Guest Column | October 3, 2022

How Technology Helps Field Crews Manage And Reduce Fire Risks

By Sander Van de Rijdt, PlanRadar


Unprecedented heat waves swept the world this summer 2022, with scorching heat and bone-dry conditions leaving many parts of the world vulnerable to fires. In London, firefighters registered their busiest day since the Blitz; in the United States, dozens of huge wildfires continue to burn.

For construction professionals, such conditions are a timely reminder that it’s vital to keep fire safety front of mind when working on any major project. Heatwaves mean that fires kindle fast and spread incredibly quickly, so there’s simply no room for error as teams use flammable materials and potentially dangerous equipment to get the job done.

In recent years, we’ve seen high-profile construction fires at landmarks ranging from Notre Dame in Paris to Universal Studios in Hollywood. It’s time for our industry to start setting higher safety standards — and that means using the best technologies and tools to keep our teams and our buildings safe. Here are 5 ways that digital tools can help your construction and facilities crews to reduce fire risk during these testing times:

  1. Stay connected 

The modern construction-site is a complex machine packed full of moving parts — and if those parts aren’t properly coordinated, accidents and mistakes can happen. Using a well-designed Building Information Modeling (BIM) solution can help keep everyone, from architects and engineers to foremen and workmen, on the same page as projects progress. 

A smart BIM solution also can ensure that new construction methods and processes are implemented effectively, with less room for misunderstandings, and that current fire-safety best practices are embedded into your building projects at every step of the way. They also can ensure that building details — from cavity walls to fire boarding systems — are properly documented for subsequent building operators.

  1. Ensure checks are completed

Fire safety begins with ensuring that the proper checks are conducted. Are fire extinguishers available, are they the right kind of extinguishers for the work being done, and are they in full working order? With the right digital tools, you can go beyond a paper checklist and use photographs and even IoT technologies to ensure that checks are being completed on schedule and that all your fire-safety precautions are being conducted as they should.

Going digital is especially important because fire safety processes and protocols often change. If a new checklist is issued, a digital system can instantly propagate that update across the entire work site, so you never have to wonder if a clipboard contains the wrong information or if teams are using out-of-date safety procedures.

  1. Never miss a beat

Paper checklists are easy to forget about, ignore, or even falsify. Going digital means that reminders can be issued for safety procedures, making it easier for frontline teams to stick to the rules and to get checks conducted on schedule. If there’s confusion about what’s required, voice chat and instant messaging tools can help teams to figure out the solution in real-time to keep everyone safe.

With the ability to incorporate digital photographs and even location-based data, digital worksite solutions also can provide real accountability, helping overseers to make sure that critical inspections were carried out and that all safety procedures are being followed appropriately. Whether it’s unsafe waste disposal or skipped safety checks on machinery, it’s vital to spot and address problems quickly, to ensure they don’t turn into disasters.

  1. Address problems fast

Inspections don’t count for much if the problems they flag get ignored. It’s vital to ensure your fire safety inspections are integrated into a broader ticketing system that links potential issues to specific work orders and tracks them to ensure that corrective measures are taken swiftly if there’s a potential problem or risk. Make sure your ticketing tools are cross-referenced with site plans and blueprints to provide quick, easy links to precise locations or equipment-specific tasks.

It’s not just about regular inspections, either. Make sure that damage reports are part of a joined-up worksite management system so that potential hazards or fire risks can be addressed promptly. The key is to make logging and remedying issues as seamless as possible, so teams won’t be tempted to cut corners and managers and foremen can ensure work is being done safely.

  1. Keep better records

Fire safety precautions need to be done right every time — but you also need to be able to provide reliable proof that they’ve been done right. Cloud-based documentation enables construction companies to log evidence, create seamless fire-safety reports, and share fire-safety certificates without increasing the burden on either on-site teams or off-site administrators.

That’s important when it comes to keeping your teams safe and preventing expensive accidents. But it’s also important when it comes to reducing business risk and ensuring that you have the documentation needed if you face claims in the future. It’s all too easy for vital records to get lost when they’re stored on paper — so go digital and help reduce your business’s fire-safety risk exposure.

Stay Ahead Of The Curve

In today’s fast-changing world, climate change and extreme weather promise to make fire risks a key concern for businesses of all kinds in coming years. Increased risks also will drive increased regulatory oversight, with inspectors and government actors likely to pay close attention to whether fire safety precautions are being adhered to.

That will make it all the more important for construction and facilities teams to ensure diligent compliance, maintain records, track documentation, and share information seamlessly. Old-school safety tools aren’t cut out for the challenges of today’s turbulent world — so make sure you’re using the latest construction industry technologies to keep your team safe and minimize the risk of costly construction and building fires. 

About The Author

By Sander Van de Rijdt, cofounder and co-CEO of PlanRadar, a digital platform for documentation, task management, and communication in construction and real estate projects, serving more than 100,000 users across 60+ countries.