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Tech-News & Views

April, 2012


Port Coquitlam, British Columbia - It’s a rare treat to visit the quiet byways of the City of Port Coquitlam let alone get treated to a great cup of coffee and be able to talk shop with another “old hand” in the business, but today I can actually count four (treats that is).  I had coffee with Don Lawrence from Levitt Safety, who had some questions regarding Verifications (more specifically the legitimacy of technicians performing final terminations in a fire panel and who then go on to perform the Verification). 

A Verifier is forbidden from getting involved in the installation or design of a fire alarm system.  The rule is articulated in the Preface to the actual Verification Standard (CAN/ULC-S537-04) and states:

    “The requirements of this Standard contemplates that the verification procedure described herein will be conducted by an organization other than the installing contractor and designer, and that the verification will be carried out by qualified personnel in the employ of an organization acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.   Refer to Appendix A, Qualified Personnel.”

Appendix A states:

    “A1   Any person who performs the verification of a fire alarm system should be familiar with this Standard and have received suitable formal training or sufficient experience acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.”

The Standard doesn’t mention anything about the person programming an addressable system not being involved in (or performing) the Verification, yet this has become the accepted “norm”, just as many jurisdictional authorities will accept, without question, the Verification of a technician in the employ of the fire alarm manufacturer (or their designated agent).  As has been pointed out in numerous examples HERE, factory training does NOT necessarily qualify an individual to perform a Verification, but when push comes to shove, who are you going to call?

It’s also interesting to note that, with very few exceptions, many of the more complex panels these days require a great deal of “design” (power supply calculations, module layout, bin sizing, and final terminations) which, most often are performed by these same technicians (an Engineer at the factory may also be involved).  How can this be so (when you consider the wording of the Standard)?  Simple.  Most electrical contractors tend to shy away from the responsibility of performing these particular tasks  because many addressable controls which employ multiple module racks also have very complex interconnections which only a factory trained technician would recognize and be comfortable working with. 



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

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Then there’s the issue of the manufacturer’s warranty.  It’s difficult to return a component that’s obviously been connected incorrectly.  Blackened boards and burned components make for very poor warranty claims and an electrician who isn’t familiar with the product definitely shouldn’t be working anywhere near the common control.  There are many types of controllers these days that are normally terminated by factory trained specialists.  Heat trace, lighting, telephone, access control, HVAC, fire pumps, generators, and security are all good examples.

I think it behoves the responsible, manufacturer trained professional  to perform final terminations on the control panel for any critical building system (a life safety system represents, without question, the most important of those I mentioned in the previous paragraph).  Adopting such a practice will also, in my opinion, go a long way towards mitigating many of the errors I continue to document on this site.  It is absolutely crucial to understand that I am not advocating a technician get involved with running wire, the physical installation of the head-end equipment (control panel and/or transponder) or field devices (that must still be left to the electrical contractor so as to ensure that the requirements mandated in the Standard aren’t compromised).

The conversation gradually drifted (as I suspected it might) to another subject involving Levitt Safety’s Brickee!, which first appeared in July, 2010.  Subsequent to the publication of this Burning Brick Award, Don advised that Levitt committed significant resources to ensuring their employees refocused their attention on the second word in their name - Safety.  And this initiative was apparently  enthusiastically embraced nation-wide.

Kudos to the dedicated management & employees at Levitt Safety!

They are the first to respond in such a positive way and can count themselves as well along towards building what David Brinkley so eloquently alluded to in this quotation:

“A successful man is one that can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”



Vancouver, British Columbia - You’ve probably noticed some changes to the website.  We hope you like ‘em!  You can read more about what we’re up to HERE!



Vancouver, British Columbia - In the mind of one individual prominently involved in our industry here in Vancouver, it seems that the stigma associated with the criminal, sociopathic leader of the most notorious, corrupt, and hateful political movement of our times has somehow come to define our website.  In an email we recently received, this individual offered up this comment:

    “After spending considerable time on your website and forum, your purpose is very clear to me.  After all, you proudly quoted Adolph (sic) Hitler, Frank.  That pretty much sums it up in my opinion.” - (see our December 2011 Editorial)

???!??  Sure...  Forget about everything else you’ve seen here.  One name sums it ALL up!  Uh-huh...  Right!

“Today - Ah-merika...  Tomorrow - ze vorld!” -- Frank Kurz


Charlie Chaplin in "The Dictator"

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


Surrey, British Columbia

Laziness??  Perhaps.  Embarassing??  Definitely!  I call this story another Brickee! in the making.

Modern times are interesting times.  The advent of the Internet has spawned a number of entirely new industries.  From website designers, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies, search engine companies (like Google, Yahoo!, etc.), naming registrars, ISP’s, and hosting providers.  In Surrey, British Columbia, it seems quite another industry is booming as well.

In the business of newspaper and magazine publishing people engaged in the production of advertising copy are still called “copywriters”.  They take an idea and come up with the most effective means to ensure it is not only formatted to fit the required space on the page, but that it catches your attention.  The idea is to get you to buy the product (or service).  The people that write copy for a website have to pretty much be able to do the same thing - grab your attention long enough for you to click to the next page of the site (if you fail and the customer leaves your site, Google calls this a “bounce”).  Not only do copywriters have to ensure they present their client’s online ideas and corporate image in the best possible light, spelling and grammatical errors, understandably, shouldn’t be tolerated.  For an online presence, perfection is the only standard for acceptance!

Where advertising copywriters responsible for physical print media have to be extra careful, is to ensure their idea doesn’t either borrow or directly copy the work of someone else.  The reason is quite simple.  You can’t “erase” something printed in a magazine (or newspaper) as easily as you can delete (or alter) a web page.  If the work happens to be Trademarked or patented, it’s even more important to ensure that what you produce in print remains distinct as well as clearly distinguishable.  This is often termed “branding” or “establishing your brand”, two concepts that have (without exception) translated very well to the efforts of the really good Internet site developers.

Individuals that create websites (for some fire service companies in Surrey at least) have somehow come to see themselves as “above the law”.  They feel that they are free to “lift” or copy the work of others without providing either the required attribution, or receiving the necessary permission.  They don’t seem to realize that things that are in (what’s frequently termed) “the public domain” are NOT “free to copy” at will.  Time and time again however, I’ve seen the same bad practice followed, usually accompanied by excuses like “we’re only testing the site”, and “it’s not properly finished yet”.  The first Surrey based fire service company we heard was openly plagiarizing the work of others was Active Fire and Safety Services (they got caught twice!), the second (and hitherto most recent) was Local Fire and Safety, but today, Lower Mainland Fire and Safety (and their developer, Bedi Creative) can add their names to this list of the “wrong-headed”, with a number of articles they’ve lifted from, of all places, Wikipedia, and which they prominently feature on their spanking new website! 

The exact phrasing from Wikipedia articles on emergency lighting and fire alarm systems seems to have found their way over to the website owned by Burnaby’s Acme Fire and Safety as well: 

    “An emergency light is a battery-backed lighting device that comes on automatically when a building experiences a power outage.”

    “An automatic fire alarm system is designed to detect the unwanted presence of fire by monitoring environmental changes associated with combustion...”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing illegal about copying work directly from Wikipedia as long as the proper attribution is acknowledged somewhere on the page.  For those of you who may be interested in lifting phrases from Wikipedia for your own website, I would suggest you read up on something called the Creative Commons Deed before you do.



Surrey, British Columbia - We are pleased to report that the Fire Blockade™ product has achieved formal UL and ULC Listing.  The original manufacturer (Working Chemical Solutions) is no longer involved in producing the product.  ATS Scientific Group LLC took over full production in the Summer of 2010 and successfully approached UL/ULC for full certification.  Fire Blockade looks to be an amazing product and we wish ATS Scientific Group and their Canadian distributor, Orion Fire Distribution, every success in getting the word out.  You can contact Ken at Orion through the website at for more information!



Toronto, Ontario - The CFAA (Canadian Fire Alarm Association) is apparently “investigating the feasability (sic) of incorporating a feature on our website to aid our website visitors in locating and contacting contractors to meet the visitor's fire alarm and detection requirements.”

We can’t imagine what such a service would look like or what the criteria for participation would be.  Corporate membership would likely be a prerequisite which would be a bit like saying:  “Hey, look at us,  we’re members of CFAA.  We’ve gotta be good!”  The executive at CFAA should give their heads a shake.  Did someone manage to burn all the Yellow Pages® in Toronto? 

And someone actually had the temerity to tell me that I was “full of it” because I said CFAA isn’t a “technician-based organization”!  Go figure!



Vancouver, British Columbia - White Eagle Fire Prevention has been removed from Vancouver’s list of qualified Verification Agencies.  You can review the latest changes and additions HERE!



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