What tools do you need to perform proper testing and service of fire protection equipment?  When I was involved in the aircraft crash investigation field, one of my colleagues boasted that there wasn't a helicopter built that he couldn't salvage with an adjustable 1" wrench (he referred to it as a "Mexican Speed Wrench"), and a hacksaw.  Granted, most of the aircraft dismantled in this fashion would never fly again, but what about the damage inflicted on serviceable parts?

Recently I had occasion to witness the attempts of a local fire department practise using a hydrant located in a mall's parking lot.  This was a "private hydrant" as opposed to the ones you see on practically every street corner in a city, and was last "serviced" by an ASTTBC Registered Fire Protection Technician (RFPT) in March 2009.  The efforts of the fire fighters to use the hydrant were hampered by the fact that the technician had "tested" it using an adjustable pipe wrench instead of the proper hydrant wrench.  The valve stem was so badly damaged it was rendered almost useless.  When asked, the mall staff could only produce a service invoice relating to the time and date of the last test.  There was no other paperwork available and no tag on the hydrant.  Obviously the test performed by the servicing agency (and for which the customer paid) amounted to nothing more than opening the valve (with the pipe wrench) and allowing water to flow for a few minutes.

In a high-rise building in another jurisdiction, the annual test of the sprinkler system is severely hampered by the removal of the ball valve handles and the fact that the previous servicing agency's technicians used pipe wrenches to activate the valves.  Several shutoffs to floors couldn't be used at all.  When a sprinkler head let go in a suite on the first floor one evening, the fire department had to turn off the building's main sprinkler valve to stop the flow of water.

Which brings us to the subject question of this article:  What tools are YOU using to test and service fire protection equipment?

And what should you do when confronted by a previous technician's monkey-wrenching?  In communities that have adopted By-Laws requiring certified technicians, you should follow the guidelines established by the agency (or association) through which that technician is registered.  It's not your job to "police" previous inspection oversights but there is an established protocol that must be followed in most jurisdictions as well as the one outlined in the ASTTBC's Practice Guidelines.  It is through this means that we can demonstrate our commitment to helping improve the professional practice of individuals (and agencies) engaged in this industry. 

It's only when we're all playing on a level field that the practitioners of shoddy service will finally be weeded out.


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