THE ASTTBC FIRE-PROTECTION-PROGRAM LIMBO!
“The safety of the people shall be the highest law.” -- Marcus Tullius Cicero
“It is legal because I wish it.” -- Louis XIV, King of France (aka The Sun King)
by Frank Kurz,
Vancouver, British Columbia - In a recently filed decision for a complaint (lodged by yours truly) against a local technician who performed the annual inspection on this fiasco, I received a reply from ASTTBC’s Registrar, Charles Joyner, that, quite simply, left me shaking my head.
The fire alarm system at the heart of this complaint serves a senior’s assisted living high-rise. Here’s the list of deficiencies we identified in the official complaint letter (and attachments) we submitted to ASTTBC:
1. There are a total of THREE adder modules connected to the common control, two DM-1008’s and one RM-1008. Mircom provides two sizes of enclosures for the FA-1000. One is referred to as a “24 point can” and the other is a “72 point can”. The photograph at the top of this page depicts an installation in a 24 point can. The maximum number of adder modules you can install in this configuration is TWO. There is no means to properly correlate the alarm and supervisory zones with the relay functions. Supervisory signals from the sprinkler valve room will home the elevators as a result (and start the 110VAC strobes controlled by the RM-1008).
2. There are two HIGH VOLTAGE connections being switched by the relay adder card. One switches power to 120VAC strobes I’ve already mentioned, and the other provides the homing signal for the building’s elevator. The manufacturer’s installation instructions stipulate a maximum of 28VDC can be controlled by the relays on the RM-1008 board (not to mention the fact that only fire alarm system POWER is allowed to be routed into the common control).
3. The Edwards 6700 EVCS panel sports a rather unorthodox “All Call” button (the original supplied by the manufacturer having been removed). The required silence period of sixty seconds on alarm activation before announcements can be made over the EVCS is absent (depressing the ALL CALL button will immediately interrupt the fire alarm signals).
4. Stand-by batteries provided in the common control are 12AH units. The system draws 371mA in supervisory mode. The alarm current is 3.331 Amps. This is a “high building” and the MINIMUM stand-by battery size should be 18.7AH (24 AH is the next commercially available size).
5. The EVC system is powered through the building’s generator. As there is NO “trouble” or “run” annunciation at the fire alarm control for the generator, you cannot use this as an “emergency power supply”. Additionally, there is also no visible means of providing power to the EVCS between a failure of primary power supply and the transfer of the load from the generator. Voice announcements made during this period will not be transmitted (or will be interrupted). Not-with-standing, If the generator fails to start, there is NO VOICE COMMUNICATION capability.
6. A trouble condition on the Edwards EVCS system does not result in a common trouble condition of the fire alarm system.
7. The fire alarm communicator (a DSC PC-1616 with GSM-3060) is powered from the same circuit as the fire alarm system.
8. The remote annunciator has been terminated using five conductor cable in violation of the manufacturer’s printed installation instructions.
9. The kitchen supression system has been disconnected from the fire alarm system (we note the equipment has been removed as the kitchen is no longer in operation), but the annunciator had not been altered.
Has anyone whose read this not concluded that this system should be RED TAGGED?
For those of you that don’t happen to think so, here’s the RED TAG criteria straight from ASTTBC’s Practice Guideline (relevant phrases are underlined):
Under Section 9 - Provision of Services
“Major Deficiencies... A major deficiency in a fire protection system or equipment exists when...
a. the primary function is impaired relative to the original design due to deficiencies, and/or
Examples of a major deficiency would include, but not be limited to...
“Red Tagging a Fire Protection System... For major deficiencies red tags shall be used by the FPT to indicate that the fire protection system or piece of equipment was serviced but does not provide the level of protection for which it was originally designed and installed or the system or piece of equipment has deficiencies that may cause it, during activation, not to operate in the manner to which it was intended.”
And this is ASTTBC’s response:
“The substance of my (sic) complaint related to the original installation, previous upgrades and verifications of the fire alarm system, all of which has been performed by an individual other than Mr. RFPT.” -- ASTTBC Practice Review Board
Let’s not worry about the fact that the Mr. RFPT (who was performing an inspection of the fire alarm system to CAN/ULC-S536-04) failed to note that the batteries were undersized, or that the generator can’t be used as part of the required emergency power supply; or that the EVC system had been butchered to work with another manufacturer’s fire alarm control and NOT TESTED in accordance with the Standard.
Let’s not worry about Article 9 of the the best Practice Guideline I’ve been privileged to review. In fact, let’s ignore it completely and chuck it into the same bin along side those other professional associations (and the technical committee) which were formed in those halcyon days of the program’s introduction twenty years ago. (It should be noted that the first municipality in British Columbia to actually implement the requirement for ASTTBC Registered technicians was the City of Vancouver back in 2001.)
“ASTTBC has developed a standard Municipal Bylaw and information package that will help you put the program in place in your community. By the summer of 2001, the program’s accomplishments include:
-- ASTTBC Fire Protection Program website - http://fireprotection.asttbc.org/overview.php (March 16, 2015)
By all means, let’s give Mr. RFPT a slap on the wrist for NOT noticing the defunct kitchen suppression zone and improperly completing the tag affixed to the fire alarm panel.
And while we’re at it...
Let’s not worry that every “WA” registered technician is failing to perform (or document) the Forward Flow Test on backflow preventers serving fire protection system piping in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 25 (2008).
Let’s not worry that every annual inspection report I’ve reviewed (completed by an ASTTBC RFPT) has never mentioned (or even listed) end-of-line resistors or isolators.
Le’ts not worry that there are fire extinguishers (pressurized cylinders) out there with BOGUS six-year maintenance and hydro-static test labels affixed to them that RFPT’s are tagging off on regularly (not to mention the fact that I’ve hardly ever seen an annual inspection of one done properly)!
Let’s not worry that RFPT’s aren’t properly inspecting fire hoses, with some even going so far as to DEMONSTRATE fake re-racking to trainee technicians that will ensure they earn brownie points with the boss for being faster than the guy who did it last year.
Let’s not worry that fire protection service company owners that happen to be Registered under the program as well as certain members of ASTTBC’s Fire Protection Certification Board (who happen to directly supervise RFPT’s in their employ) look the other way when it comes to these same substandard practices being performed under their very noses (some even going so far as to encourage it by providing special bonuses and recognition).
Let’s not worry that the forms ASTTBC requires their technicians to use all include “2007” in their file names (last time I looked the Fire Code is referencing the 2008 version of NFPA 25 - Testing Standard for Sprinkler Systems).
Let’s not worry that ASTTBC provides ZERO support for their technician’s practice. (They do, however, send out those pesky renewal invoices every year, without fail.)
Let’s not worry that the two individuals charged with the oversight and registrations of 800+ practicing technicians are doing so on a part-time basis (10 hours a week each). (How is that even possible?)
But, let’s not worry! Because ASTTBC says it’s okay.
They are, after all, committed to the safety and protection of the public. Right?
“Members of ASTTBC shall:
“Fire protection technician certification program
“Fire Protection Certification Program Goal...
“What does professional certification in ASTTBC say about you?
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
To whom is ASTTBC accountable for twenty years of broken promises and failed initiatives?
Is the public at risk?
It would certainly appear that we have, at the very least, a good deal to worry about!
P.S. I’m really interested in finding out how many RFPT’s attended the ASTTBC Fire Protection special meeting on February 18th, 2015. 75? 50? Less? The reason I ask is that I noticed that this event didn’t even garner a mention in ASTTBC’s e-News for February (as of March 16th, 2015 that is).
March 20, 2015 - The minutes of the February 18, 2015 RFPT Meeting at BCIT have been released. The formal direct link has been removed from the ASTTBC website.
Of particular note is the mention of registering companies (Item K). “This idea is still in its infancy”. Let’s hope it never matures. I can see (and would support) an association of fire prevention and fire protection equipment service agencies being formed. This should be independent of ASTTBC with perhaps a Certification or Practice Review Board member serving as a director (and visa-versa). ASTTBC should NOT get involved in registering businesses (given their track record vis-a-vis the RFPT Program), besides which there is no other professional certification body involved in registering or certifying companies or agencies other than ULC and Transport Canada (and we should keep it that way). The conflicts that would arise would be HUGE (the thought does, however, beg the question: What-ever happened to the Association of BC Fire Prevention Companies mentioned on the ASTTBC website?). I would, rather, suggest that the MANAGERS and/or OWNERS of companies engaged in the service and testing of fire protection equipment need to be registered and held accountable for their employee’s actions (something I’ve actually been advocating for, for years and which I articulated back in March, 2014 in my open letter to ASTTBC).
B highlights perfectly the disconnect which exists between ASTTBC and it’s Registered Fire Protection Technician (RFPT) members. For YEARS technicians have been shouting, screaming, begging, and crying (well, maybe not actually CRYING), for help and support. I think it’s interesting that ASTTBC has to call a meeting to be told “what’s working and what’s not. How can we make the program better?” Does anyone that’s been a Registered Technician for the past twenty years not view the mother-ship as the cash cow (or rather money grab) it’s become? Some time spent reviewing my open letter to ASTTBC before the meeting was called would have been a good idea (and given the board something to chew with the cheese on their pizza).
Item F. Definitely do-able. But they’re going to need Warren Buffett’s wallet though, so don’t hold your breath. I can’t imagine what the licensing fees are going to run them in order to post the Codes and Standards online. I suppose they could stream them in a similar fashion to NFPA’s online reader (that link happens to be on our TOOLS page), but ASTTBC doesn’t write the Codes and Standards so the issue of licensing is going to be an almost insurmountable hurdle unless, of course, Mr. Leech has a hand in Mr. Buffett’s wallet.
NOTE: If you’re going to “brush up” on your NFPA Standards, remember that the ones posted to the free e-Reader link are NOT the versions referenced in the current Fire Code. You won’t be able to quote or use them correctly.
Items D and E. There is significant push-back from the electrical contracting and trades communities in British Columbia on whether the BC Safety Authority should grant ASTTBC the ability to issue and manage limited electrical worker’s certification. Personally, I don’t think it’s even necessary. If you’re an agent of the manufacturer (i.e. a factory trained technician or an authorized servicing dealer), you (and your employees) are able to do electrical work limited to performing terminations (and commissioning) of the specific manufacturer’s control panel. You can’t run the wire out to the field and you can’t install the control panel or the field devices (this work must be performed by a certified electrician under a permit issued by the local jurisdictional authority).
As for the Verification designation, considering the way ASTTBC has mis-managed the entire RFPT Program for the past twenty years, I have ZERO confidence in their ability to recognize (or have oversight over) a technician whom they suggest is capable of performing a proper Verification (let alone any kind of electrical work - limited or otherwise).
Item L. “Chloramine/Chloride”? From this single comment in the minutes, I’m thinking that the subject of Forward Flow Testing on backflow preventers for fire protection system piping never even came up. Am I right? Did annual testing of extinguishing systems that employ anti-freeze? What about tagging off on a boiler room sprinkler system that doesn’t even have a gauge, drain, or flow switch? I’ve seen what passes as a report for these types of systems, by the way, and it’s the perfect way to screw the building owner out of a few more shekels. “Oh, you have a SPRINKLER system!”
Item O. Gee, while an online FAQ is a great idea, Bob and Erin should be directing their efforts where they’re more urgently needed (like updating the forms, the website, the tags, the Practice Standard, improving communications, etc.). In the meantime, why not simply provide a link and point to the largest online fire protection equipment and service FAQ on the planet? Why not use a ready-made, home-grown VANCOUVER BASED technical resource? I’ll tell you why. Mr. Leech wouldn’t like it. (I guess I’m charging too much.)
One item that the minutes didn’t include was the number of RFPT’s in attendance (and how many pizza’s John Leech wound up taking home).
Edited October 10, 2015 - Addition of RED TAG guidelines from ASTTBC’s Practice Guideline.
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