June 2, 2010 - by Frank Kurz
Vancouver - What does the Position Paper published by ASTTBC mean to those individuals that hold the status of Registered Fire Protection Technicians (RFPT’s) in British Columbia? Did any of you actually read it? (That last question wasn't meant to be facetious.)
“The goal of the Fire Protection Technician Certification Program is to ensure that technicians conducting inspection and testing of fire protection and life safety systems have the required knowledge and training to provide accurate inspection and testing as required by code and are professionally certified to ensure full accountability.”
(– Page 1 ASTTBC Position Paper Dated June 2008)
They put the onus on you, as a “professionally certified” individual with “full accountability”, to keep up with the latest in fire protection technologies and prevention measures. I was speaking to a local fire inspector recently and he put it this way. The stamped tag is his letter of assurance that not only will the system or device to which it’s applied likely function correctly in an emergency, but that it is also tested to a the most recent code or standard.
Are you fully conversant with every aspect of the equipment you’re testing? Do you have all the latest manufacturer’s bulletins? Chances are that you’re not, and that you don’t, and while that's not the "best thing", the fact that you can admit to not knowing it all is actually a step in the right direction. There are a whole host of resources available to you. You just have to know where to look and be able to get answers to your questions. The Fire Technicians Network is aiming to be one of those resources (as should the fire equipment service provider you're working for and ASTTBC).
What about the real cost to the residents – the owner – the property manager – and to the tenants from slip-shod inspections and service? There are instances where RFPT’s have engaged in highly questionable practices that have demonstrated a distinct lack of personal ethics let alone the professional ones demanded by ASTTBC’s Practice Guidelines. A case in point involves several technicians in the employ of an RFPT at Active Fire and Safety Services Ltd. Do you really believe that this story is only a one of? I can assure you that it's not. What remains to be seen is the response from the various local authorities and from ASTTBC.
Back issues of Suppress make mention of companies engaged in the selling of tags with no inspection service provided. They also mentioned that RFPT’s are pre-signing tags (often allowing unsupervised apprentices to perform the inspections and complete the tags in the field in their absence). Certified technicians are tagging panels that aren’t compliant (due to their lack of knowledge on the systems, or because they’ve failed to identify potential – or actual – problems). Fire alarm verifications are being performed that fall far short of the applicable Standard with the result that installations in which shoddy workmanship, violations of the manufacturer's installation and wiring guidelines (including Building Codes and CAN/ULC-S524) are actually being passed!