Inside the NFPA’s Proposed Standard for Remote Inspections

NFPA 915 Standard for Remote Testing will “provide minimum requirements for remote inspections to deliver an equivalent or improved result as that which would be obtained with other inspection methods.”

Inside the NFPA’s Proposed Standard for Remote Inspections

This column is the second part of a two-part discussion on a new NFPA Standard, NFPA 915 Standard for Remote Testing. In last month’s column I reviewed the history of the Standard and how it came into development. In this part, I will discuss the draft document which has been released by the NFPA for public review and proposals.

This document is now open for review, with a closing date of June 1, 2021 for public inputs. You may view the document and submit suggested changes by clicking here. You do not need to be a member of the NFPA to submit proposed changes.

NFPA 915 is comprised of eight chapter and two annexes. The proposed chapters are:

  • Chapter 1 Administration
  • Chapter 2 Referenced Publications
  • Chapter 3 Definitions
  • Chapter 4 General Requirements
  • Chapter 5 Location and Timestamp Requirements
  • Chapter 6 Data Collection/Transmission Devices
  • Chapter 7 Data Collection Formats
  • Chapter 8 Data and Content Protection Retention
  • Annex A Explanatory Material
  • Annex B Informational References

Within Chapter 3, there is the proposed definition for remote inspection. The use of audio/visual devices and/or other technologies to perform an inspection for the purpose of remote verification.

Through this definition, a fundamental expectation of what remote testing is to be is set. This is that a means shall be provided for the inspector to be at some remote location, either elsewhere on the site, or at a location that is not on the site and through the use of both audio and visual devices, conduct an inspection. There is no reference within this definition for remote testing. There is no definition within the document for remote testing.

The annex provides further details as to what remote inspections are intended to be:

  • Evaluation of objects, materials or construction for a distance
  • Aerial means
  • Offsite witnessing.

Within the offsite witnessing, there is a reference to this being of a system being tested. The audio that is mentioned within the definition would be for the off-site individual or individuals to direct on the onsite person or persons on what is to be done. The offsite entity would typically be an AHJ.

The scope of this standard is found within Chapter 1:

1.2 Purpose.

The purpose of this standard shall be to provide minimum requirements for remote inspections to deliver an equivalent or improved result as that which would be obtained with other inspection methods.

Depending on what is being inspected and where the equipment that is being inspected is located, there could be improved results through the use  of aerial drones or other equipment that could get into spaces that may be exceedingly difficult or time consuming if it was a person.

Examples that come to mind would be an air handler that is thirty feet above grade in a big box space. If the purpose of the inspection were to just check the condition up close of the duct detector, a drone could be used to perform an up-close flyby.

Though not related to fire alarm system, the inspection of sprinklers that are located on a high ceiling could be inspected via this means as well. The inside of a water storage tank could also be inspected using a submersible as opposed to either a diver or the draining of the tank.

The proposed standard does allow for aerial inspections. The term drone, however, is not used within the document. They are referred as small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). This is how these devices are referred to by the FAA. The individual who is operating this device is the remote pilot in command.

The standard at this time is rather vague on how and when such systems can be used. The AHJ must approve their use. In addition, when using such equipment, NFPA 2400 Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations is to be followed.

As these inspections are intended to be under the direct control of the AHJ, the standard has provisions for the security of the data and images that would be produced. The requirements currently are considerably basic:

8.3.2  Digital Transmission.

Content shall be transmitted via secured electronic means.

8.3.3  Physical Transmission.

Content shall be transmitted in an approved tangible form, which includes the use of postal or carrier operations.

8.3.4*  Live Transmission.

Content shall be transmitted using real-time means.

8.3.5*  Verification of Transmission.

An acknowledgement that transmission was received by the AHJ shall be documented.

There is a reference to postal and carrier operations. While most of the inspection means that are covered within the document, nondigital photography and written reports may be used, with the approval of the AHJ.

The draft document that is available for viewing and public proposals is a basic framework currently. Most of the chapters have around ten paragraphs. Having been on the development of four NFPA documents myself, getting a new standard ready for use can be a monumental task.

If you view this as the possible future of inspections with an AHJ, review the document at the NFPA website and submit your public proposals. This will allow you to be on the leading edge in the promulgation of a new standard.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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