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Tech-News & Views
April 2010

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Tech-News & Views


"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36

Vancouver - By Frank Kurz

On Friday, March 26, 2010, Vancouver City Council unanimously agreed to release the details of the illegal termination of Arkady Tsisserev, former Chief Electrical Inspector and City Electrician, which happend back on January 21st, 2010. While many in the media have eagerly awaited this event in anticipation of uncovering some newsworthy anecdotes relating to safety concerns at Olympic venues, the information actually serves to showcase just what happens when politicians make important fiscal decisions that require something us common folk call common sense.

Many more questions arise from this windfall of information than we will cover in this one story today, questions that demand answers, not the least of which surrounds the fair settlement arrangement in which Mr. Tsisserev was paid his wages (and accrued benefits) for a period just three months shy of his scheduled retirement date. I can only shake my head at the waste of taxpayers' money and the unprecedented loss to the city of Ark's talents occasioned by this Mayor's (and Council's) utter stupidity.

For shame Mr. Mayor. For shame Councillors!

In one of many of the leaked documents, Dr. Penny Ballem states (in what can only be described as one of the most ludicrous and moronic of justifications I have ever read) that "considerable savings" can be realized for the 2010 budget if Ark is terminated WITHOUT CAUSE immediately. That these "savings" are "long term". Really? Ark was retiring in July of 2011! I can tell you where the City would have saved money "long term", Dr. Ballem. For starters, how about in the smooth transition of authority to someone that would be able to meet the requirements of "fitness and merit" stipulated in the Charter for the City Electrician which would have occured had Ark remained to be an active participant in the process? Dr. Ballem cannot justify what has been done in any meaningful way (or one that actually makes sense to any normal person like you or me for instance) and her feeble attempts to do so are equally gross insults to the intelligence of the Mayor, the Council and to the people of Vancouver.

To put a medical spin on what has occured here (for Dr. Ballem's benefit), you have essentially removed a healthy organ and by doing so, jeopardized your Patient's well-being. In your former field of endeavour, this is termed malpractice, Dr. Ballem. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it criminal malpractice since it also involved violating the Vancouver Charter.

For shame, Dr. Ballem. For shame.

In Council's inestimable wisdom (the kind that lacks any shred of decency, common sense or fairness), they felt it was better to place the safety of Vancouver's citizens into the hands of an individual that knows how to turn on a light switch, but hasn't a clue about what's involved in ensuring he's not electrocuted in doing so. They've also managed to thoroughly humiliate and denigrate a man that has demonstrated the highest regard for the public's welfare and is acclaimed throughout North America as an expert in the fields of life and electrical safety (not to mention that he's been a loyal, honest, committed, and steadfast employee for sixteen years to boot).

For shame, Mr. Mayor. For shame, Councillors.

So let's explore a little further a fair settlement for someone of Mr. Tsisserev's responsibilities and position. Normal industry practice provides for one month's salary for every year served when a layoff occasioned by "restructuring" or "budgetary issues" involves the level of senior management to which Ark belonged. The information released by city manager Penny Ballem shows that Ark was initially offered only twelve months wages (they settled on fifteen)! Hardly what could be termed fair when Dr. Ballem's own contract provides for a three year buyout should things not work out between her and the city - and she's only been working in her present capacity for less than two years! You have to ask yourself: Why the sweetheard deal for Dr. Ballem? What makes her so special in comparison to the contributions made by Arkady Tsisserev to the international community?

Then we have the issue of Mr. Tsisserev's city pension. Ark had targetted July 31st 2011 as his last day. Had he been allowed to complete his service with the city, he would have enjoyed a modest "boost" in his monthly retirement stipend ($400.00 approximately). It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but in this economy, it would have served as a nice buffer against future inflationary pressures. Now that's, as we say, history too. When you consider his length of service and the fact the he is still much admired by his former staff and co-workers, Ark wasn't even allowed the honour of celebrating his retirement let alone receiving the recognition due him for his service to the city (and Canada) by the Mayor and Council.

And finally, the most damning of all: the Mayor has the temerity to state that the City and it's citizens are still "safe". Right! Better keep those fingers crossed, Mr. Johnston!

For shame, Mr. Mayor. For shame, Councillors.

We're going to explore the meaning of a Contractor's Declaration and compare it to the normal process of a typical project's inspections in another installment shortly. We'll do this so that we can actually demonstrate why many concerned industry stakeholders believe that the safety of Vancouver's citizens is in grave peril. We'll also highlight (in the coming days) some glaring discrepancies with several of the Live City sites and Olympic venues, reports of which CKNW (a news organization I once held in the highest esteem) and the Mayor have continued to promote as "baseless". Stay tuned!



April 9, 2010

Vancouver - It's somehow fitting that ASTTBC rolls out a new system of fines and other consequences in the battle to deal with formal complaints against Registered Fire Protection Technicians (RFPT's) on the very day many Canadians pause to reflect on, and remember, the anniversary of our victory at Vimy Ridge. Many will probably view the forgoing statement as somewhat blasphemous but I think today marks an auspicious turning point where duty, integrity, and the higher standard will start to replace the complacency and poor practice that has been plaguing the industry in the Lower Mainland. The Practice Review Board (PRB) and the Disciplinary Committee are going to raise the stakes on formal censures which will serve to hit the offending technician right where it hurts the most - in the pocket-book. A new structure of fines has been introduced along with the ability to impose an additional sanction that may also require you to face a challenge exam in the appropriate discipline (where you must score 80%) in order to maintain that certification.

It's about time.

You can't put the cart before the horse, however. To be fair, you must provide the technicians the tools and resources they need to meet the unique challenges they face on a daily basis. For ASTTBC to properly meet their own mandate, they must also promote a culture involving ongoing technical development through continuing education, the sharing of knowledge, and the dissemination of information. They must be pro-active in rooting out poor practice and in helping to identify specific areas requiring improvement through regular auditing and individual monitoring of a technician's progress. They must also introduce a method by which those technicians that consistently demonstrate the higher standard can be formally recognized and rewarded.

In order to raise the bar you have to give us something to shoot for.

For those of you that are currently involved in a disciplinary process you must recognize not only what brought you to the PRB's attention, but also be able to put the process into the context of the Practice Guidelines. The individual that filed the complaint against you is not responsible for your present circumstance. YOU, AND YOU ALONE, ARE. If, for instance, you're performing testing on a fire alarm panel that you are unfamiliar with you must inform your employer and the necessary resources must be made available to you if you're still expected to carry out the work. You have the right to refuse work on a system you have no specific training on and are actually mandated to do so in the Practice Guideline. If the testing form you're using isn't properly completed (or not in the correct format), DON'T SIGN IT. If you tag a panel as having been "repaired", take the time to properly identify the work you specifically performed on the back of the tag. If you've successfully met the certification requirements for the testing of fire pumps (prior to April 9th), you may actually possess a stamp with the "WA" designation. This does NOT mean you can start testing (or tagging) water based extinguishing systems (sprinklers). Just as if you have no formal certification in a particular discipline, you can't be performing the work which it entails in a community that hasn't formally adopted a by-law requiring ASTTBC technicians. Although some unscrupulous employers won't hesitate to exploit these loopholes (and perhaps even pressure, or tempt you into doing so), it's not worth you losing your certification entirely when you're caught (and you WILL BE CAUGHT). That employer will simply go on to find another willing victim, while you're out of a job (and possibly a career).

There is no doubt in my mind that unscrupulous owners (or managers) of some fire equipment service companies are often at the heart of complaints involving poor practice. ASTTBC must be willing to prosecute those owners that are also RFPT's when the complaint process consistently identifies their specific company's involvement. In this instance, the fines against the owner(s) should double, or even quadruple those imposed upon the employee technician. Furthermore, for such an owner to disavow any knowledge of a technician's poor practice is not only disingenuous, it's downright dishonest. The owner (or manager) has the power to set the standard by which his entire organization is measured. If that owner happens to be an RFPT he is not only responsible for ensuring the Practice Guideline is followed to the letter, he must also shoulder the responsibility to ensure the technicians in his employ are given access to the resources necessary to advance their careers. This benefits everyone.

I see ASTTBC's new power to levy fines and impose these additional sanctions as a necessary "first step" towards meeting the goals they espouse in their mission statement. They must also provide improved service to the fire protection community as a whole to successfully close the circle and move towards enshrining their mandate on a Provincial level.



Building owners and managers are looking at increased costs to perform annual fire alarm inspections as new clauses in CAN/ULC-S536-04 come into effect. While the bulk of the changes surround testing of distributed (addressable) and large networked systems, there is one clause that will redefine the way we test conventional panels (and add a significant amount of time to the process on larger multi-zoned systems).

5.7.11 - Each input circuit and output circuit end-of-line device shall be tested for open circuit fault, short circuit fault, and ground fault conditions.

I figure this will add ten minutes for every end-of-line device in a system. On some older systems it will require the diligence of Sherlock Holmes to track them down (frequently they're not even mounted on an identifiable plate, but behind the last device in the circuit).

What should an inspecting technician do if the wiring used in the system doesn't meet current installation requirements or if the device back-box isn't properly grounded? Will this result in a failure (RED TAG) of the system? We've updated our FAQ's with the answers to these questions (and more)!



Vancouver - April 3, 2010 - By Frank Kurz

What exactly is a Contractor’s Declaration and how does it compare to an actual site inspection by qualified individuals?
Both processes start off with the contractor applying for a permit. Application for a permit usually involves submittal of drawings describing the scope of work proposed, the type of equipment being installed, and... MORE...



Email us! We'll make sure it gets out there!



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