Become Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Problem
NFPA Journal®, November/December 2007
Recently while attending a meeting regarding proposed changes to fire alarm system codes and standards, I took part in an interesting discussion regarding the “state of the industry.”
While many people work diligently within the NFPA system of consensus codes and standards to produce the best NFPA 72â, National Fire Alarm Codeâ possible, the participants of this meeting thought we still had too many non-code-compliant fire alarm system installations.
Many were quick to criticize the fire service, manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. Everyone chimed in, offering their theory why we still experienced such a high record of poor installations. Many blamed the manufacturers for signing on “incompetent dealers or distributors to sell their products.” Some also blamed the manufacturers for not providing “proper training for their sales people, dealers and distributors.”
Of course, several blamed the dealers and distributors for “not making the commitment to attend the training sessions that manufacturers do provide.” They also received blame for “not following through with that training for all of their employees.”
I, instead, challenged them to make the system better.
To those who blamed fire chiefs, fire marshals, and inspectors, I challenged them to lobby local decision makers to provide adequate funding. This will support the fire chief so he can provide the argument that a well-trained and active fire prevention and inspection bureau within his or her community is a cost saver and a life saver.
The bottom line: those fire inspection teams need more support. The community needs to provide the money to purchase codes and standards and to provide proper training to ensure that they can do their job in a professional manner. Yes, this means an increase in budget, but that money will certainly be well spent. In jurisdictions where the fire chief has made such a commitment of funds, the fire alarm systems are inspected with more care and contractors learn quickly which codes the inspector will enforce.
In these same jurisdictions, the reliability of fire alarm system installation increases. This ultimately reduces false alarms and saves the fire department and the city valuable resources. Using these benefits, the fire chief can communicate to those responsible for the department’s budget approval why they should consider increasing the budget for fire prevention purposes.
In these same jurisdictions, because of increased enforcement of the National Fire Alarm Code, the dealers and distributors realize that they too must make a commitment to learn proper installation requirements. The contractors not only increase the training of their employees in the codes and standards, but they ensure that more employees take part in the manufacturer-offered training, as well.
I challenge manufacturers to provide more training and information to the fire inspectors. The inspectors must understand how the systems work and how to ensure code-compliant installations.
To those who blamed the dealers and distributors for “discouraging certification,” such as that from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET), I challenged them to ask for their employers’ support and employees the opportunity to attend fire alarm training courses or for not paying for web-based courses, such as those offered by NFPA and the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA), to name two well-known training providers.
With just a bit of forethought, the need for a team approach is obvious. The only way for this team to succeed is if everyone is committed to working together to ensure reliable fire alarm system installations and to protect the public. Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?
Wayne D. Moore, P.E., FSFPE is a principal with Hughes Associates and immediate past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee.