New inspection format for hospital fire devices

FireScan Healthcare inspection reporting gives companies ‘edge’
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

SUWANEE, Ga.—BuildingReports, a web-based life-safety inspection reporting company, recently released a new inspection-reporting format specifically for health care facilities.

The company says its new FireScan Healthcare can give fire alarm companies a competitive “upper edge” in securing lucrative service contracts for hospital fire-safety equipment. The owner of a fire alarm company that serves major hospitals in the Boston area told Security Systems News he agrees.

Jim Meehan, president of American Service Co., said that FireScan Healthcare is a “no-brainer” for alarm companies in the health care marketplace.

“One of my better decisions in business was to go with them, frankly,” said Meehan, whose Quincy, Mass.-based fire and security alarm company specializes in fire alarm testing and maintenance for hospitals and commercial facilities.  “It gave me a competitive edge.”

Meehan said his company, which has been in business for more than 60 years, has service contracts with major Boston-area facilities that include Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the John Hancock Tower.

Brett Brewster, president and COO of BuildingReports, which is based here, told SSN that FireScan Healthcare is designed to meet the specific inspection reporting needs of health care facilities. He said hospitals and other health care facilities must provide reports that include a detailed inspection history of each piece of their life safety equipment to The Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits such facilities.

With FireScan Healthcare, service technicians employ handheld devices that scan bar codes assigned to each of the hundreds of pieces of fire-safety equipment hospitals have, ranging from manual pull stations and smoke detectors to fire extinguishers and exit lights, Brewster said.

The comprehensive information technicians collect is sent via the Internet to BuildingReports, which compiles that data into a clear, readable report that references the applicable codes with which The Joint Commission has determined each device must comply, he said.

Brewster said fire alarm companies that offer Joint-Commission-friendly solutions are in a better position to “get that service contract, which builds their recurring monthly revenue. It’s pretty powerful because some of these contracts to these hospitals can be tens of thousands of dollars.”

There is also opportunity for add-on services, according to Brewster.

“And while they’re in there performing the inspection, of course they’re going to be replacing devices and adding new devices and all that as (a part of) their regular installation business,” he said. “So it brings them a lot of revenue.”

BuildingReports announced in early November it was formally unveiling FireScan Healthcare, which costs $1,200 and can be used in an unlimited number of hospitals, Brewster said in a December interview.

Meehan said American Service has actually been using BuildingReports FireScan formats for seven or eight years, and FireScan Healthcare is just one of the latest.

Public buildings must meet National Fire Prevention Association codes, and BuildingReports prepares standard reports that apply to such facilities, Brewster said.

But hospitals and healthcare facilities must comply with The Joint Commission’s more rigorous set of life safety reporting standards, he said. He said that’s why BuildingReports has spent the last year or so developing FireScan Healthcare.

In a hospital, fire safety equipment has to be inspected frequently and requirements vary for each device, Brewster said. “For instance,” he said, “there’s one series of tests you’ll do on a fire extinguisher and another set of things you’ll do to a smoke detector.”

If the health care facilities can’t show they’ve met the inspection requirements, they could lose accreditation and access to federal money, Brewster said.

He said FireScan Healthcare alleviates such worries.

“We’ll take that raw data (collected from the handheld device) and build a report that is built around the standards of The Joint Commission, so it’s unique from a report … for a hotel or in an office building,” he said.

Meehan said his technicians used to scribble comments on pre-printed forms when they did inspections, and it was often hard to read the handwriting. Hospitals don’t want that type of casually prepared report any longer because so much is at stake if they lose accreditation, he said. “No longer is a handwritten report acceptable,” Meehan said.

BuildingReports started in 2000, and now more than 300 alarm companies nationwide use its inspection reporting formats in more than 160,000 buildings throughout the U.S., including more than 3,000 health care facilities, Brewster said.