Series Introduction! DEBUNKING THE MYTHS!
October 28th, 2010 - By Frank Kurz
Vancouver – It's always interesting when someone like me gets the opportunity to talk shop with an owner and the senior technician of a well-known fire equipment service provider. It's one thing when it happens during a friendly lunch, or over a coffee, quite another when it becomes somewhat confrontational on a sidewalk on one of Burnaby's busiest streets (Kingsway Avenue). The occasion was a kitchen suppression trip test in a new restaurant. I had been called in to provide a Verification for the hook-up of the extinguishing system to the networked EST-3 that serviced the rest of the complex which consisted of a residential tower and a commercial annex.
Several things came to my attention during the course of my Verification, not the least of which was the fact that the standby batteries were woefully inadequate and moreover, hadn't been properly tested in accordance with the Standard the technician was supposed to have been following (in this case CAN/ULC-S536-04). The owner of this fire equipment service company confidently advised me that the battery size was inconsequential to their technician's testing and that, yes, they had replaced them in 2009 with batteries of exactly the same size that Edwards had (supposedly) originally provided. He mentioned something about the system being engineered with those batteries and that his tech certainly shouldn't be held responsible for the system's inadequacies (as originally verified by Edwards back in the day). The owner's senior technician held a similar view. They both couldn’t be more wrong.
It brings up some very good questions! What are technicians doing and what should they be doing when they test a fire alarm system to CAN/ULC-S536-04? In the next few articles we hope to debunk some myths and misconceptions concerning the Testing Standard. We're going to be revealing some other well known (and repeated) inspection gaffs in the hope of raising the bar a few notches. I hope you, the reader, will find these articles informative and that you'll benefit positively from the experiences of your fellow technicians (whom shall remain anonymous) which I'll be highlighting. I don't intend on singling out one company (any more than what you see on our Brickees! pages) - but hope to focus on helping you identify what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. Some of what you're going to see is pretty basic (and should have been covered in the material available through the CFAA and ASTTBC sponsored courses). Items we mention in this category will no doubt serve as a review for some of you. There have also been significant changes in the 2004 version of the testing standard which will many of you have yet to adopt (or may not know about).
We'd like very much to make this an interactive experience and to that end, we'll be posting any questions we receive (along with the appropriate answers) as the series progresses.
So keep watching! We will, of course, respect any request to remain anonymous from anyone that does submit their questions or personal experiences.