Why Fire Inspection Opportunities Are Heating Up for Alarm Dealers
Industry innovator Cliff Dice dishes on how software advancements spur more efficient fire inspections.
As the security industry continues to experience unique challenges in the midst of fast-evolving market sectors, many dealers are searching for new services to offer their customers that will ensure growth in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Of the many services offered by alarm monitoring companies, one that is exceeding expectations with promising opportunities for growth is fire inspection.
I first started working with fire inspection software about 10 years ago. Being involved in the research and development of products and services for the security industry for more than 30 years, I am continuously monitoring trends and potential new avenues for growth.
After extensive research and collaboration with fire inspection professionals, it was determined there was a need for a comprehensive step-by-step software system that guided technicians through the entire process, collected information and produced customized National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) forms.
First released in 2012, our system has continued to expand the past five years. Since I started engineering fire inspection software systems, the room for growth in this sector has grown exponentially. In almost any region, there are opportunities for alarm monitoring companies to get involved.
In the past, fire inspections were primarily conducted by local fire departments. But due to budget cuts and a lack of resources for training, many communities started falling back on independent fire inspection services to meet this demand. This has opened the door for new fire inspection providers to build a base with few competitors in many jurisdictions.
Many do not understand the extent of fire equipment regulations and inspections. Equipment must be inspected in every new commercial building in the United States. After that, inspections must take place at least once a year, though some jurisdictions are now requiring biannual inspections as well.
There is also an incentive for some building owners, with many insurance companies offering discounts on premiums for satisfactory fire inspections. Because of these mandates, fire inspection service providers are experiencing a perpetual stream of work.
The growing number of commercial buildings in the U.S. is also advantageous to fire inspection providers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are an estimated 5.6 million commercial buildings in the nation, comprising 87.4 billion square feet of floor space.
This is a 14% increase in the number of buildings and a 21% increase in floor space from the previous survey. In addition to the many potential avenues for growth, a number of technological advancements are making the fire inspection process more efficient, more cost effective and easier than ever.
In a world where almost everything is digital, many fire inspection technicians are still using paper checklists to conduct inspections. A city with a population of 100,000 conducts an average of 700 commercial fire inspections each year, leaving no room for user error and wasted time writing individual reports.
By utilizing a fire inspection software system, fire inspection technicians are able to cover more ground in less time and receive updates to fire codes and municipal regulations in real-time. All this results in fewer errors and the ability to service more clients with a smaller pool of technicians.
Today’s fire inspection systems are also designed to be completely mobile, allowing technicians to complete the entire process on the premises using a tablet or laptop. Step-by-step prompts guide the technician through the entire process, allowing the user to disable and enable alarms, enter equipment that is being tested, view available inventory, upload images, and even scan equipment barcodes with a smart device to expedite the inspection process.
There are a number of benefits to an entirely digital inspection process. Users experience a reduction in errors since the required information from the step-by-step process is populated in the form. All reports are stored online and emailed to clients so there are no filing issues or need for clerical assistance.
The correct inspection information is also selected, eliminating errors when working in different municipalities. With the influx of mobile technology altering the way we conduct fire inspections, I am often asked where I see the software moving in the future. This is always difficult to pinpoint as we have experienced an unprecedented change in technology in the past 10 years.
When we started in this industry, nobody would have predicted we would be using tablets and smart devices to conduct fire inspections. However, one change I predict we will see in the near future is the addition of fire sensors embedded in surveillance cameras, which will alter the way technicians conduct fire inspections and the way we make inspection software.
Nonetheless, I am encouraged by the progress I am seeing in the fire inspection industry and foresee a prosperous future for those looking to get in the business or update their systems.
Cliff Dice is President and CEO of Bay City, Mich.-based DICE Corp.
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