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The Number one Thing for New Inspectors

What Does Every Inspector Need to Know

One of the greatest tasks a senior inspector can do, is to mentor a new inspector in the business.  Lets face it, we were all new at one point, and literally had no clue what “THE CODE” was.  Some inspectors are hired and have no other existing internal staff to help them along or there is no overlap of new and old inspectors to ensure a proper transition.

As a new inspectors what is the number one thing you need to know?  I am not sure I can get the list down to one:

  • The code is not black and white!  The code is considered a prescriptive code and our worlds that we work in are changing daily.  Lets be realistic, a blocked exit is a blocked exit and the code handles that.  What happens when new technology emerges that is not address by the code?
  • Yes you can write the code!  The code is not developed in some vacuum in ICC or NFPA land.  Once you get your feet on the ground take time to understand the code process for both the NFPA and ICC.  Stay involved and comment on current code changes.  This will keep you on top of your game and aware of the changes.  Think of it this way, when a code is published (take the 2012 IBC), it is already a three year old document!
  • Build relationships!  It may sound simple but this takes time.  I owe a lot of my career to inspectors who took the time to help and mentor me.  I replaced a Fire Marshal who left and there were many unanswered questions including “What is the code?”  Working with neighboring departments and joining associations is a great way to build up your skill set and have a network to fall back on.
  • Know the Code and know how to search the code!  There are days when you just have to find a quite place and work to understand the code requirements on an issue.  Lets take an issue a small item such as egress.  You can find yourself in circles trying to make sure you are enforcing the correct provisions.  Take time to understand the definitions, and the sections that you are dealing in.  Many times I will create a code path on a pad of paper so I can later verify my findings.
  • Go to Training.  Training keeps you current, allows for you to build your credentials and relationships.  This job is complicated, ever-changing, and requires our sharpest minds.  Attend training programs and stay involved in the program.  When you go to the training program, go with the mindset that you will be teaching that program in the future.  Lets face it when you are out doing inspections, we spend alot of our time teaching the occupants and contractors.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was beating my head on the desk trying to understand the “intent” of the code.  The job of an inspector is intense although has many great results as we all work to protect our communities.

What is your number one item for all new inspectors?  Let me guess subscribe to our email list?


{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Jeff Holbrook February 5, 2012, 6:49 pm

    For the most part you hit the nails on their heads. My biggest areas that have personally benefited me have been building relationships with the AHJs early on in my career. My life has been much easier with the relationships I’ve built because I know what each jurisdiction expects. It has also benefited my career in that when my company had no one with the experience to sign off on one of my certifications it was the strong relationship I had built with an inspector that paid off. Of course there was no conflict of interest and that particular inspector still to this day holds me to the high standards they enforce regardless of our relationship. They actually expect more because they know where I am knowledge wise with the code.

    Next, is not only knowing the code but, knowing how to interpret it. You were right on with your comments in your article. I’ve found that if a code has a handbook on it then, buy the handbook which includes the code and the intended interpretation. Code handbooks have been lifesavers for me when addressing code related issues.

    Last but not the least of your comments is training. I would like to add involvement. Training is available everywhere if you search. It’s available on-line, locally, statewide and on national levels. It’s also provided by some private industry experts, associations and organizations. As for involvement, get involved in an association. NFPA, ASTM, ANSI, USFA, and many more that you can search for locally and nationally. Ask others in your field what associations they are members of. Get involved in and share websites like Inspector911.com. It can be a great place to see where others stand on issues, what their interpretations are, and just in general to post your own comments, thoughts and opinions. I might not have the answers but, someone on this site might ad it’s just one more reason to be here.

  • chopsnrox February 6, 2012, 1:25 am

    Bear with me, but this is coming after a dazzling win by the NY Giants….I have to agree with both Michael and Jeff….perfect descriptions and opinion’s. I will be undergoing this situation in the next few weeks for the second time in my career..and I will attempt the same type of guidance as before…you both were very specific and detailed in your answers, but I do want to add one thing…it is a saying that I heard on another forum that I believe in 100%….This is considered an Inspector’s Credo if you will…and it goes like this ….”The more you know the harder your job is…or the less you know the easier your job is”……think about it…very true…an inspector can enter a building and have no idea what they are looking at, and have no idea what to look for…this becomes a major problem for an inspector……..

  • Brian Dove February 6, 2012, 6:30 am

    Your job is not to follow a set of rules in a book.

    Your job is to be a servant to the people that live and work and own businesses in your community.

    Your job is no different than other fire fighters, you’re there to rescue them – not chastise them for needing the jaws of life. Even if it was their fault. You will do great things for your community if you never loose sight of this.

    Instead of enforcing the code – apply it. If you don’t know the difference or can’t execute this – you are not there yet.

    You will never go wrong if you say “I don’t know”. Its not fun but if you handle it right, you will learn more out of it than if you try to bluff your way.

    Contractors are businessmen. They have much to teach you if you will listen and they are eager to do so.

    Managers always do the right thing. Leaders always do what is right. Many times these are not the same things.

  • ALBERT MIGNONE February 6, 2012, 10:46 am

    Fire Inspectors and Fire Marshals are the face of the fire service. We meet the public daily usually where thay work but often at their home. We usually meet them before something goes wrong and the necessity of the firefighters to do their job of suppression.
    The effort to reach the public in their homes is compounded. They can benefit directly themselves, but they also spread the message to their family, friends and fellow employees where they work. Speaking to a group of scouts and their parents or to the local Rotary Club can more productive then a week full of inspections.
    Our job is to educate the public (our customers) about fire safety and codes and solicit their participation in making their home as safe as possible and also to see that their workplace or where they shop is just as safe. Our job is prevention.
    If you can garner their support, you will be able to make changes that will really make your community safer. Your efforts will potentially save more lives and property then an lengthy court case.
    I tell this story very often especially to new inspectors. We need to bring new people int the business and convince ouf firefighters that this is also part of their job.

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