By Frank Kurz

Vancouver – ASTTBC has completed their investigation into a complaint involving a downtown Vancouver building which was inspected and serviced by technicians in the employ of Active Fire and Safety Services Ltd. of Surrey, British Columbia.  Shoddy inspection practice isn’t at the heart of this issue however (although it certainly pointed the way).  The investigation actually provides us with a somewhat disturbing glimpse into the workings of a company, headed by Harjit (Jit) Sangha, RFPT, that is no stranger to controversy.

The building in question has been under Active’s care for about ten years, and employs an Edwards 6500 fire alarm control with an Edwards 6700 audio panel.  During the course of the last inspection, the reset switch came loose from the common control board which necessitated sourcing an immediate replacement board, but this was only the start of a long list of troubles which culminated in the building’s management contacting another fire inspection service provider to essentially re-test the entire building.

The list of deficiencies which two of Active’s senior technicians missed is staggering and is made even worse by the fact that many of the items went unreported in most of the previous annual reports which were filed by other Active Fire technicians.

This serves to emphasize that not only is training on specific systems and devices crucial towards ensuring their proper testing, the methodologies to help flag individuals and companies that demonstrate such flagrant disregard for the standards and ethics to which we (as professionals) are accountable must be developed.  I view this as much a failure of ASTTBC’s certification

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program (more specifically proper technician oversight) as it is the individual technicians involved (and I include the RFPT who heads the company in this).  It is a fact that you can’t expect employee RFPT’s to perform the required testing without the tools and an ongoing training curriculum that includes the latest manufacturer technical bulletins, regular reviews of proper testing procedures, and field audits (many fire equipment service providers employ means to measure a technician's progress or utilize other methods of quality control).

As of the date of this report, we have been unable to determine the exact sanctions imposed on the two senior Active technicians involved (ASTTBC has the ability to levy monetary fines against their members which we have reason to suspect has been implemented in this instance).  The bigger questions however, are:

What responsibility does Active’s owner, Harjit Sangha (an RFPT) have in all this?

What sort of sanctions should he (and Active Fire and Safety) face?

If two senior technicians employed by Mr. Sangha have managed to so thoroughly botch this one inspection, how concerned should someone be about them repeating this on another?  Or worse... on a VERIFICATION of a new (or upgraded) system?  (There are three Active Fire and Safety technicians currently on Vancouver's List of Approved Verification Agencies.)

Many would suggest that losing the account and the building owner’s refusal to pay for what amounts to a BOGUS inspection would be considered punishment enough, but not in this writer’s opinion.  The deficiencies uncovered in the course of the re-inspection/audit makes it abundantly clear that the building’s residents and the public were at grave risk (and that this unacceptable situation had been allowed to continue for some time).

This writer is calling for a complete audit of the annual reports filed by this company’s technicians for the last five (5) years as well as a review of Active’s (and Mr. Sangha’s) training methods.  Furthermore, any verifications performed through Active's auspices must also be thoroughly reviewed.  If ASTTBC is unable to muster the resources (in manpower) necessary to carry out such a detailed audit, then the AHJ’s in those jurisdictions in which Active Fire technicians practice should step up to do so.

It’s been made more than obvious (to this writer at least) that Active’s corporate vision doesn’t prioritize life safety as it should, and that the words commitment and responsibility mean nothing, other than that they look good on the new website.

I look forward to (and will devote my energies towards) the day that ASTTBC obtains a Province-wide mandate.  Indeed, fire protection technicians in British Columbia should ALL be working towards this end as it would finally provide the revenues necessary (through member dues) to enable the much needed investment in educational programs and the additional member services required.  In the interim, the Province must be lobbied for the funds to implement these initiatives as soon as possible.  The public’s safety should never be allowed to be compromised!

NOTE:  The management at Active Fire was provided the opportunity to comment on this story before we released it for publication to the world-wide web.  It's now July 4th, 2010 and no response has been forthcoming.  In case you missed it, Active Fire and Safety Services Ltd. came to our attention with the launch of their new website (in March of 2009) and its subsequent sudden withdrawal when it was learned that a good portion of the content was used without permission (i.e. stolen) from several fire equipment service companies websites in the U.S.

Care to comment on this article? Email us!  While the format of this website isn't that of a "Blog", we will endeavour to post some of your responses here.


UPDATE: The property manager has informed this writer that Active has referred the invoice for their bogus inspection to a collections agency following the owner’s refusal to pay for their service!  The building manager will be lodging formal complaints with the Vancouver Fire Department and the Better Business Bureau.

UPDATE: (June 2, 2010) We've written a new EDITORIAL.

UPDATE: (June 19, 2010) The two senior technicians involved in this debacle were each fined $250.00.  The individual that tagged off on the "repairs" to the fire alarm panel is also required to write the fire alarm system challenge exam.  The other technician (who was the actual lead tech on the botched sprinkler and fire alarm annual test/inspection) is required to write both the fire alarm and water based extinguishing systems challenge exams.  The passing mark has been increased to 80% for both technicians.  Harjit (Jit) Sangha, RFPT - President of Active Fire and Safety - has not received any official sanction in this matter.

UPDATE: (July 8, 2010) In addition to the sanctions imposed above, ASTTBC is also requiring the two technicians involved to “submit inspection reports for review by the Manager, Fire Protection Registration”.  Both individuals have accepted the terms of the stipulated orders.  They have successfully completed the challenge examinations and are currently under probation.

UPDATE: (July 29, 2010) Active Fire responds to this story and threatens to sue us for libel and slander unless we take steps to “cease and desist from making any such defamatory statements immediately”.  You can read the letter we received from Boughton Law Corporation.

UPDATE: (July 30, 2010) You can read my reply to Martin Sennott of Boughton Law, legal council for Active Fire and Safety Services Ltd.

UPDATE: (September 4, 2010) More bogus inspections.


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