We frequently are asked to respond to questions about fire protection of mission critical facilities. From time-to-time we get a really great question and share our answer on this blog to benefit anyone else who may have a similar question.
QUESTION: “I manage 200+ mission critical facilities all across the country. I’ve been given the assignment of standardizing our fire protection system service. What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a fire protection partner? What are the pit-falls I should watch out for?”
The biggest challenges that an organization with numerous facilities across the country will face are the result of having to work with multiple vendors each having various levels of expertise. Another struggle they have is with tracking and filing all of the inspection reports for hundreds of different types of fire systems. From my experience, there are 3 key factors that make or break a national service program and these must be considered when selecting a fire protection partner.
1. Single Point of Contact: What this means is that every one of your facility managers at every location across the country can call the same phone number and speak to the same person who has the assignment of coordinating all of your fire protection services. This allows you to go to one place to get any and all questions answered or problems resolved. Whether it’s scheduling routine service, getting an invoicing question answered, or any other issue that needs resolution – the buck stops here. This will alleviate any chance for miscommunication or finger-pointing.
2. Experienced, well-trained Field Technicians: It is not uncommon for an organization like yours to have dozens of unique make and model fire systems in your many facilities across the country. On top of that, you probably are relying upon several unique types of fire protection equipment (fire alarm, sprinkler, portable fire extinguishers, etc.) for the protection of these facilities. It takes well trained and experienced technicians to properly inspect, test, and maintain all these different fire systems, not to mention troubleshoot and make repairs when there are problems.
3. Online Reporting: When the local fire marshal walks in the door, will you have the necessary inspection reports at your fingertips to prove your facilities are in compliance with local codes and standards? Will they be legible or understandable? One of the most valuable services a quality service partner can provide you is to maintain ALL of your fire protection equipment records in a secure, online database which is accessible to you 24/7. What you need is a system that gives you anywhere, anytime access to an up-to-date inventory of every component of every fire system at all of your sites as well as detailed inspection reports of the most recent and all past inspections. Simply put, this will result in saving you time, money and will contribute to assuring your facilities are protected.
Are these three things all that is needed to successfully manage a national service program? Not necessarily, but I can assure you that without these three key items you will be jeopardizing your program’s success. This is simply a suggestion of where to start and these elements should be the foundation for your company-wide service program.