Norwich continues building inspections with COVID-19 distance protections
By March 16, most city offices in Norwich, Conn., had been ordered closed to the public or with limited access by appointments and only emergency inspections. For the city’s building inspection department, the entire operation changed suddenly as the COVID-19 emergency shuttered the office and required staff to work mostly remotely. The city soon set up a still-evolving plan of online applications processing, video inspections and solitary in-person inspections to maintain safe distances. Norwich used the remote inspections process worked out by West Hartford as its model.
Some of the new protocols will be permanent, including online permit applications and at least some ability to conduct remote video inspections. While remote video inspections are not always ideal — some aspects require inspectors to put their hands on the work or closely examine elements such as electrical connections and poured foundations — when normal city operations resume, video inspections could be used for minor corrections of specific items to close out a project and issue a certificate of occupancy. In the meantime, remote inspections are working well, with contractors or homeowners using FaceTime or other video connections to contact the inspectors, who then direct the person to move the device to show the work being done. Inspectors might ask to measure how deep wiring was installed inside a wall or the thickness of insulation. Contractors can use electrical outlet testers to show that they are working. Still photos can be sent to inspectors ahead of time to familiarize them with the work being done.
For in-person inspections, inspectors are scheduling times when contractors or homeowners are not home. Outdoor inspections of foundations and decks can be done while keeping social distancing or when contractors are not there. Inspectors don masks and gloves and use hand sanitizer afterward.
“We have had to pick and choose what we can do for inspections,” said Building Official Dan Coley. “We haven’t told anybody ‘no’ yet. We’re being very creative. We’re trying to follow the rules the government set forth.”
Read more at The Day.