Improving fire inspections with quality assurance

CarolinaFireJournal - Shane Gibbs
Shane Gibbs
05/06/2014 -

Years ago when I got into the fire service “Community Risk Reduction” was a term that no one knew. Throughout the years this term has made its way into the fire service vocabulary and has driven the way many departments mitigate loss in their community. There are many sections that make up Community Risk Reduction, one section in particular is somewhat new to the fire service but has been around for many years in the business and corporate world. The section in which I’m speaking of is Quality Assurance.

Quality assurance programs have been alive for many years in private sector, as well as the medical and EMS fields. Taking lessons learned and turning them into proactive changes can sustain a department program for many years. It wasn’t until recently that quality assurance programs have made a debut in many fire departments across the nation; not only are they having an impact on how inspections are being conducted, but they are also improving relations with the business community.

When we look at quality assurance in more detail, this term is defined as a way of preventing mistakes or defects and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers. In our case, the customers are comprised of building owners and occupants and the delivering solutions and services are conducting fire inspections.

Throughout the nation many departments have solid inspection programs while others may be challenged in implantation of a basic program. The main thing to keep in mind is that whatever inspection program that your department implements, it is standard throughout the whole department. With inspections being standardized this rules out any type of freelancing outside of what’s on the inspection form by shift personnel or by department inspectors. By making the inspection process standard in nature takes any mistakes or defects out of the equation, this is crucial when adhering to a quality assurance program.

Another important part of establishing a successful Q&A program is performing follow-ups with the building owner/occupant. By conducting follow-ups this will aid the department in finding and fixing flaws in their inspection program. Conducting follow-ups is very important when improving an already established inspection program. Having a different set of eyes to look at the already conducted inspection can have huge advantages.

At this point an in-depth interaction with the building owner/occupant can be beneficial. Many questions can be asked. Some of these questions are as follows: was the person conducting the inspection professional and courteous, how long the inspection took, was the inspector familiar with his or her job, did the inspector do a good job explaining the deficiencies found? All of the above questions can be somewhat of a survey to help fine-tune the inspection process.

It’s important to remember that all inspectors that perform initial inspections and the follow-ups have the proper training and certification, whether conducted in-house or through a training academy. This ensures that inspectors are familiar with current adopted codes and department procedures. Although the inspection process can differ between personnel, the main objective is to deliver a quality product in a professional and well educated manner and cover all of the designated points.

The above is just a few points to look over if you’re looking to establish a quality assurance program for your department. Obviously your program will be designed to fit into your own department protocols and operating procedures, but should have some of the same points that I have addressed. When looking at a sustainable solution for your program, a Q&A program needs to be created and placed as part of the department’s Community Risk Reduction. Addressing the needs of the public in which we protect should be our number one priority. Improving fire inspections with quality assurance is one way to make that happen.

Shane Gibbs is a first generation firefighter with 13 years of experience in emergency services. He resides in Upstate South Carolina with his wife Lori and two children, Blake and Lily. He holds an Associate Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University. He currently serves for the Oconee County Emergency Services as the Chief Fire Marshal. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 864-638-4220.
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