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Building Operating Management Magazine FastCast: 2014 Benchmark Report

In October 2014, the publisher of Building Operating Management, Facility Management Decisions and Healthcare Facilities Today hosted this informative webinar for subscribers to provide a 30-minute analysis of the 2014 BuildingReports Benchmark Report. Watch this informative presentation see what the numbers can teach us about the state of the industry, and more specifically how you stack up against the averages.

Now this report is the culmination and examines over 15 years worth of level data, and really what we hope to provide was an in-depth level analysis on the industry's largest fire and life safety inspection database. Now from high level trends by occupancy type to more granular analysis of things like device level performance by fire, sprinkler, suppression, safety and security categories. Our presenters today are not only going to present those data findings, but they're going to give you the qualitative analysis in terms of what that really means for the industry and how we can improve and make things better and safer for everyone. Now without further ado, let me go ahead and introduce our panel, first and . . . we have Jason Kronz. Jason is our President and Chief Technology Officer. Jason's recognized as a thought leader and he really is a technology expert in the areas of mobile application development, cloud technologies and obviously with his tenure, an expert on the fire and life safety compliance industry in general.

Now prior to Building Reports, Jason served as a Radio Frequency and Software Engineer at Motorola. He specialized in pager and cell phone technologies and also served as a research analyst. Now afterward, Jason joined Convergent Corporation, he was responsible for developing much of the Bluetooth discovery specifications, as well as some of their early Palm OS projects. Jason joined Building Reports in 1999 as one of our co-founders and obviously as I mentioned before, he is now serving in his current role as President and CTO. Now in addition to Jason, we have Joe Scibetta. Joe is our Codes and Standards Manager here at Building Reports, and really is a differentiator for us in the industry. Joe's a very prominent figure in industry codes and standards, having spent a decade in the field as an inspector prior to his 10 years with the organization. Joe's a very active member of numerous professional organizations including the NFPA. Now in his role, Joe not only provides insight and knowledge with regard to product development, things like enhancements and updates, but he's also a major influencer of coding standard development modifications having sat on the committee for a number of these organizations. Now with all that being said, I'll go ahead and turn things over to Jason who's going to provide some important background regarding the industry, as well as the data collected in the sample. Jason.

Jason: Thank you, David. Good afternoon everyone. First, I'd like to start off with an overview of the safety compliance environment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are a little over 11 million buildings in the United States that should be under some code or standard for safety compliance. By our estimates, this means that there's a little over two billion devices that need to be inspected and/or tested annually in the United States. Some are even tested more frequently, say for example, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly. The safety compliance environment is a complicated one. It is one that's driven by codes and standards. And we see between 750 and 800 changes to the fire and life safety code each and every year.

And because of this, Building Reports has a Codes and Standards Manager, my co-presenter this afternoon, Joe Scibetta. A good portion of Joe's job is to make sure that the Building Reports solution is kept up-to-date with these changes every year. And finally, because the fire and life safety industry is about the protection of life and property, we unfortunately need to talk about these numbers. There are a little over $12 billion in damages caused by fires each year in the United States. And unfortunately a little over 2800 lives are lost every year because of fire as well. We at Building Reports, of course, take these numbers very seriously.

It's one of the main reasons why we started to do this industry report, we want to continue to have a positive impact on these two numbers. Because ultimately it's these two numbers by which our whole industry is measured. Next, I'd like to talk briefly about how the data is collected. Traditionally in the fire and life safety industry, inspections were performed with checkbox style forms. And what I mean by that is that the inspector would go out with the form, it would have questions like, "Are all the smoke detectors operational within this facility?" Check. "Are all the poll stations operational within the facility?" Check.

The Building Reports system is a bit different. We do what's called a device level inspection. And what that means is the inspector will actually go out to every device that has to do with the protection of life or property within that facility and collect specific information on that device. Now there's some core information that is collected on every device within the facility. For example, who manufactured it? Where is it located within the facility? What's its model number? When was it actually installed? These are core pieces of information that are collected on each and every device within the facility. Now each device within the facility also has a specific role to play when it comes in relation to the codes or standards that the building falls under. And because of that, we actually collect device-specific attributes for each type of device within the building. That can be as simple as the sensitivity measurement on a smoke detector or the size and type on an extinguisher, or it can be as complex as all the measurements that are associated with a fire pump test. So for example, all the flow rates, all the RPMs, if it's an electrical driver, all the voltages and the amperages.

So it can get quite complex but the point is, is that we actually collect device-specific attributes for each and every device within the building. And finally before we get into the analysis, I want to talk a bit about the sample size. The sample was collected from over 600 inspection partners over the last 14 years. They performed inspections in over 330,000 buildings and that represents a little over 1.9 million inspections. From 1.9 million inspections there were little over 120 million devices inspected. And this results in a little over 3.7 million man hours of inspections. So this is by far the world's largest database of inspection and test and maintenance information that has ever been created for the fire and life safety industry. And to analyze the data, I want to introduce Joe Scibetta. Joe has almost 20 years of experience in the fire and life safety industry. Joe spent the first half of his career as an inspector in the field using the Building Reports system. He currently sits on the NFPA 72 Testing and Maintenance Technical Committee, the AFAA Codes and Standards Committee, and the NFPA 150 Technical Committee.

Joe, in his current role as the Codes and Standards Manager for Building Reports, is responsible for keeping us up-to-date with all the codes, and also having an impact on the industry by effecting change within the codes. Please welcome Joe for some analysis.

Joe: Thank you, Jason. First, let's take a look at what the data revealed from an occupancy perspective. Taking a look at the graph that you see appearing on the left of your screen, you'll see all five of our software applications. And each application refers to an important segment of the fire and life safety industry. To the left of the graph, you'll see the occupancy type that had the lowest failure rate in that particular application. You'll see the mean percentage value in the middle and in the far right, the facility that had the highest value rate for each application.

First, I'd like to point your attention to healthcare facilities. For both fire and sprinkler, healthcare facilities had the lowest failure percentage of any occupancy type. In fact, when we compare average failure rates in healthcare facilities against the overall average failure rate for each application, healthcare facilities had the lowest every failure rate of any occupancy type.

Now on the other side of that spectrum, I'd like to point your attention to residential occupancies, which had the highest failure percentage for both safety and sprinkler inspections. Of note too, and you won't see this particular statistic on this graph, but it was definitely something that was a note of concern for us and we wanted to mention it, is that the facility that had the highest failure rate overall across applications was the mercantile occupancy type. Taking a look at the graph that you see on the right of your screen, here was a significant finding. Healthcare facilities far and away exceeded all other occupancy types in terms of average minutes per inspection, with storage facilities, you'll notice taking the least amount of time.

We thought it was interesting too that the detention and assembly occupancies took about the same amount of time to complete. Could it be that the amount of time it takes a technician to navigate a large sports stadium or religious complex amounts to the same amount of time that it takes a technician to be guided cautiously and methodically through a detention center. It's an interesting question worth considering. Now we'll take a look at this same data set, but with a different visual approach in the next slide. Here, we see a scatter plot representing all of the occupancy types with most occupancies in close approximation with one another in the center of the graph, with the exception of three plots set apart from the central portion of the graph. Let's highlight those three points. The first is to the far left of the graph representing storage occupancies which took the least amount of time to complete at about 59 minutes per inspection. Another plot set apart is to the top of the graph representing mercantile occupancies which had the highest failure rate overall at about 5.5%.

And to the far right of the graph, healthcare facilities which again, had the lowest failure rate overall about 1.78%, and the longest inspection time on average, about 254 minutes per inspection. So in summary, the following are some significant focal points based on occupancy type that we'd like to share with you. We mentioned high average inspection time and low average failure rate for healthcare facilities. Is that due solely to the number of devices in these types of facilities? Well, that is certainly a factor, but there are other factors to consider as well, such as the sheer size of buildings or building complexes that require a technician to navigate and find devices for inspection and testing.

Many healthcare facilities are open 24/7 which in turn presents a challenge in accessing devices, especially in secure areas that require special scheduling or procedures to gain entry. And here is another factor that we invite you to consider. To what extent does the level of regulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and its accreditation partners relate to the low failure rate and increased inspection time in healthcare facilities? Mercantile occupancies, we saw a greater than 4% failure rate for fire alarm inspections and as we mentioned, the highest failure rate overall across occupancies.

Another point of concern was with educational facilities where we saw, along with residential, the highest failure rate overall for fire suppression systems. Remember that we mentioned residential occupancies had the highest failure rate when it came to sprinkler inspections. Second to residential was business occupancies. So we have four occupancies that right away are definitely a cause of concern and attention for the fire and life safety industry: mercantile, educational, residential and business. This was an interesting statistic we found with regard to assembly occupancies. Security inspections showed the highest failure rates, but at the same time, the lowest inspection time. So that's definitely a matter for further review. And in industrial occupancies, we found that despite the environmental challenges found in these types of facilities, the average failure rate and average inspection time were significantly lower than we anticipated, and that was good to see. So we've taken a look at the data across the spectrum of occupancy types and now we'll take a more in-depth view of the data as it relates to specific device inspections.

First though, what did the data show us with regard to the difference between addressable and non-addressable devices? The fire and life safety industry's perception of addressable systems and devices has been that they have a high quality, low failure advantage when compared to non-addressable systems and devices. The data to support that however has been scare until now. Here is what an analysis of 46 million devices revealed. Here we see the totals between addressable and non-addressable devices and the failure percentages between the two; 2.33% of addressable devices failed as compared to a little over 3% of non-addressable device failures. At first glance, the difference between these two failure percentages may not seem that significant, but here is what the difference actually amounts to. Non-addressable devices had a 25% higher failure rate than addressable devices and that is significant, underscoring the high quality and level of reliability of addressable systems and devices.

Now let's take a look at what the data shows us per application. First of all, fire alarm and signaling. But before we look at this graph and the ones to follow, a brief explanatory note to help us better appreciate these graphs. In order to more easily assimilate and review the data, we establish broad headings to incorporate a wide array of discrepancies that were similar in nature. So for example, missing parts, damaged, worn, and defective were all incorporated into a broader category of damaged or defective. Here with fire alarm and signaling, among the damaged and defective devices, were hundreds of thousands of batteries that fell into this category, underscoring the critical relationship of batteries to a fire alarm signaling system, and of course, the equally critical nature of battery inspections and testing.

In this graph and the ones to follow, you'll notice a significant portion labeled Other/Not Specified. Now what caused devices to fall into this category? There were two main reasons. First of all, whether in a hurry or simply not being attentive to detail, no comment or reason for failure was entered in by the technician. For example, with regard to fire alarm and signaling, we found nearly 300,000 devices that failed but had no associated comment to indicate the nature of the failure. Now that may sound like a lot of devices 300,000, but remember that's out of the total of 120 million devices. So the number of devices not having a reason for failure in our fire alarm and signaling application was actually quite small. Nevertheless, Building Reports still regards that number as a point of concern.

As a result, this finding has motivated us to step up our training efforts to place greater emphasis on entering a reason for failure as a vital aspect of inspection reporting. Now another reason for devices falling into the Other/Not Specified category is manual entry. If a technician manually entered a reason for failure, that entry went to this Other/Not Specified category. Manual entries provide Building Reports with an excellent opportunity to revise and improve our applications. For example, if we note reasons for failure that are frequently entered in manually and are not currently in our standard comment menu, then we can forward those manual entries to our developers for their review and possible inclusion in a future version of our software.

SuppressionScan is our application for a broad array of extinguishing systems, both water-based and gaseous. This application is mainly used for gaseous extinguishing systems. It was interesting that once again, in the damaged or defective category, batteries had the highest failure rate of any device type in SuppressionScan. And what about sprinkler inspections? Almost 90% of devices were in the damaged/defective category largely due to rusting, corrosion, missing parts or expired components. Of note too is the 4.5% failure rate for missing signage. In every application, the Other/Not Specified category is second to the damage/defective category. But with our sprinkler application, missing signage nearly overtook the other not specified category for second place with regard to device failures. Interestingly gauges had the highest number of failures of any device in SprinklerSan.

SafetyScan is our application used mainly for portable fire extinguishers, also emergency lighting, and personal protective equipment. We found it interesting that in the missing device or parts category, over 80% of first aid kits inspected using this application failed due to missing a critical component. In the Other/Not Specified category, well over 100,000 fire extinguishers were listed here, again due to the technician not entering a comment to explain the reason for failure.

Finally we'll take a look at our security application. Once again, the majority of devices in the damaged/defective category were batteries that failed test. The Other/Not Specified category, as you'll see here, was higher for security than any other application, with the majority of devices in this category having again, no explanation in the comment field as to the reason for failure.

And finally we'd like to point your attention to the inaccessible or blocked category. The device in that category with the largest number of failures was the button device type which technicians use to log inspection and testing of buttons for signaling police during a hold-up or some type of emergency or panic situation. That these were the number one device in our Security application marked as inaccessible is definitely a cause for concern and attention.

And now, to provide a concluding summary, I'd like to direct your attention back to Building Reports President and CTO, Jason Kronz. Jason.

Jason: Thanks, Joe. And finally I'd like to summarize what we learned on the first industry report. First, addressable versus non-addressable systems. With over 46 million devices connected to one of these two types of systems, we felt we had the large enough sample size to confirm the conventional wisdom of the industry. And in fact, that addressable systems are more reliable than non-addressable systems. Next, we have the healthcare occupancy type. With its low failure rate and high inspection times, healthcare occupancy types are dramatically different than all other occupancy types in our industry. And we believe this is a direct result of having CMS and its accreditation partners, the Joint Commission, [inaudible 00:23:49], and B&V, be a third party to help enforce the codes and standards by which healthcare facilities need to perform against. I want to remind you that these third-party accreditation partners do not bring new codes to the table, they simply enforce the existing codes that are already in place and we see that effect. Next, we have the educational occupancy type. It was a point of concern for us to see such high failure rates in both the safety and fire categories for this occupancy type. And as a result, we're going to do further analysis on this occupancy type in a future industry report, so look for that coming soon. We were also a bit concerned with the high failure rates in NFPA 25 and 13 due to signage requirements. A good 4.5% of devices failed in these system types were because of some kind of signage requirement.

We believe this is an educational opportunity for the industry to educate building owners, property managers and building engineers that proper signage is required for sprinkler systems, but it also is required for the proper operation of those systems. I'd also like to remind everyone that the signage requirements for NFPA 25 and 13 have not changed significantly in the last couple years. So these high failure rates are not due to code changes that building owners or property managers aren't aware of.

Another education opportunity is in the area of inaccessible and blocked devices. We were surprised to see a high failure rate in almost every category due to devices being either inaccessible or blocked. Inaccessible devices being devices that the inspector was unable to access during an inspection. For example, locked rooms or rooms that were currently occupied. And blocked devices being devices that are actually blocked from performing their function. For example, a filing cabinet in front of a poll station. We also think this is an educational opportunity for the industry. Building engineers and property managers should be made aware that an inspector should have unfettered access to a building to perform the inspection. Likewise, tenants of a building should not only be educated on the evacuation procedures for that building, but also on the role of common fire and life safety equipment has in the protection of life and property within that building.

And finally being our first industry report, we realize that there are many other areas for additional analysis. And we'd like your input, so if you have ideas, or would like us to look at the data in a specific way, we'd be happy to take those ideas and try to incorporate them in a future industry report. So please feel free to reach out to us with anything that you would like to see.