Author Archives: April

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Safety Gear for inspection

Fire Inspections during and after a pandemic


Covid-19 has hit our customers in a variety of ways. Policies are changing, sometimes daily. Shut down orders have made inspecting difficult for some, impossible for others. Regardless, it’s safe to say, our inspection world has changed.

Virtual Inspections

The world of virtual meetings has opened up and invited everyone in. You may be experiencing this now or planning on offering it in the future. There are multiple ways your organization can accomplish this type of inspection. For example, virtual meetings and conference calls.

  • Via Zoom or other video conferencing platform. Many virtual meeting platforms offer free video chat sessions to their users. You can connect with someone at the property to be inspected and guide them around. They can navigate through your checklists of items or you can ask them to walk the area with the camera facing outward. BEWARE, we hear this can be nauseating and the ride can be bumpy. Despite this, virtual meetings are gaining popularity.
  • A conference call with photos. Ask the person at the property to be inspected to take photos of areas/items and send them to you. You can still guide them through the inspection and direct them to the items you need to see.

NFPA offered a guidance for remote video inspections (RVI).


Self-inspections are gaining momentum as inspectors struggle to complete the amount of work in the desired amount of time with the staff provided. Some businesses, mostly those with high safety ratings, are given blank inspection forms to complete and electronic avenues in which to submit them with photo evidence. This is a great way to get caught up in the aftermath of a pandemic.

These are just two options we’ve seen being used during this pandemic.

Where do we go from here

With many agencies locking down, some for months, inspections were delayed. Now we need to play catch up. Some are planning on using the techniques listed above and some are planning on incorporating Company Inspections. Company Inspections allow the use of local fire departments to lend a hand during their downtime to help conduct fire and life safety inspections. Add to this influx, many agencies will be returning to a new way of doing business, with new rules you’ll need to account for. Undoubtedly, many agencies will struggle with getting caught up and moving forward. This task is not hopeless.

Set a plan of action, know what has changed, and be prepared. Change your policies (temporarily if need be) to allow the use of new technology to aid in completing your inspections. Reach out to us, ask for advice. Perhaps we’ve heard of something another group is trying and succeeding with. Check and see if we have added any checklists or picklists to assist with the new Covid-19 policies. (See NFPA for their list of resources). 

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Support and Help

Support and Help when you need it.


During these past few months, one thing we’ve noticed is flexibility is a necessity. Our number one goal has always been to provide the best support we can to our customers. Today we still stand behind that but realize we need to add some flexibility to our offering. We realize your hours may need to be flexible under the current pandemic and you may need to get a quick answer during off-hours.

To help with this, we have updated our website to include a support and help section. We’ve included a FAQ section and options to get the help you need when you need it.

We are always looking for ways to provide better service to our customers. If you have a suggestion, please let us know.

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Chief Fred Hotz

Gaining Compliance through Occupancy Use Permits.

Category:Success Story

On January 1, 2018, the Grand Island Fire Prevention office in Nebraska implemented their new process to issue Occupancy Use Permits with a fee range from $100-$300. I spoke with Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz about how the new policy was working for them and the response has been overwhelmingly good.

Chief Fred Hotz
Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz

Time for a change

In 2017, the city council approved the change. This assisted the fire prevention office in a problem they were running into during inspections. Buildings were issued occupancy certificates for one occupancy and over time the occupancy would change. Many owners were unaware of the standards for buildings and how the fire inspectors inspected various occupancies, therefore Fred was not notified.

“Storage facilities have posed the largest surprises. Many questioned at first why we needed to inspect these buildings. I explained that the storage of flammable liquids, for example, poses different hazards. These facilities need to be inspected annually. We’re also finding small repair garages and paint booths being set up in these buildings. With this new system, owners are more aware of the need to notify us.” Fred explains.

Occupancy Use Permits created more compliance

With this new policy, Fred is noticing a shift. “With this new fee and permit, we’re getting rapid compliance. Before, it seemed there was no rush.” Fire and Life Safety inspections are to prevent dangers and make the public aware of safety. And his community seems eager to pass inspections and receive the Fire Prevention stamp of approval. “The permit has the expiration date printed on it, so the owner knows when it is time to expect us to return. Many times, they are calling us to schedule it. The flow has been steady.”

However, on the rare occasion, there are legal measures in place when an owner is not compliant. That is not the initial response. “I make multiple attempts via email, phone calls and in person if necessary to help the owner understand the importance of compliance and the ramifications if they do not comply.” The city ordinance was also updated to include the $500 per day violation for non-compliance. The further result could be attorney fees, court fees, fines and in the end, the judge will enforce the compliance.

In the last year and a half, Fred has only seen this happen twice. “It is far and few between”, Fred is happy to report, “We are working with the owners to re-issue the Occupancy Use permits, we’re not working against them. More than not, the community is happy with the changes, even with the fee attached. Business owners are responsible for paying and ensuring they have the correct Occupancy Use Permit.”

Record keeping and financials

The Division is cleaning up their records and attaching the correct occupancy use to each building. But that isn’t the only part that changes with this sort of policy. Fred originally did not plan on being responsible for fee collection. However, after looking into several options, he ultimately decided it was best for him to take on the responsibility. “I had no way to know if a fee had been paid and when to issue a permit. This was just easier in Codepal to issue the fee, create the invoice and track it from there. Now the checks come into our office and the permit is issued.”

“With the fees collected, we’re able to justify the addition of two inspectors in the Fire Prevention office. With the additional staff, we’re able to be more productive, which attributes to more compliance and makes our community safer.” On average, the cost is $100 per property where the triennial inspection can be completed in under 2 hours. For target hazards (yearly), 12000 sq ft or larger, $200. If the inspection is over 3 hours, $300. Fred works with owners when there are multiple buildings on one property. He’ll combine them into one inspection to save the owner.

Overall, I know Fred well enough to say, he’s not making these changes to accomplish anything other than what is best for his community. Thank you, Fred, for taking a moment to share your progress with us and our Codepal community.