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Working in These Challenging Times

I often tell the young people I mentor to always remember that they have two ears and one mouth, just to simply remind them to listen twice as often as they speak. This is advice I have received from multiple mentors throughout my own career, and when I follow it, I find that I am better able to serve my customers.

Is this advice more important now? Of course. Your customers are learning how to deal with operating their business under some of the worst conditions imaginable. In addition to understanding your customers’ needs, you also need to listen more intently to your technicians’ needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in many ways. Your existing customers want to ensure your response to their fire alarm system needs is performed safely and will not cause the building occupants anxiety when your technicians are on-site. This means that you need to train your technicians about how they need to perform while in your customer’s facility.

Some people do not feel the need to comply with state-mandated requirements or federally recommended guidelines such as wearing a mask for safe interaction during the pandemic. It’s imperative to impress upon your team the need and reasons for compliance.

You need to be proactive when sending a team of technicians to a building to perform the inspections and tests required by NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, making sure your customers are notified prior to your technicians showing up at the building. This means that you have taken the appropriate precautions each day at your offices to ensure the individual technicians are tested and monitored for fevers or other signs they may have contracted COVID-19. It means making sure your office and trucks have a good stock of the necessary sanitization tools, again to emphasize to your employees your commitment to a safe working environment. It means making sure your technicians report any contact with another individual who may have the disease, and to have a plan in place to maintain your operations when you have one or more technicians who need to remain isolated for the required 14-day period.

You will need to remain flexible with your scheduling to be able to accommodate any last-minute personnel changes. You will need to train you people to ensure that when on-site, they adhere to social distancing requirements not only with each other, but with all of the occupants as well. Supplying your technicians with masks that have the company name or logo will go a long way toward promoting technician compliance. You may also want to supply them with nitrile gloves. The goal for your company should be to make your employees feel safer, which of course always helps with morale. Once you have your house in order, communicate your commitment to safety to your customers. Use this opportunity to promote your company and your safety commitment through direct mail or email blasts.

This is also a good time to assure your customers that before they reopen or now that they are partially reopened, it makes sense to stay code-compliant with your safety-trained and protected technicians. Reassure them of your commitment to proper scheduling to ensure that your technicians will arrive on time and will be efficient in accomplishing their work while in their building. Confirm with your customers whether there are any changes to their building access. Also, you will want to establish open communication between you and your customer to determine whether their employees have had any virus exposure before you send your technicians to work on the fire alarm system.

Additionally, you should offer audits of your existing customers’ facilities to determine if the changes they made to accommodate their employees’ safety have not impacted or impaired the original fire alarm installation. Pay close attention to the current location of manual fire alarm boxes as well as the visible strobe appliances. The office layouts may have changed to include new partitions to assist in socially isolating their employees, which could impact the visibility of visual notification appliances.

It is important to remember that if you want to maintain an even flow of work and revenue, you need to be proactive in understanding and responding to your employees’ and customers’ needs. By taking these steps, you can assure your customers that they need not delay their inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) due to any fears that your actions will make their facility less safe. It will be beneficial to reassure customers that the code still requires your ITM work to ensure the life safety of their employees. At the same time, your business will be able to maintain or increase your workload and revenue. Understanding your customers’ needs during the pandemic should really just be an extension of your normal approach to serving their needs.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and expert in the life safety field, is a principal member and past chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24. He is a vice president with Jensen Hughes at the Warwick, R.I., office and can be...

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