ITM REPORTING SERVICE BEST PRACTICES WORK IN MINNESOTA
Minnesota Chapter members and fire service leaders recently attended two events involving third party ITM reporting services. These events complement previous events cohosted by the State Fire Marshal’s office and NFSA staff. Best practices for implementation and operation of ITM reporting services have been difficult to develop for several reasons, including:
- the independent nature of local jurisdictions
- contractor service areas that span multiple jurisdictions
- a variety of third-party reporting service providers
- no consistent statewide or national standards governing ITM reporting services
The conversation in Minnesota echoes other discussions happening around the nation regarding this important and growing service aspect of our industry.
Minnesota NFSA staff have participated in listening sessions with contractors and AHJ representatives, have met separately with both contractors and AHJ representatives, and have heard presentations from several different third-party reporting services. On June 9, the Fire Marshals Association of Minnesota (FMAM) held a panel discussion with AHJs – including several who currently use Brycer, The Compliance Engine (TCE). NFSA and Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA) members were also invited and attended this well-organized virtual event. FMAM President Angie Wiese and Vice President Tom Pitschneider did a wonderful job of leading the 40+ attendees through an engaging and enlightening discussion. On June 16, 20 people attended a virtual presentation on the Inspection Report’s Online (IROL) system. Participants saw the unique approach used by IROL to remediate discrepancies and how the system fits into a community’s overall risk reduction plan. Previously, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office and NFSA staff held discussions with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, Butch Browning, and the system they use statewide in Louisiana, Aztek Fire Safety. Both IROL and Aztek Fire Safety are NFSA SAM members.
Although the stakeholders in Minnesota are still a long way from drafting a set of best practices or standards for ITM reporting services, these important discussions and presentations have highlighted several important aspects for reporting service selection, implementation, and operational success.
The first thing that becomes apparent from listening to the various stakeholder voices is that there is universal agreement that ITM work is critically important to life safety, and an increase in system reliability and a closer adherence to standards and codes is a good thing! We all want these life safety systems to work like they are supposed to work when they are needed. Increased compliance leads to enhanced system reliability and confidence, an increase in contractor repair and maintenance work, and a reduction in work effort and time commitment for AHJs over time.
The second point that strikes this author as critically important is the need for communications with all stakeholders before a reporting service is sought and selected, during the implementation phase, and after the system is up and running. AHJs would be well-served to communicate the intention of moving to a third-party system with all stakeholders before a specific reporting service is sought and selected. Contractors may already have been using a third-party service in another jurisdiction, and their input can help AHJs avoid pitfalls and streamline implementation. Post implementation communications are also vitally important in resolving any conflicts and for making continuous system improvements to the third-party platform.
The joint position paper developed by the NFSA, the AFAA, and the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) is a critically important document for AHJs considering whether to implement a third party reporting service in their jurisdiction. That position paper was developed from several nationwide listening sessions with stakeholders. The paper outlines six key areas to consider when implementing a third-party reporting system. Important aspects like data access and ownership, reporting standards and procedures, cost, and enforcement highlight both pitfalls and recommendations for overall success.
Clear role definition among stakeholders goes a long way in reducing frustration and ensuring implementation success. Reporting services operate best in the role of holding and reporting the ITM data; they should leave “enforcement” issues to the AHJs. AHJs that believe moving to a third-party reporting model will allow them to abdicate communication and enforcement authority are setting up all stakeholders (including themselves) for frustration and confusion.
Finally, it seems clear that NFSA will continue to help lead the search for best practices and standard development for ITM reporting services. Our association includes SAM members who provide third party services, the AHJs that ultimately set ITM reporting requirements at the local level, and the contractors doing the actual ITM work. NFSA values each and every one of these members, so we have a critical leadership role in working towards cooperation, collaboration, and improved communications for the benefit of the entire industry and the property and lives we stand to save through increased ITM.
To find out more about ITM Reporting Services operating in your area, visit the NFSA web page for Inspections, Testing, and Maintenance here: https://member.nfsa.org/Get-Involved/ITM-Reporting