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BuildingReports Surpasses 3M Inspection Milestone: The Power of Big Data

July 07, 2016 David Spence Jump to Comments

BuildingReports, thanks to its massive network of independent inspection companies and facility users, has compiled the world's largest database of fire and life safety inspection reporting. But, with great success comes great responsibility. Often overlooked are the opportunities that arise with the advantages of big data. For those not familiar with the information technology term, big data refers to extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations.


For starters, BuildingReports began publishing the annual Fire & Life Safety Inspection Benchmark Report for the year 2014, with the second edition published for 2015 earlier this year. The reports leverage the BuildingReports database to provide analysis and key performance metrics for:

  • Average Total Inspection Time by Device Type & Occupancy Type
  • Average Device Failure Rate by Device Type & Occupancy Type
  • The Percentage of Devices Failing by Discrepancy Type
  • Addressable vs. Non-Addressable (Conventional) Systems
  • Special Supplements for Healthcare (2014) and Educational (2015) Occupancy Types
  • Average Individual Device Inspection Times and Failure Rate Rankings (2015)

You can register to download the full reports for 2014 and 2015 here, but we've compiled an excerpted summary of the findings below.

2014 Report

Heavy Regulation Results in Healthy Performance: New healthcare construction and facility operations management are some of the most stringently regulated in the United States. The reasons are clear and warranted, and the data in this report shows that the industry has risen to the challenge. With an overall reported average device failure rate of less than 2%, it is clear that the CMS accredited agencies’ requirements and enforcement combined with the facilities’ adherence to codes and standards have positioned the industry above the rest.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: With quantifiable data now available to assess the reliability of Addressable and Non-Addressable systems, is the ~0.7% less failure rate for Addressable systems more, less or about what you expected? While there certainly appears to be a positive difference in the reliability of Addressable panels and devices, some expected to see a more pronounced variance in the failure rate between the two.
Reading the Signs – NFPA 13: Although the requirements for proper signage for sprinkler systems is not new, facilities failed to have the proper signage almost 5% of the time. A quick visual check by facility management may be warranted to avoid future issues.
Stop Blocking and Start Tackling: The data is clear; the industry must do a better job ensuring that critical fire and life safety devices aren’t being blocked and that they are accessible for inspection. In almost every category a disturbing number of devices may be unavailable in the event of an emergency, or could malfunction because they were unavailable for inspection and testing.
Fill in the Blank: Inspection reporting tools like those available from BuildingReports can provide a wealth of valuable information. However, it is incumbent on inspection service companies must ensure that employees are properly trained to use those tools. This report demonstrates that far too many devices fail without any specific reason being logged. There are a number of implications for all stakeholders in the industry, but it primarily underscores the need for thorough and complete inspections.
Hide ‘n Seek: Location and Description Discrepancies are another concern and area for improvement as it relates to the potential for costly mishaps in the event of an emergency. In addition, such inaccuracies also negate some of the value of the investment made in Addressable systems. Emergency responders could lose valuable time if directed to the wrong zone or floor should an incident occur.
Missing in Action: How much does the industry spend each year replacing portable extinguishers and other devices that have been stolen or are reported missing? According to the data, these are primarily safety devices used in the initial response to a fire which could prove disastrous if unavailable at the outset of an emergency. At this time we are unable to estimate the financial impact accurately, but if possible, it is a statistic we will consider including in future editions of this report.

2015 Report

Damaged Goods: In the 2015 report, the failure cause categories “Damaged or Defective” were separated into two distinct categories, “Damaged” and “Defective.” A more granular look at the data revealed that – in most cases – the majority of devices were Defective. Many of the Damaged devices for Sprinkler had been painted. In other cases, such as Security, they were devices frequently used by building occupants, such as those associated with access control systems.
Extinguishing the Risk with Best Practices: It’s probably not surprising that fire extinguishers are one of the most susceptible fire and life safety devices requiring regular service and at risk of human tampering. To offset this risk, NFPA 10 requires monthly visual inspections that include the following:
  • Confirming the extinguisher is visible, unobstructed and in its designated location.
  • Verifying the locking pin is intact and the tamper seal is unbroken.
  • Examining the extinguisher for obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage or a clogged nozzle.
  • Confirming the pressure gauge or indicator is in the operable range or position, and lifting the extinguisher to check whether it is still full.
  • Ensuring the operating instructions on the nameplate are legible and facing outward.
  • Checking the last professional service date on the tag (a licensed fire extinguisher maintenance contractor must have inspected the extinguisher within the past 12 months).
  • Initialing and dating the back of the tag.
Most Likely Not to Succeed: Excluding certain device types, such as Auxiliary Station and Battery, the devices most at risk for inspection and testing failure were relatively low in terms of the actual number in use. Our top 10 overall devices most likely to fail on inspection include the following devices:
  1. Signage 33.83% (FireScan)
  2. Auxiliary Station 30.20% (SecurityScan)
  3. Standalone Lockset 27.77% (SecurityScan)
  4. Foam System 26.84% (SuppressionScan)
  5. Battery 23.80% (SafetyScan)
  6. Standby Power Supply 23.63% (SafetyScan)
  7. Radio 21.58% (SecurityScan)
  8. Antifreeze System 19.81% (SprinklerScan)
  9. Signage 18.86% (SprinklerScan)
  10. Carbon Dioxide System 18.96% (SuppressionScan)
It’s a Matter of Time: BuildingReports is frequently asked for detailed data around inspection times for types of devices. Detailed, device-level data and overall visibility into a building’s fire and life safety systems is one of the key advantages over paper-based and other inspection technologies. Examining the ScanSeries® applications, here are the average testing and inspection times for the 10 devices that take longest to inspect on average:
  1. Air Compressor 26.94 (SprinklerScan)
  2. Foam Tank 7.51 (SuppressionScan)
  3. Fire Extinguisher 7.29 (SuppressionScan)
  4. Weapon 7.34 (SecurityScan)
  5. Vehicle 7.13 (SecurityScan)
  6. Printer 5.86 (FireScan)
  7. Fire Damper 5.07 (SafetyScan)
  8. Range Suppression 5.04 (SafetyScan)
  9. Vehicle 5.04 (SafetyScan)
  10. Fire Hydrant 4.72 (SprinklerScan)
BuildingReports is committed to helping protect life and property. Industry associations, insurance companies, government agencies and other compilers of fire and life safety data interested in pursuing joint research initiatives aimed at this goal are encouraged to contact David Spence.
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