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Digitizing fire inspections clears backlog and save lives

October 13, 2022

Trained professionals conduct regular fire safety inspections to save lives. They ensure compliance with safety regulations. In addition, they assess the functionality of equipment, including sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, fire doors, and alarms. Inspectors also check for hazards such as outdated wiring and insulation, contributing significantly to building safety and fire prevention.

Being proactive about fire safety saves lives, but a dangerous backlog of overdue inspections is currently plaguing municipalities across the country, from Seattle to Los Angeles, San Jose to New York. Further exacerbating the backlog is that many fire inspections are performed by fire departments during downtime – no mean feat when there’s a new fire to respond to about every 23 seconds.

First, we’ll examine the scope, causes, and consequences of this backlog. Then, we’ll discuss how recent advances in field inspection technology empower municipalities and fire departments to address the growing inspection backlog and lower fire risk.


June 29, 2022, Waterbury, Connecticut: a family of three dies after a fire traps them in their third-floor apartment that hadn’t been inspected for fire code violations since 2008, despite a state law requiring all three-family homes be inspected annually.

This is only one recent incident where the fatal consequences of backlogs remind us of the critical need for timely, thorough inspections. This is particularly true in buildings housing multiple people, such as high-rise apartments, where safety doors can become unreliable and sprinkler systems can malfunction without proper maintenance.

Older multi-unit homes are also at greater risk of fatal fires because old homes are rarely retrofitted for fire safety. Faulty wiring, damaged insulation, and malfunctioning safety doors are common in buildings built in the early 1900s and earlier. In addition, although residential building fires cause the most fatalities, places where large groups of people gather – hospitals, theatres, nightclubs, and hotels, to name a few – also require regular, thorough inspections.

Inspection backlogs

Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, firefighter labor shortages, and conflicting priorities (or simply having to drop everything to put out a fire – literally!), fire inspections are often neither proactive nor consistent, creating an inspection backlog. In addition, population growth and the associated increase in multi-unit structures increase the workload, making it difficult for fire safety inspectors to keep up with scheduled inspections.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, fire inspectors were reassigned to assess health guidelines compliance. This worsened the backlog and had tragic consequences in some cases. In January 2022, a fire killed 17 people in a Bronx apartment complex.  This building was overdue for inspection because the fire safety inspectors had been reassigned. The fire resulted from a malfunctioning space heater, possibly unnoticed due to a delayed inspection. However, the broken fire doors, which allowed rapid fire spread, would likely have been identified and fixed

Fire inspections are often the only way unsafe fire hazards are fixed, particularly for low-income or government-assisted housing. As one Bronx Borough official pointed out, “There is a lack of attention and accountability in addressing long standing violations and a lack of prioritization in investing and conducting necessary repairs to ensure hospitable, safe and adequate housing for our residents.” Fire inspections help expose hazards that no one seems to care about – until a tragedy occurs.

Digitizing fire inspections clears backlog and save lives

How Fulcrum helps eliminate fire inspection backlog

To clear this backlog, Fulcrum’s digital field inspection platform provides speed, real-time data collection, training tools, and high-level visibility. Municipalities can optimize resources, prioritize tasks, and conduct efficient fire inspections. This reduces delays, ensuring timely inspections where needed.

Fulcrum’s wealth of features overcomes the challenges that lead directly to fire inspection backlogs, including:


Municipalities likely require new inspectors to address the backlog. Currently, training delays inspections, removes vital senior staff from the field, and wastes time that could clear the backlog. Fulcrum’s digital checklists simplify onboarding for all experience levels. Supervisors can customize trainees’ checklists with specific SOPs and step-by-step instructions. Inspection data is instantly collected and shared in the cloud, enabling real-time supervision and quality assurance for new inspectors.

Speed and effiency

With Fulcrum, field inspectors can collect, receive, and share valuable real-time inspection data on their mobile devices, reducing time spent travelling to offices to write up reports. Cloud-based, responsive technology means inspectors can also quickly share information on the go and strategize effective and immediate remediation. These tools combine to allow inspectors to focus on completing inspections as quickly and thoroughly as possible.


Fulcrum empowers inspection teams across a shared tool where everyone works from the same underlying data. Circulating uniform, reliable, and context-rich data across departments and between teams effectively bridges the information gaps that tend to delay fire inspections. On the external stakeholder side, inspection data can be collated, analyzed, and then shared with anybody, in a variety of different reporting formats, no matter how many property owners or agencies are involved.

‍Task and resource prioritization

Access to updated inspection data affords supervisors higher-level visibility to efficiently manage and prioritize fire inspection tasks, resources, and staff. Supervisors can easily and quickly view, organize, assign, schedule, and track any number of inspections when, or even before, they are due – all in real-time, so they can also change priorities on the fly as conditions change. This visibility expands across dashboards which can segment and consolidate inspection issue information by geography (or other variables) to better understand high risk areas, identify low performers, and prioritize schedule information.

Location information

Fulcrum’s digital platform supports inspection management by providing location data to create a clear visual map of required inspections. This tool optimizes route planning, allowing inspectors to reach addresses overdue for inspection as quickly as possible. The platform also provides proof of inspection, complete with inspection location, date, and timestamp, highlighting key components of Fulcrum’s digital inspection platform: better data, faster speed, higher visibility.

Fire (go) away!

The substantial backlog of overdue fire safety inspections has already resulted in lives lost. In a challenging economy, the backlog may worsen if municipalities consider staff reductions or attrition to cut costs.

Fulcrum’s intelligent platform focuses on field inspection management, offering affordable tools to eliminate overdue fire inspections. Streamlined onboarding, training, and inspection tools enable more inspectors to work in the field. They collect valuable data that helps supervisors prioritize resources effectively.

Ready to try Fulcrum for yourself? Sign up for our free trial today!