But the ultimate disappointment was made manifest in the radio advertisement you’ve been featuring recently. The Fire Protection Program isn’t even mentioned! What sort of message does this deliver to the more than 800 Registered Fire Protection Technicians (RFPT’s) that pay your dues? Your technician members, indeed the entire Program, relegated to the “back burner”. And these are the individuals you have charged with protecting the public!
The Program is at the tipping point and must either deliver on what ASTTBC originally committed to do, or it will continue to be viewed by its membership as just a “money grab”, and by many Jurisdictional Authorities as a nicely packaged website of broken promises that still include:
- Professional development
- Improved standards of practice
- A method of ensuring that Registered Technicians perform to the Practice Guideline and Code of Ethics
- Levelling the playing field
I, for one, believe these promises can be fulfilled, and more. I believe that Province-wide accreditation for the Program can be achieved through a renewed commitment by ASTTBC’s Board and membership.
Firstly, the Program’s Manager must be able to liaise and engage more fully with technicians, employers, instructors, various Jurisdictional Authorities, the public, the Province and the Board. The flow of information to the membership and the stakeholders I’ve mentioned must be frequent, more open and unquestionably transparent.
Secondly, the confrontational approach to member discipline (a genuine fear which the role of a dedicated compliance officer engenders) should be avoided and used only where no other reasonable method or system can drive the necessary changes needed. You must, instead, strive to mentor all of your RFPT’s in order to change their perception of the organization and earn their trust as a full partner in their professional development. ASTTBC is (unlike CFAA) a technician based and driven organization.
How are you going to ensure success within the ongoing “part time structure” which you have suggested will continue for the individuals you have charged with your technician members oversight? Quite simply, you cannot. The key to success turns on the time and resources you are prepared (and should) commit to the Program. More-over, you can’t expect your membership to perform to the level expected by the Practice Guideline in a vacuum.
I offer the following suggestions & recommendations for consideration:
- An immediate and thorough review of ALL educational courses/resources related to the programs currently being offered through BCIT and CFAA within the Province. This includes auditing all in-class activities, a review of printed materials used in the classes, and an objective review of the instructors utilizing feedback forms which ASTTBC must develop.
- Providing meaningful and topical contributions to the educational programs as well as ensuring that previous graduates receive the benefit of this information as well. I’m suggesting a more “hands on” approach in monitoring and participating in in-class activities will more effectively convey your commitment to the membership and thereby provide the means with which to drive improvement in the Standard of Practice and membership engagement.
- Leveraging the Internet through Twitter and LinkedIn to promote the dissemination of bulletins, news, and information relevant to the various practice disciplines. LinkedIn allows members of a community to share information, ask questions, and receive guidance from within a closely monitored forum. This can help foster a higher standard of practice and more open communication (I’ve actually seen how this works in several CFAA forums in which I participate). Twitter will allow us to convey information of interest to members and stakeholders alike, and ensure their full engagement.
- An updated website that includes educational and reference information (a FAQ page) where technician members receive the most up-to-date information, is required. A thorough cleaning out of the old “tired” pages would also be part of this renewal.
- A REAL e-newsletter. Issued monthly. With timely and educational articles, tips, and updates on program changes, additions and revisions.
- Online seminars that will teach troubleshooting skills, Codes and Standards, approved testing methodologies, etc. with meaningful ways of ensuring that the members participate, so that the membership renewal process becomes much more than simply submitting a cheque every year for dues. Members will have to demonstrate they have participated in the seminars through the accumulation of a set number of “credits” before their renewal is granted. If dues are submitted but they haven’t achieved the required credits, they’re given the opportunity to obtain them within a thirty (30) day grace period or risk suspension of their practice.
- A regular membership online meeting will ensure the dissemination of timely, topical information. They’ll be able to ask questions and get answers through the resulting discussions. This can happen after hours and will encourage a spirit of camaraderie. If the member can’t make it to one, no problem. Attendance of these events should be encouraged, and should not be mandatory. Explore “podcasts” as an alternative means for members to participate.
- Establish guidelines for violations of the Practice Standards as well as a review of the monetary penalties. Raise the minimum for a first offence to $500.00. There is NO EXCUSE for submitting or performing substandard work. The safety of the public cannot be compromised.
- Make managers, service managers and trainers (if they’re RFPT’s) accountable for their technician’s actions with fines that start at DOUBLE that of the offending technician.
- RFPTs that currently participate as members of the Certification Board are, to a man, involved in directing the work and practice of others. Their own practice must be exemplary. Any pro-active investigations into technical compliance should start at the board level.
- If a fire service company is advertising services for which they do not have the necessary staff, testing equipment, or certification, the RFPT manager/owner should be held accountable and would therefore be subject to disciplinary procedures not limited to immediate suspension.
- Suspended members must be listed on the Certification Page of the website (along with the reason for suspension).
- The ability of the Compliance Officer to suspend (not revoke) a member’s Registration in a designated field of practice pending a formal review. For instance:
a. Non-payment of dues will result in such a suspension and trigger an immediate review of all projects the member was involved in while they continued using their stamp. The employer may be required to engage another RFPT to RECERTIFY the suspended/delinquent member’s work. In this instance, payment of fees immediately following the suspension should NOT automatically trigger re-instatement before the formal review process has been completed. This will ensure an incentive to submit dues ON TIME;
b. Gross, blatant misconduct of a nature that could genuinely endanger the safety of the public. Examples include, but should not be limited to the following:
i. removal of equipment without ensuring an adequate temporary replacement is in place,
ii. use of incorrect (or substandard) equipment to either test or as a replacement for, a required component.
c. Failure to comply with an ASTTBC’s officer’s direction or instruction.
d. Failure to provide the required documentation for review.
e. Failure to meet the certification requirements of their practice. Examples include, but should not be limited to:
i. performing a six-year or hydrostatic test without Transport Canada certification (extends to tagging off on a cylinder that has not been tested by a certified agency),
ii. performing work on an extinguishment system for which the member is not properly certified.
f. Failure to comply with the parameters and procedures outlined in a testing Standard.
g. Failure to provide documentary evidence required to ensure that test equipment has been purchased (and is in proper working order) which is needed to provide a special service. Examples include, but should not be limited to:
A thorough review and reformatting of ALL current forms in use by Registered Technicians (modernized and amended to include recent Code/Standard additions, etc.). Forms should include the names of the technician “helpers” (or trainees) so that ASTTBC can more easily identify individuals that might be eligible for inclusion in the program and have the means to verify their log books (examples of such a testing form are available on our FORMS page).
i. flow test gear required for standpipe testing,
ii. hydrostatic testing equipment,
iii. back-flow testing equipment,
iv. sound level testing equipment,
v. intelligibility testing equipment,
vi. smoke control testing equipment,
vii. fire pump testing equipment, etc
Adopt a standard methodology for calculating the time it will take to test the life safety equipment in a building or project (an example of an inspection calculator can be viewed in our LIBRARY). This will help to level the playing field. Ensure this information appears on the testing form so that it can be reviewed and amended as necessary. This was Brian Stegavig’s idea and I wish to encourage its immediate adoption.
The drafting and adoption of a CAN/ULC-S537 Appendix “C” form acceptable to all Jurisdictional Authorities in British Columbia (an example of such a report is on our FORMS page).
An immediate RESET of all currently issued Verification stamps. All currently registered Verifiers and all those individuals on the Vancouver Bulletin should be granted an INTERIM practice stamp. Two immediate benefits would be achieved with the latter group. It would result in an immediate increase in membership numbers (some technicians currently employed by manufacturers may not be registered under the program), and secondly, it would allow ASTTBC immediate oversight of that individual’s practice. The granting of FULL practice stamp will be achieved once a body of work has been submitted for review (number of Appendix “C” Reports to be determined), and four (4) random onsite inspections (based on the submitted reports) have been performed. A copy of every Verification report must be submitted for review while the technician has INTERIM Status. Additional training modules will be developed based on this review and all technicians already engaged in the practice will have to complete them before FULL status is granted.
The Verification program should NOT require any special licensing from the BC Safety Authority or other Electrical Certification. The “electrical component” of the Verification should only be performed by the licensed electrical contractor that hired the Verifier and NOT the Registered technician performing the Verification. The electrical contractor’s designated FSR must co-sign the Verification Appendix “C.1” Form. The Verifier MUST NOT be seen, or be granted even the limited ability, to perform electrical work. Those Verifiers that have electrical qualifications must be carefully scrutinized to ensure they are not Verifying their own work in contravention of the requirements of the Standard.
More direct involvement in the educational process for all ASTTBC approved courses (this might include some involvement in co-instruction).
Province-wide mandated ASTTBC Registration for individuals engaged in the service, testing, and maintenance of building life safety equipment is the goal. This will be achieved through the ground-work already established by John Leech, Brian Stegavig and others. It may involve their further consultative assistance as well as that of a number of individuals outside of the ASTTBC family.
How is ASTTBC going to ensure they have sufficient means to accomplish the steps I’ve suggested the program should adopt? The answer I propose won’t be popular, but then, I’m not in a pageant to win “Mr. Congeniality”.
I propose the following suggested member funded resources (inclusively):
1. An across-the-board increase in member dues of $120.00/annum ($10.00 per month) effective immediately will cover a large portion of the additional salaries and expenses and also provide the means to ensure that Program funding is available as more technicians are registered.
2. An education fee of $120.00/annum ($10.00 per month) for every registered technician in the employ of a fire service company will be levied and paid by the company that employs that technician. This will cover the educational/professional development component of the program. In order to ensure fairness several safeguards are suggested:
a. The MEMBERS will indicate their employers on their renewal form (annually) and submit a copy of the receipt ASTTBC will provide to the company based on the number of technicians reported. These numbers should match all of the Registered technicians renewing for that company.
b. Employers will also submit the names and RFPT numbers of the individuals in their employ on a quarterly basis. The education fee is due every year and will be based on the number of technicians employed in the period, with reports due on January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st.
The first year’s dues will be calculated based on the number of technicians presently employed. Appropriate survey forms should be formatted and sent out immediately with a deadline of May 1st for their return. Technicians that are “subcontracting” to a service company will be considered “employees” of that company unless they can provide ASTTBC with a copy of their business licence. Such self-employed and individually licenced individuals will be required to submit the education levy on their own behalf. The levy should also include any trainee technicians currently registered under the program. The list provided by the fire service companies can be compared with the list that will be formulated from the survey forms completed by the membership. This form should also identify RFPT’s that are currently supervising trainees as well as the names of those trainees.
3. I propose that all trainee technicians will be required to stamp tags with a special stamp that also identifies their educational qualification. Once successfully graduated from an approved ASTTBC course, you will more closely be able to assist their positive growth as members of the fire protection service community. The employer should submit a form after 480 hours of trainee employment and pay 50% of a full member’s dues (even if the trainee is only employed on a part time basis) until such a time as they have achieved full certification status. The trainee stamps will have a special number and will be recycled to a new trainee once full certification has been achieved. Reports involving trainees will be reviewed on an ongoing basis to track their progress more effectively. A “stamp fee” will apply with each issue that’s 25% of the standard stamp fee. Payment of this fee is also credited toward the full stamp fee when the trainee achieves Registration. A large “T” on the stamp’s face will identify the individual as a trainee. Every document stamped by a trainee must be accompanied by the RFPT’s stamp that is supervising his progress. The trainees stamp will be applied to the back of an approved tag and on the face of the testing report. Test reports will be submitted (in a number to be determined) and compared to the trainee’s log book.
It is my hope that what I have articulated in this letter will result in some serious reflection and prompt some further discussion by ASTTBC’s leadership and Boards.
I want the Program to succeed.
I want the Standard of Practice to improve.
All of the key elements are in place for this to happen, but, as I mentioned at the outset, we are at the tipping point. Your membership continues to look for guidance in the dark. ASTTBC must find the means to light the way.
March 16, 2014