is put into ensuring broad participation. While our committees are always balanced to protect against any single interest dominating the process, we also work hard to attract enforcers to serve on those committees. Enforcers share their technical expertise when they participate in the development of codes and standards. They also provide an invaluable perspective on the practical application of NFPA codes and standards in the field… Read more here