On-site inspections of a building’s fire protection systems can be a challenge during this time of social distancing and business closures due to COVID-19. However; these inspections are required and therefore must be performed on a regular basis. To address this hindrance, some jurisdictions in the U.S. are employing a relatively new alternative for on-site inspections: Remote Video Inspection, or RVI.
What is RVI?
Remote Video Inspection (RVI) allows one or more parties to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building components using video technology. In order for jurisdictions to be able to use this method, AHJ approval is required. This type of technology should also be used on a case by case basis as factors such as job site and safety considerations vary by facility and system type.
It’s important to note that RVI is not intended to be “less complete” than an on-site inspection. This technology should be employed to achieve the same or enhanced results as a traditional on-site inspection.
Guidelines for implementing RVI
NFPA has created a fact sheet that provides guidance on how to conduct a RVI. This fact sheet provides guidelines for parties looking to implement RVI and include:
- Set clear expectations
- Identify types of inspections RVI can address
- Determine safety based on criteria like time of day, job site, and weather
- Consider administrative provisions that may be required (i.e. applications)
- Establish what successful RVI looks like and provide examples
- Select technologies
- Ask: do all parties have internet connectivity that is adequate and stable?
- Research what approved technologies are available
- Consider what type of technology should be used (i.e Facetime, Skype, Google Duo, etc.) based on these criteria
- Verify location
- Know specifically where the inspection is to take place within the building
- Identify all parties involved
- Consider who will perform RVI
- Have all parties clearly identify themselves prior to inspection as well as when speaking during inspection
- Encourage verbal communication
- Engage in dialogue during inspection
- Communicate what’s being reviewed
- Be sure all parties involved in the inspection are knowledgeable and able to respond to questions
- Set sign off/Follow-up procedures
- Determine how to end inspection and how permit holder proceeds once RVI is complete
- Communicate how and when follow-up correspondence will occur
Benefits of RVI
When used an effective alternative to on-site inspection, there are many benefits to Remote Video Inspection, particularly in times like these.
One benefit of RVI is the ability to conduct inspections of critical and emergency permit work that’s still underway, expediting the process for permitting. Again, this is important now, but even in other times when time is an issue.
Of course, other benefits include the fact that parties don’t have to be in close proximity when conducting the inspection or communicating results of the inspection.
For all parties involved, there may be a wider range of availability since the inspection is not completed in-person. This means the company won’t have to make certain arrangements as an in-person inspection visit such as arranging for tech entry/exit or designating an employee to escort the tech to the inspection site. Occupancy issues may also be less of a concern.
Limitations to RVI
While there are many benefits to remote inspections, there are going to be some limitations that should be brought up and discussed.
A recent article published on Construction Dive highlighted these limitations by speaking with building officials from several states on how video inspections could mitigate COVID-19 risk. In this article, Ryan Colker, vice president of innovation at the International Code Council (ICC), cited a recent survey conducted by ICC. The survey found 40 percent of building department residents said they do not have the capacity to do electronic plan review and 30 percent don’t have the capability to do electronic permitting. What’s most surprising is the finding that more than 60 percent simply don’t have the capability to do remote inspections.
This doesn’t mean inspections aren’t happening though. The ICC also found that while a large percentage cannot complete remote inspections, 93 percent of departments are still performing inspections while practicing social distancing and other protective measures. And like many other industries, most fire protection companies are having in-office staff work from home. The bottom line is that RVI is new and thus difficult for departments to implement at the drop of a hat. The shift toward RVI is happening, but it’s in the inception stages. In the meantime, departments are adapting by shifting operational practices, business hours, and overall policies and procedures to address the safety of employees and their customers.
Adapting to the new normal
RVI is an emerging trend. It will inevitably affect the landscape of the fire protection industry. Currently, NFPA is still in the proposal stage for regulation for this type of technology. NFPA 915 will be the standard for remote inspections, but it’s still in early developmental stages. We only have the guidance of the organization and other similar organizations to guide the best use for this inspection process. The good news is, we already have many technology options at our disposal when it comes to conducting remote inspections. And most people are already comfortable with this type of technology (since most parties use basic smart phone video technology that we use every day).
After this pandemic, RVI will certainly be here to stay. The trailblazing involves implementation, technology tools, and how to best carry out remote inspections given certain criteria like job site and safety considerations. It will be left up to the local AHJs to approve RVI and what the process looks like from an administrative and permitting process.
In the meantime, RVI can be a helpful tool given the current climate. It’s still possible to conduct on-site inspections of a building’s fire protection systems while also maintaining social distancing and other protective measures in place. But it’s nice to know another option exists if necessary.
Fire Systems, Inc.
Fire Systems, Inc. has been protecting businesses in the southeast for over three decades. We’ve always be there for our customers and are here for you now. Don’t let inspections and repairs of critical fire protection systems go to the wayside. Your business needs to be prepared at all times and we can help. Contact us today at 770-333-7979 for more information, or visit our website for a comprehensive list of all of the services that we offer and how our solutions can work for you.