The Alabama Department of Environmental Management continuously searches for methods to enhance efficiencies and maximize the effectiveness of limited resources. A recent effort to move to an electronic inspection process has increased inspection numbers by almost 30% and has streamlined the electronic flow of inspection data to state and federal databases as well as to the department’s electronic filing system, e-FILE, which makes the inspection data available for citizen viewing in a fraction of the time as compared to the previous method.
The new process allows inspection data, including pictures, to be captured electronically using a tablet device while at the facility. Once the inspector has wireless access, the inspection results automatically flow to the supervisor’s computer for supervisor review. Upon arrival by the supervisor a transmittal letter is automatically generated and the inspection results automatically flow to the Department’s e-FILE system where they are available for citizen viewing. The inspection results also automatically flow to a state database, which is uploaded daily to a federal database. This new electronic inspection process enhances efficiencies by eliminating the following tasks that inspectors had to perform when they returned to the office under the old inspection process:
- Eliminates the downloading of pictures from cameras;
- Eliminates the printing of paper copies of inspection reports for supervisor review;
- Eliminates the hand entry of data into the state database;
- Eliminates data errors associated with the hand entry of data;
- Eliminates the manual generation of transmittal letters; and
- Eliminates the hand coding and hand scanning of documents for e-FILE.
Results to Date:
Inspectors are now able to complete basically all of their work while at the facility, resulting in less time in the office. Allowing inspectors to spend more time in the field increases the number of inspections performed, which enhances the department’s field presence and deters noncompliance at regulated facilities.
Full implementation of this electronic inspection process began with the start of fiscal year 2017, and through the first three quarters the department has seen almost a 30% increase in the number of construction stormwater inspections performed. Efficiencies should continue to expand as inspectors and supervisors gain familiarity with the system. Each fiscal year the department conducts approximately 2,500 inspections at construction sites and industrial/municipal facilities that operate under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. By achieving efficiencies in each of these almost 2,500 inspections, it is easy to visualize that the overall improvements in efficiency will be substantial. The enhancement of data accuracy in state and federal databases, combined with the ability to improve the timeliness of inspection report availability for citizen viewing in e-FILE, is an added bonus.