Experienced Field Inspector Writes About His Inspection Process

Jim Williams  … lombardy160@gmail.com … a field service inspector … writes about his process for completing field service inspections. He also talks about using cameras and photo file size.

In 12 years of inspecting properties for different purposes, different clients, I have refined the way I do things, to ease up the way it is done, both on the site, and at the office, where its loaded up to the client. My office is a room in my house.

To begin with, I do something I still do now, and that is print out the first page of the order. Now, the evolution here is printing out JUST the first page. I found that I really have all the info I need on it, no need to put out ink on info I didn’t need onsite. So, I print out the first page. I do this when I first get the border. That way when I am ready to, I can look up the property address in Google Earth. Google Earth was NOT around like it is now, it simply told me where the location was, and let me see a route to it, that’s all. NOWadays, it has street view, which allows me to “drive down the street” and see what the neighborhood looks like. Very handy info, there. On inspection day, I print out the forms, and bring them along, just as a backup.

So, there I am with a front page. I call the contact or try to. Most clients want me to call the contact as many as two times, as needed, to reach them. After that, go the insurance agent, or whatever other contact there is for them. This is where it either gets difficult or very easy. Some people’s properties have already been inspected by one interested entity or another, and I hear about that. Some have jobs elsewhere, and they have to meet me after work hours to see the property. With insurance inspections, I tell them that they have an insurance company who has agreed to cover the property, they just sent me out to see what they’re covering. Most people understand and accept that explanation.

Inspection company websites usually don’t have a lot of room for pictures, they need a smaller picture file, ALWAYS a jpg. In my early days of inspecting, a cellphone didn’t generate a decent looking picture, and I usually stuck with my Nikon, D50 at first, later D90. I always set to the smallest file the camera will make. A client I was with for 10 years required that the files be between 50 and 150 kb. WHAT A DRAG!

This added an extra stage of prep to loading and made the whole process tedious. Thankfully I no longer serve them. Nowadays, I serve only the insurance industry, and they make NO such demand of my files.

I mention cellphones in the early days. Speaking to the high size of files, my “smartphone” has as big a pickup as a Nikon D90, but does NOT have a setting for a less than full size file. So, when I can only shoot with a cell phone (serial number plates on large equipment) because that’s all the space I have for a camera, then I do that, but then I re-size the file to make it load up faster. Usually 200-400k is a good size, but sometimes you get bigger. I don’t usually pay much attention to file sizes, but I notice that 1 meg files take FOREVER to get loaded! Thus the re-size.

As to lenses, I started out with a 28-300 Tamron, and it worked well for some shots. If I needed to do a drive-by, I could still get in close with that. Trouble is, most inspections have interior shots and a wider lens was much preferable. So, I got an 18-200 to go wide. That’s the perfect range for an inspection lens, I think. It covers all the need in an interior, even in a warehouse. For exteriors, where possible, I shoot out of the car window. I usually can circle the property in the car, and get in everything I need, signage, ingress/egress, street views, glamour shots, etc. Not much outdoor I cannot get from a car. But, sometimes I have to walk around a building to get all the angles, and issues I need to shoot, because the parking lot doesn’t wrap around. In insurance shooting, its good to get a shot of every liability.

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