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[Home] [2009 Editorials]

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April, 2009

How Do You Test?

I've read with interest the comments of Brian Stegavig (the new manager for Fire Protection at ASTTBC) in the latest issue of Suppress! particularly as applied to ethical practice and signing off on testing. How many of us are as conscientious as we need to be? I've seen many buildings where it's quite obvious the technician(s) involved in the annual testing quite "conscientiously" tagged every extinguisher and emergency light, yet failed to recognize the fact there there were NO extinguishers in the building's parkade or installed in the hallway on the other side of a fire door. I've seen emergency lighting installations that didn't meet the minimum requirements for local area illumination with stamped tags checked "OK". I've seen kitchen hood fire suppression systems with incorrect appliance nozzles installed that have been tagged "OK" through several semi-annual inspections. Just what "standard" are these individuals testing to? We all assume that we've received the same degree of education and work experience, yet time and time again, I see a vast difference in the way a building or project is inspected. Why is that?

Here's some things we should all be watching out for, asking ourselves, and more importantly, getting the answers to:

    1. Does your employer provide you with the materials you need to properly conduct your test? Some jurisdictions (like Vancouver and North Vancouver) actually require you to use the ASTTBC inspection forms. Do you have access to NFPA 10, 25, CAN/ULC-S536 and the latest bulletins concerning the equipment you're testing? Do you have the equipment necessary to perform a proper battery test? Are you testing ALL the systems batteries? Do the forms you're using meet the requirments of the jurisdiction? Of CAN/ULC-S536?

    2. Does your employer give you adequate time to perform all the tests? Do you have access to the verification report? The latter is extremely important as it will detail equipment that may not be readily accessible (duct smoke detectors, damper controllers, etc.). You are mandated by the various standards to test all these devices for proper function. Do you know enough to recognize a proper verification test report?

    3. Do you have access to replacement equipment compatible with the system you're testing? What is the procedure regarding deficient items you might come across? Are you familiar with the system's cross-listing data (can you recognize if the smoke detectors in the building are actually compatible with the common control, for instance)?

    4. What's the procedure if you come across a deficient item that a co-worker has previously passed? Do you contact the office for instruction? Mark the item on your report? Tag off on the system anyway because not doing so might create conflict?

ASTTBC provides you with the answers in the form of Practice Guidelines and these should be followed at all times (in B.C., it is YOUR STAMP and your career that is on the line every time you sign a tag). You can also refer to our FAQs page to view real life interpretations of the Practice Guidelines, Codes and Standards. The Practice Guidelines are an excellent reference resource for any agency engaged in the LIFE SAFETY profession to consider adopting in one form or another. Take the time to read this document and ensure your employment contract (as well as the company that employs you) references the same standards and practices and doesn't just pay lip service to them. If you need help or answers, contact Brian Stegavig or ring us up 24/7. Remember:

We are NOT a professional union, but together,
we are a union of professionals!

Comments?  Questions?  Contact Us!




Points of Interest:
Stir up the Gray Matter with
Nick Markowitz &
Al Colombo

Smoke Detector Cross Listing Information:
ULC Smoke Detector Compatibility Index
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