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In an increasingly digitized world, the skilled trades find themselves at a metaphorical fork in the road: make do with tools and processes of the past, or embrace emerging technological innovation.
The construction, engineering, and fire and life safety realm is fraught with challenges right now, including an aging workforce, a scarce and competitive labor market, and a loyalty to traditional workflows that has led to lagging digital adoption. However, by choosing technology in this fork in the road, organizations can reap long-term benefits.
Digital transformation in fire and life safety can come to fruition in diverse ways. It can be as simple as replacing a collection of clunky codes and standards textbooks with a digital library on an iPad or smartphone. With interactivity, real-time updates, and troves of supplemental multimedia resources, digital tools can help to streamline collaboration among disparate teams and speed up projects while honoring compliance.
Often, projects require a large variety of codebooks to properly evaluate an on-the-job scenario, especially when you consider the different editions enforced in various jurisdictions or applied to a location over a period of years. Managing such a collection of books over time can become a hassle. With digital codes and standards, facility managers can access all publications and previous editions at their fingertips. They can then easily search by keyword or situation across all books to quickly find the information they need.
This has two added benefits in an evolving fire and life safety landscape. The first is that any notes taken within the digital hub transfer when new editions are published, providing professionals a future-proofed way to take notes. That means professionals can really invest in filling their digital codebooks with important notes, bookmarks, and observations, creating a repository of knowledge that can stay with them or be shared with others throughout the rest of their careers.
A second major benefit is having real-time updates as codes and standards evolve. When safety is involved, having up-to-date information is essential. Digitization helps new information about codes and standards, such as changes from edition to edition, tentative interim amendments (TIAs), and errata get disseminated quickly and accurately to keep projects compliant. Digital platforms can not only update new editions or changes, but also flag that new information with interactive change indicators to ensure nothing goes unnoticed.
It can be difficult for dispersed teams to communicate effectively on projects when looking at several different versions of a code. Some organizations have hundreds of employees around the globe utilizing codes and standards, making the ability to collaborate and share codes essential.
Digital tools make this easy by enabling teams to collaborate on projects in one up-to-date, centralized location—whether they’re on-site or not. With increased visibility into the activities of team members across the globe, fire and life safety professionals can ensure all relevant parties are involved and have accurate information. Plus, digital tools allow team members to leave shared notes and bookmarked collections to aid in knowledge sharing and project management.
The ability to share codes and standards is another huge asset of digital applications. With so many different publications and editions, it’s not uncommon for employees to mix them up and think they’re on the same page when they’re actually looking at different editions of the code. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for there to be disputes between contractors and AHJs during inspections, for example.
In these scenarios, the ability to quickly pull up all digital publications on any device, search by section or keyword across those publications, and find the relevant section of code to share with all parties for discussion is extremely valuable. The code can also be shared via email with external parties. This helps ensure all parties are working from the same set of criteria from the outset. Digitizing this process helps reduce miscommunication, resolve disputes faster and complete projects quicker while ensuring all building and life safety aspects are accurate and up to code.
The use of digital tools can serve as a key competitive advantage for fire and life safety organizations, helping to improve efficiency, collaboration, accuracy, and safety. This can be applied to diverse organizations across fire and life safety—and it’s not hypothetical. Risk management service Zurich Resilience Solutions leveraged NFPA LiNK, a digital on-demand content platform for codes and standards, to maximize global collaboration and drive enhanced risk mitigation in the design and construction process. The organization is just one example of the benefits of leaning into new technology. Moving forward, we can expect to see an increasing number of companies adopt these same measures to meet the demands of the fast-paced, constantly evolving fire and life safety landscape.
Kyle Spencer is Director of NFPA LiNK, NFPA.