Remote video inspections, or RVI, emerged in early spring of 2020 as an effective alternative to on-site inspections of fire protection systems. As a relatively new method of inspection techniques, RVI has many benefits.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic had just emerged, many essential services like fire protection and other life and safety organizations had to get creative in how to maintain public safety amidst a global pandemic. Some fire protection companies were able embrace and adopt remote inspection while others could not. Now, months later, it’s becoming the norm for not only many fire protection companies but also AHJs to conduct inspections virtually.
If you’re coming up on the expiration date of your permit and near your required inspection by your AHJ, be prepared for an entirely virtual experience.
Virtual vs. in-person
In June of 2020, Atlanta Fire & Rescue deemed virtual inspections to be the preferred method to conduct fire and life safety related inspected until further notice. The department announced that it will not schedule in-person inspections, except in limited circumstances, and if needed, social distancing requirements must be upheld.
Virtual inspections are conducted between a customer and an Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Fire Inspector via a video call on a smartphone or tablet. To prepare, have a designated person with a reliable and charged device with quality internet connectivity to begin the inspection. This is of particular importance when conducting such important inspections that can take a while. The requirements listed below in the next section will help determine the type of connectivity and device that’s preferred for inspections.
Requirements for a virtual inspection from your AHJ
If your business is located in the Atlanta area, the Fire Marshal’s Office has noted a list of requirements for your business to conduct virtual inspections. Note: your business may be eligible for in-person inspections.
- All acceptance-related inspections may be considered for virtual inspections; however, based on the size and/or complexity of the project, it may not be possible to conduct virtually.
- Inspection complexity will be determined by the inspector.
- For inspections deemed too complex for virtual inspection, the Fire Marshal’s Office will determine alternative methods.
- Customers must have a smartphone or tablet connected to Wi-Fi or 4G wireless service.
- Either the TEAMS app, Google Duo app, ZOOM (all smart device), or Face Time (OS devices) are required to host the video call. Check your mobile device’s app store to download.
There’s no need to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office to schedule your inspection, but you can call to ask if your business is eligible for either a virtual or in-person inspection. The Fire Inspector will contact you if your permit is near expiration or you may schedule your inspection. All virtual inspections must be scheduled in advance by either the owner or the Fire Inspector.
Preparing for your virtual inspection
Beyond having the correct device and apps to conduct a virtual inspection, you’ll also need a few other things to prepare.
Remember that prior to the inspection, you must complete the appropriate acceptance testing paperwork required by the relevant standard for the system(s) being inspected. This paperwork is required for final approval.
First, you’ll need to have the necessary tools. This will depend on the inspection type. Some common tools include:
- Tape measure
- Step ladder
Next, make sure your mobile device or smart phone is:
- Fully charged
- With appropriate app downloaded
- Notifications turned off
Finally, use earbuds with a microphone instead of speaker phone to improve clarity of communication.
What to expect: inspection day
For the City of Atlanta, the Fire Marshal’s Office notes that on the day of your scheduled inspection you will be contacted between 8:00 am and 10:00 am. to:
- confirm your information,
- set a specific time for the inspection
- confirm cell phone, email address, type of video connection, and the person that will be walking the inspection site.
You can contact the office by phone via 404-546-7000 or email at FMOinspections@atlanta.gov if you have questions before the inspection begins.
When it’s time for your scheduled inspection, accept the incoming call initiated by your inspector at the scheduled time on the appropriate app. The walkthrough will then begin. The walkthrough is when your inspector begins the inspection.
Be prepared to do the following:
- Begin at street view looking at the structure with the address showing
- Follow directions from your inspector.
- Walk the inspection in a clockwise direction, horizontally, then bottom to top vertically (if more than one floor)
- Make note of any items that require correction
Your inspector will tell you during the video call if the inspection has passed or failed. The results of your virtual inspection will be processed and able to be viewed in ACCELA (the city’s platform software) by the end of the day on which the inspection occurred, pending receipt of the contractor’s paperwork.
What to do if the inspection fails
The inspector will provide comments to you during the virtual conference and via email the following day if you fail the virtual inspection. The results will also be accessible in ACCELA. From there, the inspector will determine if a re-inspection is required.
If you fail inspection of any of your fire protection systems, for any reason, contact Fire Systems, Inc. as soon as possible. We can get out to your facility within hours or days depending on the necessary repair(s). Fire Systems, Inc. is an “all-services” company which means we can service all aspects of your fire protection systems, from fire sprinkler systems to fire alarm and beyond. Fire Systems is a highly respected fire protection company in the Atlanta area with over three decades of experience. We have great working relationship with the Atlanta Fire Marshal’s Office and can help your business maintain compliance. Contact us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.