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What tools do you need?

tape mesureAs an inspector what tools do you need to do your job in the field?  I can envision us trying to carry a tool box full of tools and equipment to do our job.  As inspectors we rely on contractors and business owners to provide lifts, ladders, access to equipment or even equipment to test systems.  There is certain equipment that inspectors must bring with them to perform their job.  The following are some items that come to mind although I am certain that members of this community will provide insight on their tools of choice (feel free to comment in our discussion forums or add to the post by submitting a comment).

Clipboard, or some means to carry notices and a place to keep your notes.  An inspector doesn’t have to have the answer on hand during the inspection.  It is not uncommon for us to take notes or sketch a scenario and return to the office to look up the issue at hand.  I prefer a leather portfolio or a thin metal clipboard.  They can hold business cards, stickers, violation notices, an extra pen, or various forms.  I also have secured a business card to the clipboard because I have been known to leave it behind at times.

Flashlight: This will make you look like a pro.  The flashlight should be small enough to fit in your back pocket and not pull your pants down.  There are many types that have ultra bright bulbs that are extremely user friendly.  The flashlight is key for looking above lay-in ceilings, around duct enclosures, or through dark areas of a building.  Not to mention I am scared of the dark, so it is a security issue for me.

Tape Measure, I prefer a simple 25′ tape measure.  It is a great length for measuring sprinkler spacing, door widths, floor areas, or other things that have particular requirements.  One of our inspectors utilizes an electronic tape measure which has worked great for capturing information on large areas for pre-incident surveys or long rooms.

Computer, More inspectors are carrying a computer or tablet which provides inspection software, codes, standards, or other reference material.  The computer is typically tied into a data base which can provide quick notices to the occupant and reduce double entry.

Hardhat and other protective equipment is critical to the safety of the inspector.  These items may include hearing protection (need in warehouses or alarm testing), eye protection, safety vest, or even a harness.  Inspector safety is often overlooked and is critical to make sure we go home at the end of the day.

Visit our discussion forum or feel free to post a comment to the blog by clicking the link below.

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Wayne Morris July 18, 2008, 7:22 am

    I use a small collapsable pole for checking emergency lights/smoke alarms. this came from a small tabletop camera tripod, I removed the legs and use them in this way. The sections have a detent pin, thus allowing it to be rigid when extended. it folds to approx 10″, and I keep it in a cargo pocket. The tip (which was the bottom of the leg) has a rubber tip which keeps the end from slipping off of the device being tested.

  • Chad Coffelt July 18, 2008, 8:40 am

    I have a laptop and wireless printer with a backpack that I can keep most of my inspection tools in, it is basically my go bag.

  • Douglas Hicks, fire suppression system contractor. July 18, 2008, 12:07 pm

    A copy of the code books. I do carry a copy of the installation manuals and a copy of the Mechanical code. But sometimes, the answer is not in my collection of books. I usually cannot afford to return to my office and wait for your answer. My office is often 100 miles or more from the jobsite, and we are often the last contractor on the jobsite. And like you, I like to see the written code, and will often ask for a copy.

  • Allan Brown July 18, 2008, 2:19 pm

    I always carry a pocket voltage detector. How many times has a wire been determined to be hot when the owner claims it was disconnected.

  • Michelle M. Caldwell July 21, 2008, 8:59 am

    I carry an electrical outlet tester (with GFCI testing capabilities). You would be surprised how many electrical outlets have issues (i.e., hot/neutral wires reversed, open ground, non-operable GFCI…).

    I also carry an extra flashlight and a small multi-purpose tool.

    And…appropriate PPEs for the job (of course).

  • Greg Masters July 23, 2008, 6:30 pm

    Tensionometer for measuring the amount of force required to push or pull an egress door open.

    Decibel meter for fire alarm testing.

    Lumen meter for egress/emergency lighting.

    Infra-red thermometer to check temperatures in concealed spaces where sprinkler piping might be subject to freezing, and ceiling temperatures in hot spaces to make sure appropriate temperature-rated sprinkler heads have been installed.

    Roll tape / wheel to measure longer distances: total travel distance to an exit, common path of travel, dead end corridors, etc.

    Especially if you’re in uniform, a pocket cpr mask and latex gloves are nice. You never know when you’ll come upon a medical emergency in the field.

    And no.. I don’t carry all of this stuff on every inspection, but it’s nice to have available based on whatever is scheduled for a particular day.

  • M Spoo September 10, 2008, 12:48 am

    I think the key thing we are all forgetting to pack in a tool bag is our brain and common sense. We get too wrapped up in the letter of the code, is the opening exactly the correct measurement, a device to measure the opening and closing pressure of a door? (come on). Yes I carry a tape measure, a computer, a note book, a clip board. In fact I have more crap in my company truck then I can shake a stick at. However IF you don’t have common sense, know how to interact with people and remember that the one of the biggest goals in fire prevention is to keep our guys as safe as possible then don’t even hit the streets.
    That is my opinion I could be wrong.

  • dstauss September 30, 2008, 1:52 pm

    Iam looking for a basic training program for firefighters. Someting simple and no interpretation of the fire code to be done at the company level.

  • Michael OBrian September 30, 2008, 3:01 pm

    DSTAUSS, thanks for the comment, are you looking for training on automatic sprinkler system and fire fighters? There are some options but check out this link


    or shoot us and email and it may be a great topic for future posting

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