Pandemic Puts Remote Engineering to the Test

Three examples illustrate success of AFM’s virtual risk assessment and mitigation

Even though AFM and FM Global engineers cannot physically access most client sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rest assured, we are collaborating with brokers and clients to mitigate the risk of fire, explosion and other hazards. When stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns rendered most site visits impossible, our engineering immediately shifted to remote servicing technology to obtain real-time data needed for precision risk assessment, including evaluating the risk at prospects’ facilities. 

Our engineers conduct remote risk assessments on a case-by-case basis for situations such as a regular visit, an occupancy that changed due to the pandemic, or a first-time site assessment. 

Leveraging technology

Cell phone and video conferencing—though not revolutionary technology—serve expanded purposes when we cannot be at a facility. The expert leading the phone and video calls is what makes the difference. By answering thoughtful questions posed by our engineers, clients can use their senses to communicate a clearer picture of what’s happening on site.

Cell phones make virtual walk-throughs an easy way to get real-time visual information. Sometimes, just a phone call provides the necessary connection to offer guidance. On group video calls, details are provided through shared files and screens.

Remote methods also include our global natural hazard mapping capabilities, fixed-wing and satellite imagery, and leveraging our knowledge of industries coupled with our analytics. 

Remote engineering in action

Here are several examples to illustrate the success of our remote engineering:

  • A longtime AFM manufacturing client started producing hand sanitizer soon after the pandemic started. A remote visit revealed that the stored chemicals exceeded sprinkler limitations in the warehouse. And within five days of the visit, the client relocated the chemicals to a safe storage area.
  • After months of visits and meetings to address a loss exposure of more than US$100 million at an insured’s warehouse, AFM proposed a solution involving a human element program to help the client avoid a costly sprinkler system retrofit. The client approved the solution, but before it could be executed, COVID-19 hit. This did not stop progress, however. After a virtual call with the broker and a remote site visit to view the improvements, the project was finalized.
  • In February 2020, FM Global revised a data sheet to protect roof-mounted equipment from hurricane-force winds. One of the AFM clients that was identified as possibly having deficiencies was about to be inspected by AFM engineers prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. With hurricane season fast approaching, our engineers remotely assessed the client’s locations and confirmed the deficiencies. After getting buy-in from the broker and client, AFM worked quickly with the client to install improvements on about 150 pieces of roof-mounted equipment in two months, reducing the wind loss expectancy by US$14 million just in time for hurricane season.

Our goals remain the same

Prior to COVID-19, we used remote engineering to access difficult-to-reach sites and locations in unsafe areas. But recent months have proven that we can leverage these processes and tools on a widespread basis globally. Although boots on the ground is our preferred way of engineering, remote engineering servicing has allowed us to continue to understand and assess hazards that are unique to the client’s facility that could lead to unscheduled business interruption. We are able to work remotely with the client to establish the total business impact related to the hazard and provide practical solutions to minimize risk. From this, you and the client can then determine the best way to manage the long-term cost of risk and reduce loss costs during the pandemic and beyond.

Even though our business continuity plan is being put to the test under unprecedented circumstances, it is proving we can provide risk assessment services as well as help our clients improve their risks and manage change with fire protection impairments, projects, and changes in occupancy. We plan to continue to innovate and leverage technology to support remote engineering even after the pandemic is over.


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