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[Home] [2015 Editorials]

EDITORIAL

DECEMBER 2015
 

WHEN WRONG GOES RIGHT.  ASTTBC’S CERTIFICATION NIGHTMARE - THE CATALYST FOR CHANGE.

By Frank Kurz

Note:  The link to the “list of code books” originally published in the Bulletin referenced in this article was finally corrected on March 25th, 2016.

Surrey, British Columbia - One of the challenges of running an openly accessible life safety  information resource is to make sure the material you publish is both timely and accurate (with particular emphasis on the accuracy part).  While spelling or grammar is important, the INFORMATION you present (upon which people in the industry may actually rely) cannot misdirect or conflict with accepted Codes or Standards.  And where any divergence is presented, it must be specifically identified so that both its use and context are clearly understood.

Which brings me to the subject of my latest Editorial and one that, believe it or not, I’m actually quite loath to publish because it further discredits an organization that is already drowning in controversy.

Unfortunately something has to be said and someone has to step up to say it.

From the Bulletins page on the ASTTBC Fire Protection Programme Website:

    Did you know...

    ... that the BC Fire code is written with specific objectives in mind? Click here to see what those objectives are! As an RFPT, your training, skill sets and diligence significantly contributes to helping your client meet and demonstrate (Inspection/Test Service Report) compliance in meeting those objectives!”

The statement (on it’s own) isn’t the problem.  ASTTBC’s website happens to reference OUTDATED inspection forms.  When you have a Practice Standard that instructs ALL RFPTs to utilize these outdated forms you will, in no way, help your “client meet and demonstrate compliance”.  Talk about sending a mixed message!

Then there’s:

    Need to access and (sic) NFPA standard?

    Check out the following link to provide you free access to the most current NFPA Standards.

    Use caution though! The most current standard will not be fully usable unless specifically legislated and adopted through the current BC Fire Code. The attachment shows the RFPT what is currently adopted in BC through the National Fire Code of Canada (2010), which may be applicable to your specific RFPT endorsement(s) and day-to-day work. The list identifies the agency issuing the Standard, the document number and year, title of the document and where referenced in the current BC Fire Code (2012).

    Make sure you are using the proper year! AHJs will not normally allow you to use a different version than what is adopted through legislation unless you go through a formal written process of determining an "Alternative Solution" acceptable to the AHJ.

    Helpfull Links:

    List of code books”

While there’s nothing wrong with perusing the free versions of the NFPA Standards (subject of course to the disclaimers provided), the link to the list of code books” attachment however, references versions of testing Standards that have NOT been formally adopted by the British Columbia Fire Code 2012!  And it is this latest online effort that makes the gulf between an association that has truly lost its focus (the mandate they were entrusted with twenty years ago), the membership it purports to support, and the public it’s sworn to protect ever more apparent.

When an RFPT is forced to submit to a regime that openly employs deceptive practices and fraud, is there not an obligation for him to say something?  Read over Section 15 of your Practice Guideline

    “The first duty of care of an ASTTBC Registrant is the protection of the public interest. Effective application of the ASTTBC Code of Ethics requires information regarding unethical practices and is to be reported to the ASTTBC Practice Review Board. This requires the combined efforts of FPTs, Owners and Fire Departments. It is through full vigilance by all those involved that violations of the ASTTBC Act and Regulations, Code of Ethics and Practice Standards can be addressed and the public interest served.”

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Will refusal to participate in such an association disqualify you from practicing your profession?  Will your brain somehow suddenly RESET to that of a Trainee Technician?  Come to think of it, maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing because most Trainees know the requirements of the Standards and are often more conscientious about what they’re doing (lack of practical experience tends to lend itself to more careful practice).

Both ASTTBC and CFAA would have you believe that they wield the mythical Sword of Damocles over your personal careers and that failure to pay your member dues is the equivalent of saying you’re no longer qualified to work in your profession.

Many RFPT’s retain a variety of certificates attesting to the training they receive either as manufacturer’s reps or employees of fire equipment service providers.  Some of you have taken courses offered through several vocational colleges and post-secondary institutions and can produce certificates attesting to their successful completion.  I know of at least a few individuals that have taken it all the way and received formal Associate diplomas from BCIT, NAIT, SAIT, Seneca, Durham, George Brown, and Georgian Colleges (to name a few).  This is something no one can take away from you.

Now, if you think I’m advocating that you “chuck” your membership in favour of an alternative, you should, at least, have all the facts first.

Both the Verification and Inspection Standards formally describe someone that’s qualified to perform testing in the relevant “Appendix A’s” (and neither formal certification or an affiliation to a professional association are specifically referenced).  Vancouver retains control over whom they allow to perform Verifications in their Bulletin 2003-009-BU/EL and despite the fact that the RFPT may have qualified for ASTTBC’s “VI” designation, if you’re not listed in the Bulletin you simply can’t perform the work.  One of the key phrases in BOTH the referenced Standards is “acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction”.
 

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Charlie Chaplin (The Dictator)
Copyright © 1940 - United Artists

It is interesting to note that almost all of the British Columbia jurisdictions that have adopted Bylaws requiring ASTTBC Registered technicians perform annual testing of building fire protection equipment, also allow the local Fire Chief to accept an alternate certification agency (the only exceptions so far being Vancouver and Creston).  While CFAA (in our view, the only viable alternative currently available) has embarked on ambitious new changes to enhance their Programme, you have to keep in mind that the formal technician certification they provide is restricted to the field of fire alarm testing.

What has ASTTBC really done for you?  How have they advanced your career?  Supported your practice?  Provided additional education?  The website was recently updated (on December 8th, 2015).  June 26th, October 14th, and December 8th - and what exactly DID they update?  How many of you attended the latest technician meeting (in Langley)?  Unlike our proposed dinner meetings, ASTTBC actually picked up the tab on the pizza.  All you had to do was show up.  I can certainly understand why you may have elected not to attend.  For many of you already discouraged with the programme’s failures, it’s all a bit “too little, too late”. 

It is interesting to note that while you may pay them to include your name on their list of professionals, it seems to me that almost none of you recognize the latent power you actually have over your personal careers and in determining the direction you need your association to go.

You can say NO to bad practice!  You can say NO to a service manager (or even your association) if they suggest an alternative test method (or forms) that don’t comply with the required Standards.

In point of fact you are OBLIGATED TO DO SO!

Way back in 2007, I decided to commit significant personal resources towards improving the standard of practice in our industry.  This website had its Genesis as an information and support resource, but I’ve never lost sight of this original purpose.  It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I have managed to step on more than a few toes over the last eight years, but I can also honestly admit that I have no regrets (highlighting shoddy work and deceptive practices have been an integral part of an ongoing educational process to which I have committed the Fire Technicians Network).

I’m hoping 2016 will finally be the year we can start to see the results and really make some progress.  To that end, I wish to encourage you to join with us by clicking on the link you’ll find at the bottom of every page!  I also wish to encourage you to attend the regularly scheduled events we’ll be holding at the end of every month.

You can read more concerning technician practices, testing methods, etc. by clicking on:

Our Special Report on ASTTBC’s Fire Protection Technician Certification Program
Our Editorial EXTRA! (April 2015) - The Wolf on the Board!
Our Open Letter to ASTTBC (March 2014 Editorial)
Our September 2014 Editorial
Our August 2014 Editorial
More comments concerning ASTTBC technicians are in in our May 2012 Editorial
ASTTBC Complaint Outcomes (This actually makes for some pretty scary reading.)
CAN/ULC-S536 DO’S AND DON’T’S - Special Reports

 

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