MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Vancouver - The weather out here isn't frightful. In fact we're all enjoying a very GREEN Christmas. I wish to take this opportunity to wish you all the best of the holiday season and a very happy and prosperous New Year!
HOUSE FIRE KILLS THREE IN VANCOUVER!
A recent tragic fire in which three people lost their lives has focussed attention on a civic authority which allowed a Landlord living offshore to operate a single family home as an illegal rooming house. The investigation (so far) into the cause of the fire has determined it was started by an old set of incandescent Christmas lights, but many more questions need answers. Why was the Landlord even allowed to continue to deflect the efforts of Vancouver's By-Law Enforcement officers who recognized that the home was being utilized as an illegal boarding house? Why has it taken so long for the City to process applications from its neediest citizens for the available social housing units at the former Olympic village? With their attention focussed on bike lanes and chicken coops (and the many high profile photo-ops these attracted) it's apparent to me that the most important promise made by this Council had been relegated a much lower priority. The fact that it took the lives of three individuals to put the lack of social housing in Vancouver back onto this Mayor's agenda is nothing less than criminal.
ACME FIRE & SAFETY COMPANY TEAMS UP WITH ACTIVE FIRE AND SAFETY TO RESTRICT FIRE ALARM VERIFICATION AGENCIES!
Burnaby and Surrey - The really nice (and I use the term loosely) people at Acme Fire and Safety Company would have you believe that only a factory authorized distributor or manufacturer's branch office should be able to verify the specific life safety equipment a technician's been trained on. This is apparently supported by another letter dated October 26th from Potter Electric Signal's Tim Frankenberg which Active Fire and Safety Services has been using in their defence of an incorrectly installed (and verified) PFC-9000 (read about that here). Now, in a joint effort, these two companies have launched a campaign to have limits imposed on those agencies already approved as "unrestricted" on the Vancouver List (which happens to include me along with a number of other fire alarm service providers and some rather prominent local Professional Engineers). This wouldn't be so ludicrous if you didn't already know that BOTH these companies employ supposedly factory trained technicians that have managed to botch several recent verifications in a number of jurisdictions across the Lower Mainland.
Foul, I say!
To add insult to further injury, Acme was the agency Active Fire hired to perform the verification at a downtown Vancouver high-rise involving a Notifier system in which they submitted a deliberately altered CAN/ULC-S536 inspection report in place of the required CAN/ULC-S537 Appendix "C" documentation. Not only that, a number of key fire alarm devices weren't even listed as having been tested! They included all the data communication loop isolators, initiating modules mounted behind every conventional Potter pull station and remote addressable relays. The factory trained technician passed wall-mounted hallway smoke detectors that were embedded in the crown moulding installed by the building owner to conceal the new wire runs required by the upgrade. I still happen to harbour grave doubts as to whether-or-not the voltage drop on the two signal circuits even meets the manufacturer's specification considering a single 18-5 cable serves as the riser for both.
I QUESTION THE VALIDITY of every verification Acme Fire and Safety Company has performed prior to March 5, 2010 if the supporting documentation was submitted using the same S536 INSPECTION format. The failure to properly document installed devices was still manifest, by the way, in a report they submitted to an owner of another building in Burnaby as recently as September 27th, 2010 (even though it was done using the correct form). You can read more about that HERE.
I'm all for improving the standard of practice. In fact, it is the raison d'Ítre behind this website. I am disgusted and angry at watching so-called professionals sign off on installations that fall far short of the Standards to which they certify they test to, that flaunt their status as Registered Fire Protection Technicians, while flouting a Code of Ethics and Conduct which they've all sworn to uphold. Rogue technicians like this are the bane of our industry and view professional certification as a joke and a means to an end. They should be expunged. When two companies start advocating for imposing limits on what a technician (or qualified person) can and can't do, it strikes me as utterly ridiculous and entirely disingenuous when these same two companies employ the kind of individuals that will continue to wade hip deep in shoddy inspection practices. If my Mom was still alive, she'd tell you to clean your own house before you start commenting on the state of someone else's.
“CAN/ULC-S537-04 Appendix A (Informative) - Qualified Personnel
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.” (Underlined for emphasis.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are a building owner or electrical contractor and you happen to harbour any doubts over the services or the inspection/testing a fire protection equipment provider has provided, please contact your local Fire Department's Fire Prevention Office.
We have some major contenders lining up for the first ever Burning Brick Award. Keep watching!
FALSE ALARMS. HOW BAD ARE THEY?
In a recent report filed by the NFPA, it was revealed that fire departments across the USA responded to 2.2 million false alarms in 2009. That translates to 6027 a day, or 251 every hour! What a phenomenal waste of man hours and equipment costs. What's even more frustrating is that most of the false alarms were cooking related (it's speculated where smoke alarms were positioned too close to kitchens).
Toronto has recently adopted what's termed a zero tolerance false alarm policy that have many people responding by simply disconnecting their fire detection systems. This isn't exactly the effect Toronto City Council was aiming for, I'm sure. If we were to take their numbers though, the fine is $350.00 per truck (the average false alarm dispatch involves three so that's $1050.00) and "crunch" them into the 2.2 million figure from the NFPA report you reach a staggering $2,310,000,000.
It would be interesting to see if the various fire departments could document their own community's false alarm statistics to an open, centralized data base so that our industry could perhaps identify specific problems and provide solutions to address the more common causes. My chief concern (not-with-standing the one that involves someone deliberately disconnecting their automatic fire detection systems) relates to the fact that while the trucks are rolling to another false alarm, the response to a real fire emergency could be tragically delayed. In situations where literally seconds count, you want to ensure the resources are available when and where they're needed. I'd like to see a national organization like CFAA promote such an initiative perhaps with the help of one of the bigger manufacturers sponsoring it (Honeywell?? UTC?? Nudge, nudge).
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