COVID-19 Reflections From The Field

While the nation attempts to achieve some semblance of normalcy, many people have found unexpected and sometimes even positive results of social distancing measures.  If we have learned anything during the first half of this year, it’s that we are problem solvers and survivors. 

In speaking with clients, we learn that some have cautiously tiptoed back to in-office operations with new safety protocol in place, while others are still leaving work-from-home as an option.  With the advent of fall comes most schools returning to session and yet another round of solution-oriented, creative thinking.   

FormLink Systems continues to monitor updates from clients and NFPA recommendations as people move toward sustainable future plans.

Residential fire risks on the rise

Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at the NFPA, notes that, “We already see the majority of fires happening in homes.  As people spend much more time at home and engage in activities that significantly contribute to the home fire problem, it’s critical that they recognize where potential hazards exist and what they can do to prevent fires.” 

Cooking is answerable for nearly half of all home fires, and unattended cooking is the leading cause of all cooking fires.  Consider the number of meals prepared at home during the pandemic coupled with coinciding Zoom meetings and virtual learning.  Indeed, a quick google search will yield a collection of headlines similar to, “Red Cross sees spike in house fires amid stay-at-home order.” 1

Most clients report spending more time at home, and between cooking hazards, electrical, and heating equipment, NFPA urges us to take a closer look at at-home fire safety.  

Institutional, commercial, and industrial fire risk concerns

While some states are reporting an increase in residential fires, one has to wonder what has become of the buildings that stand empty or at limited occupancy?

For those buildings that have stood vacant during the pandemic, it’s wise to consider an added risk.  According to the NFPA, “U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 30,200 structure fires per year in vacant properties. These fires resulted in an average of 60 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $710 million in direct property damage per year.”  Data is not yet available on whether or not these numbers have seen a rise since the stay-at-home orders; however, to counterbalance the risk, vacant facilities should be prioritized for fire safety. 

Other buildings in an effort to stay open, have attempted to control building occupancy flow.  In some instances, some emergency exits have been blocked or locked in order to limit or inhibit access to portions of buildings.    However, FEMA urges us to recall that emergency exits are based on more than just occupant load.  It is critical that we all report any and all instances of emergency exits being blocked during an emergency.  

Responding to you

Whether you find yourself working from home, back at the office, or some hybrid model—increased flexibility and caution seem to be the names of the game.  FormLink Systems continues to offer software that enables remote work as much as possible in order to ensure safety and uninterrupted operations.  Additionally, FormLink continues to meet with clients, review account activity, and stay abreast of current NFPA and FEMA cautions, so as we can best serve you.   

1— “NFPA urges added caution around home fire safety during COVID-19 pandemic,” National Fire Protection Association, 3/25/2020,

2—Ahrens, Marty, “Fires in Vacant Buildings,” National Fire Protection Association, 4/2018, “

3—“Ingress and egress concerns during COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Fire Administration, 2020,