Nov 8, 2021
This week we are talking to Steven Lewis who has had 30 years in the fire alarm industry in sales. Steven sits on the NFPA committee for NFPA 72 and has recently been appointed to NFPA 420. We speak about the how to get the next generation of fire protection professionals into the field, career development and much more.
Tell me about your early career?
Tell me about some of your project work?
Do you have an occupancy specialty?
What is your background on NFPA Technical committees?
Tell me about your involvement in the NFPA 72 technical committee?
What piece of advice do you have for professionals?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Hello, all welcome to episode 40 of fire code tech. On this episode, we have Steven Lewis. Steven is a fire alarm professional. Who's been in the industry over 30 years. In this episode, we talk about some of Steven's fascinating work in the field of technical design and sales. We get into some of his big success stories.
And later on in the interview, we talk about some of his great work in the area of, uh, volunteering on NFPA technical committees. Uh, most notably the, uh, NFPA 72 committee for notification appliances and the new NFPA technical document that's coming out, which is NFPA four 20, the standard for cannabis related facilities, tune in.
If you want to find out some great takeaways from Steven's career, as well as some really interesting information on the variety. Of facilities and systems that Steven has been a part of designing, including, um, some exposition about gas detection systems. Do us a big favor and subscribe. So you never miss an episode.
And also if you wouldn't mind, give us a rate and review on apple podcast, that would be a big help. Also, if you listen on YouTube, hit that like, and subscribe. All right. Let's dive into the episode, Steven. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I'm happy to have you. Thank you very much, GU I tell you it was such a surprise and pleasure to hear from you.
I, um, it, it's nice to get recognized and people, uh, appreciate what you do. And so, yeah, that was a pleasant surprise. I appreciate that. Awesome. Well, yeah, it's always, uh, gamble reaching out to people. So it's uh, it's a good thing. I'm glad you're interested in coming on. Yeah. And, and, and I will tell you too, GU that the second reason for me not only was a surprise and I, and I appreciate all that, but it's, you know, wanting to give back to, to the fire industry and hoping I can get some listeners that, that Mike find this fire industry industry and, and make career changes.
Um, you know, I, I just saw some interesting stats that just number of people in this, uh, in this industry are retiring and we're just looking for, for new people to, to kind of, you know, take the torch. Yeah, I agree. It seems like that has been a, um, emphasis recently in the field. Is this kind of, uh, how do we get the next generation informed that this is a, you know, an option and not just an option, but.
Um, a wonderful career path and, uh, with a lot of promise. So I agree with what you're saying any way that we can, um, get the word out and let people know about, uh, what a great career fire in life safety can be is, uh, it's a good deal. So I'm glad that you, uh, feel that way as well. Nice, nice. Yeah. So I like to get these, uh, podcasts kinda started and get people acclimated with you, Steven, and just talk about a little bit about your origin story and kind of how you found the field as a transition, um, from our topic of how others could find, um, their way to this field.
Yeah, no, uh, great question. I'll tell you, you know, back in the day, all I simply did was, was answer a newspaper ad, uh, back in the early nineties, uh, for a company named SIMPL and they were. Really looking outside of the company for people with sales experience that that wanted to explore the, you know, the fire life safety industry.
And, and it sounded exciting. It sounded rewarding. And it just sounded like something that, um, might sound cliche, but where, where I could make a difference, you know? And so I responded to the ad and interviewed with them and, uh, was hired, uh, not knowing a single and, and I think that's the important thing, not knowing a single thing about this industry, but understanding the importance and the need for the services, uh, that, that you can bring to the table.
And I was willing to invest in my, my time into the company and the industry to learn about it, cuz um, I just had a gut feeling about it, uh, not really knowing anything about it. And, and I think that that would be good for your listeners because it doesn't coming into this. It's just really having the right aptitude and enthusiasm to take on a challenge and, and learn something new.
And that was it for me. And, um, it was just the, the best career choice ever. Awesome. Yeah. I think that, uh, you know, I frequently talk about that. You don't have to have all the answers or any of the answers starting out, um, just to have a good, like you said, attitude and, and ambition to learn as the recipe for success.
Um, uh, but yeah, I like hearing about that. That's interesting. That's the first time I've ever heard anyone say that they, uh, got their start in fire and line safety from a newspaper ad, but I've heard a variety of stories from family members to, um, you know, just people. Mutual contacts. And so I like hearing about that.
It's always interesting. I find how people, um, kind of stumbled their way in. It seems like that's a common theme for, uh, people in fire and life safety. Yeah. And, and another thing I too really knowing nothing about the industry, but, uh, I felt in my heart that this is a product, this is a service that all buildings, uh, all communities, all people, you know, rely on, might not really think about it initially in a building, but these type of things, uh, that are provided through fire life safety really in one sense might be thought of as a commodity, you know, like breathing air, but it's, it's essential, uh, uh, for buildings.
And I knew this was something that, um, would have no reflection on what the economy is doing at the time or. Or what the markets are doing or whatever. Uh, I just felt just, it was just the right, the right move for me. And, and, and, and I really lucked out on that. I really had nothing to go on, just what I felt the industry would bring and, um, yeah, heard that well.
Yeah, that's awesome. I feel, I feel similarly, you know, I kind of, uh, stumbled my way into the field as well. And, you know, I just, uh, had heard that it had good stability and like you were saying reliable, uh, work. And so that was honestly the biggest thing that drew me to the field. Um, so I resonate with that statement, but, um, yeah, yeah, too.
GU I tell you, I always remember this from a conference about six or seven years ago. Uh, I was at an AFAA conference and, and the chairman at that time said, you know, This is we're, we're not mowing lawns here. This, this is a higher calling to a certain degree. I mean, you're, you're entrusted with buildings and people and property, and I really feel the same way.
I, I was always looking for something where, where I felt in my heart. It, it, it would be kind of a higher calling. Um, you know, my mom probably wish I, I was a doctor, a lawyer, those kind of typical things, but, um, I really feel like it, it's a higher calling to a certain degree because, um, you know, I feel like I am making, um, a difference in, in these buildings.
Yeah. There is that Def definitely greater impetus on people in the field and, you know, the feeling that these are, um, you know, systems that protect property and lives. And it's not just, if you phone it in at your job, you're not just, um, You know, it's, uh, it has implications. So, and, um, if you can find a job that's meaningful or a career that's meaningful and also has, um, um, impact on society and the greater good, I think that it makes you feel even better at the end of the day.
And so, yeah, I definitely feel that, um, yes, but, uh, yeah, for, for context, you know, um, what kind of different, um, projects and different kind of work did you get involved with, um, at your first role, um, in sales and just a different fire alarm, um, equipment Steven. So GU there, there are a couple of projects that I like to talk about that had a huge impact on my career.
Uh, back in the days when I was with Simpla back in Kentucky, uh, There, there were two major accounts that, that really just launched my career and kept me in this industry. And, and I feel, you know, your listeners would, would, would learn from and, and, and maybe help them in career decisions. Um, you know, being from Kentucky, uh, the home of, you know, Kentucky fried chicken, uh, the parent brand is called gum brands and they own, uh, the KFC taco bells, pizza huts, all that.
And based in Louisville, of course, and I got involved with, uh, with their co-ops that, uh, that the, the co-ops, uh, provide, uh, catalogs, if you will, of, of all the things you would need in any of the, you know, the 10,000, 20,000. Restaurants that, that they serve around the world. Um, whether it's ice chicken or, or anything dealing with, with, with the stores.
And I was able to get in their catalogs, uh, the fire alarm package, uh, that would be needed for any of these restaurants. And pretty much they, they were what I would call duct detector. Uh, H V a C uh, systems. Uh, we provided duct detectors, uh, for three or four, depending upon the prototype of the store, put together these packages.
I got them put into these catalogs. Um, and, and then it was just a matter of the franchisees or, or the corporate stores. They, they would see these in the catalog and, um, We would then receive, you know, uh, orders for these, you know, from our office in Kentucky. And, and I ran a national account for them, uh, out of the Louisville branch, uh, for simplex at the time.
Um, and we were probably shipping out 10 to 15 stores a week all over the country. And what I found really interesting that it was eye-opening for me to learn that's that's when I first discovered, uh, how different jurisdictions around the country worked, uh, where I found that Florida and Texas and California and Connecticut, and some of the other, um, you know, what the codes were and what was involved in, in putting in these, these life safety systems in the restaurants.
So it was, it was really rewarding for me. We, we would ship these out of our office. We. We'd put together the plans and, and get these out, uh, for all these restaurants. And, and that was a real rewarding thing. I, uh, never my wildest dreams thought that I would be, you know, involved with, with, with the KFCs and the pizza hut and the taco bells back in the day, but that was extremely, uh, rewarding.
We're still in their catalogs. Um, you know, so franchisees, you know, they'd have to go around and shop around for these products. Um, just pick 'em out of the catalog. So I was, I was really blessed with that account. The, the other one that was even more rewarding, which was another national account. Uh, I was able to get in a chain of movie theaters at the time, national amusements showcase cinemas based outta Massachusetts and what was able to kind of seal the deal for me was.
At the time the, the engineer happened to be based, uh, just across the river from Kentucky. Uh, and, and we had a relationship and he was involved with this chain of movie theaters and, and what I was able to do that no one else seemed to be able to bring to the table was, was, was take the smoke detectors that were put in the theaters.
And it was in the neighborhood of a, you know, 200, 300 smoke detectors per theater chain. Uh, and we, we would electrostatic these smoke detectors black in order to, you know, to match the ceiling. And, and this was, this was really a challenge. I, I had to think out of the box, um, at the time. People were, you know, with their fridges that might be an almond or a green color in their homes.
They were, you know, the trend back then was to electrostatic paint the doors of these fridges, uh, in order to be, you know, updated color, if you will. And I found, uh, I found a guy in, in, in Louisville that, that electrostatic painted, uh, the smoke detectors for me. I would, I would get these shipped into our office.
I. Take them apart and, and take them over to this gentleman. And it would take him a couple weeks, but he would electrostatic these, uh, uh, these smoke detectors to, to a matte black color. Um, and, and what was interesting, you know, if you were able, you know, if, if you wanted to do this from a manufacturer, you know, to dye supplement, smoke detectors was very, is, is very expensive, you know, to get those in another color.
And it was, uh, prohibitive to, to do that at the time at, um, you know, for any particular theater. So I, I came up with many samples of these and took them over. Uh, the national amusements review, those and, and the engineer. And at the end of the day, uh, they, they came out great. You know, you know, the contractors weren't able to scratch paint off when you would Mount these.
And, and I had to get a letter, uh, uh, from, uh, that I put together. That would actually, it, it, it voided the UL listing on that because you cannot paint smoke detectors. But I explained to, you know, to the customer that while, while we did void the UL listing, these would be tested to all NPA 72 standards.
And we would ensure that they work properly. Um, but, uh, have them sign a letter, you know, uh, explain that they, they understood that, that this was a voided UL listed detector, but it, it worked. Perfect. We, we just didn't have that. And that ended up sealing the deal for me in order to get this account. Uh, so we probably did 20, 30 movie theater chains, uh, in, in the next two or three years and engineered those and put those together out of our office in Louisville.
And, and, you know, I had a second national account that we serviced, uh, throughout the Midwest and east. Um, and it was really exciting. I mean, I, I just, my wildest dreams, I, I just, um, couldn't believe that, that we were able to, to do this kinda work and, and the customer was happy and did, uh, a lot of traveling with, with these theaters and such.
But, um, to me, those, those are two, two of the most significant jobs that, that impacted my career in, in. Kept me interested and kept me involved in doing what I'm doing. Cuz I knew that, you know, it's something that you just, you know, at times need to think outside of the box, um, and, and provide the solution and, and, and it worked out and, um, I don't know, it, it just really, really impact me and energize me.
And I think people wanting to get into this business just realize that there is, you know, there's so many opportunities and so many different ways and it's so rewarding. Uh, I, I keep the black smoke detector. I have a couple extra, I keep one on my desk just as a reminder that, you know, you just need to think outside of the box at times and, and work with your customer and, and you can get things done.
So, yeah. So I just wanted to share those with you. Awesome. Yeah. I think that there are times where you just have to problem solve. That's something that. Paramount in our business and yeah. So that's, that's really neat stories about some big successes that you've had in your career. Um, getting creative.
Um, I think that's probably something that's, uh, across the board, you gotta be somebody who problem solves and, um, gets the job done. So that's interesting. Do you feel like you've had a specialty in one, uh, type of occupancy more than others? Um, I like what you're saying about, you know, the variety is such a nice, um, change of pace for work and different, you know, every day is kind of different.
Every project's kind of different, even if it's the same type of system, but yeah. Do you have an, any, uh, specialty, would you say with any in regards to any occupancy? I, I would say high rise buildings. Um, I, I. Really enjoy, you know, uh, I, I would say in, in the high rise building, it's just, you know, the amount of people that potentially can go in these large 20, 30 story buildings and be able to provide, uh, protection where, you know, you, you, you can evacuate people safely from, from the top of the building down to the bottom and, and, and understand.
And, and I think I got the best perspective on that from, from just seeing what, what occurred during nine 11 and, and how we rely on, on, on the fire command center, uh, on the equipment and, and being able to, to, you know, I spent a lot of time, uh, with fire departments, helping them understand what these fire alarm panels could do.
And, and when you go into an Highrise building and the things you look for and. And you know, how to acknowledge and reset alarms and such, but, but, you know, the codes are very specific, very, very strong in regards to high rise buildings. Uh, when we get into, uh, you know, intelligibility, uh, you know, area of refuge, uh, you know, proper way to do elevator control, you know, how you manage, uh, a smoke management or a smoke control system, you know, how are you venting things out?
Um, you know, what what's involved with with a two hour rated corridor, you know, there, there's so many things involved, uh, with high rise buildings. Um, and, and, uh, yeah, I really, really enjoy those because it, it, it, it just takes, takes a little more work and, and, and I, I have the ability to. When I'm designing these buildings to kind of look in these buildings, kind of like in a 3d perspective where I can, from the plans, I can look at these and, and really see how someone, you know, if myself was, was on the 50th floor, you know, in a corner office, you know, what, what would I do if the fire alarm system went out, went off, you know, what, what type of messages and what are the things you need, need to do to be able to evacuate safely?
So, uh, yeah, high rise buildings for me. Um, give me probably the most satisfaction because I know how complicated they can be. And, and what's involved in something as simple as just trying to, you know, evacuate and, and it's no easy thing. Yeah, definitely. I have a, I've been, uh, had the first couple high rise designs of my career fairly recently and yeah, it's extremely complicated.
Uh, You know, uh, as it relates to fire alarm systems, knowing all of the different components that you need to provide specifically for Highrise buildings, you know? Um, so just like trying to understand all the requirements of a fire command room. And, you know, stairwell pressurization systems and smoke control systems, um, that are more common in Highrise buildings.
So there's definitely a greater level of complexity and, um, a higher, uh, level of just detail required to, you know, shafts that need combination, fire, smoke, dampers. Um, there's so many different fire alarm components and Highrise buildings. Uh, it's one of those high complexity, high hazard occupancy where fire protection really gets more of a seat at the table.
So, um, I like hearing about that. Yeah. I like to get involved early on in these risk analysis and get, and get all the players to the table and, you know, um, if need be, have meetings with, with those fire departments on the front end to understand. You know, what, what the intent is. You know, one of the questions I ask a lot of my clients is, is, you know, if there was a fire in your high rise building, where you tell me, where, where do you want to be?
You know, in the newspaper, do, do you wanna be on page one or you wanna be back on page 10, where we were able to take care of that? You know, tell me what your, what your thoughts are. I mean, minimum code or the, the things we need to do that, you know, might, might save, you know, you know, the 10 or 15 extra seconds to evacuate people.
I, I tell you, that's one of the main reasons why I wanted to serve on NPA 72 chapter 18 and NX a because that chapter deals with notification appliances for, for, for, for firearm systems and buildings. And for me, again, that's, that's the important aspect is, is, you know, what is the protocol and, and the things that we need to do.
In order to evacuate people, you know, you know, should, should the fire system say where I am in San Francisco. Um, the, the, we, we have a, a section of the city. We have a lot of, uh, Chinese businesses and Highrise buildings that predominantly, probably 80, 90% or Chinese should, should those evacuation messages be, you know, in Chinese, um, for those buildings.
And in some cases they are. Um, so there there's a lot of things to consider. I, I, um, really enjoy that. Uh, I've gotten a lot of satisfaction out of that. And, and really when you get into these notification appliances, you know, it just gets really complex in, in designing these and, you know, um, and location of devices and, and the things there's so much going on now with, with the development in this chapter, um, You know, L E D devices, indirect devices, you know, I see all types of devices out there and you know, these high profile speakers that are now, I mean, these are, these are quality speakers that you, you could put in Carnegie hall, you know, it's, uh, where intelligibility, it's not so much just making the noise, but people being able to understand the noise, understand the messages and, and, uh, you know, in a lot of jurisdictions around the country, I find that, that they prefer that these messages be from a female voice versus a male voice, because it's more soothing.
So there's so many things that, that go into this because we, we, you know, we never wanna be in that situation, you know? Yeah. Yeah. That's very interesting about having the, um, you know, thinking about. It is a more complex problem than just meeting the minimum requirements of code, really trying to provide, not just a fire and line safety system, but a holistic view of the building and an assessment of how is this building gonna be used?
Uh, I think that's a, uh, look at the greater picture of fire protection and life safety that sometimes we lose sight of in the, um, architecture, engineering and construction industry. So fascinat brings up a good point us cuz nowadays I'm seeing it, especially in a lot of the high tech buildings and all the buildings where, where we have so many different names for, for rooms with, within a building, whether it's a, a cell room, you know, a lactation room, you know, a quiet room.
Um, you know, I, I just, you know, I could be with the examples. These type rooms. And what type of coverage do you provide in that? Do you, you know, if you have an office that has two desks versus one desk and you know, what the different fire departments require for that and, you know, and, and, and so, yeah, it's, uh, every day these, these buildings are evolving and, and growing and, and the technology and the things that that we're doing, um, is really, uh, challenging at times.
Yeah. That's always such a very, I feel like, uh, kind of nebulous, um, or like just a point of the, in the code where it's at the, uh, designer or engineer's discretion, um, of the application of that notification device. Um, you know, I've seen, like, if you're looking at, uh, department of defense jobs, it's a little bit more clear, you know, counting the chairs in the room, if there's over.
I forget what it is, uh, three or four chairs on the furniture plan, then you're putting a device in that room. So you kind of have that as some sort of a guideline, but as a young professional, I found that as something that was very hard to understand, um, you know, as a code nerded, sometimes I just would rather it was more prescriptive.
Um, but as you get, um, more years of experience, you can kind of understand where that line is for, um, you know, those appliances. Yeah. I, I was at an NPA conference several years ago when you, you know, you talk about prescriptive, but I see more and more countries doing, uh, performance based. Um, I heard a engineer from New Zealand talk about how they really use the performance base and.
you know, uh, that's really worked for them very well. So, you know, you see that, uh, too, where people, you know, what methods are they choosing the prescriptive or performance base or those kind of things. Uh, you know, other things, uh, that I'm seeing too. I tell you just when, when you just talk about an office with, with, with two desks in it, well, let's say that they have a, a window in that office looking out well, you know, depending on whether they put a shade or, or a bookcase or something in there, you know, things can change, change just based upon, uh, you know, the windows in an office and, and you know, how things can change over time and, you know, will, will that window be blocked with, with a blind that, you know, you can't see out of or different things.
So it's, you, you really have to, to kind of dive into it and, and. And sort things out. You, you, you just, um, there's just too much at stake. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So, Steven, you talked a little bit about your involvement in professional societies. Um, I saw on your, or your LinkedIn that you've had a longstanding relationship with with N E yeah.
I'd love to hear about how you stayed involved with N E and kind of some of the different roles that you've held if you wouldn't mind. Yeah. So I have to say early on in my career simp had, uh, was really wanting and encouraging, you know, their employees to get involved at NCI. And, you know, I chose early on to, to take this on in my career and learn about NCI.
I tell you it's, um, you know, if you're not an F PE or an electrical engineer, You know, these certifications and, and the different programs out there, you, you, you just want people to know that you're engaged and that you're spending time to learn about this industry mindset. I feel, you know, for me, uh, has been the best learning out there.
I, um, when I got involved with N it took me, it took me probably a good six or seven years to, to, to get to a level three. And then testing for level four, um, was challenging. It took me several times and it, it took me to, to get the level four, reaching out to the board of directors of to explain to them that one of the test questions really had a couple of answers versus the one answer they thought, and they reversed the decision and, and gave me N at level four, um, which was amazing.
I, um, And from that I, um, you know, I offered my services to, to EK. Uh, they were up in Virginia, uh, to, to be a subject matter expert and, and help them develop, um, test questions for level four in level three. So I've gone up to Virginia one time and I've typically every other year, you know, I get involved in workshops and in writing questions to keep things, you know, keep things fresh and relevant in the market.
You know, back in the day, everything was, was, uh, the paper test. And I remember going in there with seemed like 20, 30 pounds of, of books, uh, to prepare for this. But, you know, going through, through the evolution of that and, you know, getting involved with the test writing workshops and then, um, you know, they presented me an opportunity, uh, to be an ambassador for ICI because.
Quite honestly, um, you know, the marketing in general, they, they don't have a lot of resources, a lot of money available to, to, to, to get that out there to the community. And so being an ambassador, what I do is, is I go there and work with, with fire departments, the a and E community, and, and really contractors there, anyone involved in the fire life safety industry and, and try to tell them, you know, this is, um, something that, that you should, you should go after you, you should get your certifications, you know, with this in my, you know, in my mind, like I said earlier, is, is a higher calling.
So, uh, I think that the ambassador program that I've been involved with for over 10 years has given me a lot of satisfaction, knowing that, that I'm getting people new in the industry involved and getting them the, you know, uh, firearm level one and level two. And. And encourage them to, to stay with it.
And, um, and also, um, you know, I, I have my level one level two and in the test and inspect with NSU. So, uh, you know, it's it it's for me to, to, to maintain these systems, to maintain 'em properly and exercise the systems. Uh, there's a lot of importance in that certification as well, to know how to test and inspect systems correctly in, in the right things to do.
And, you know, so it nice. It is, is invaluable. I, um, I see these guys at all the conferences and, and I just encourage everyone. To, to get involved with Isaac. Um, that's been the most rewarding thing for me. Yeah, that's great. I love hearing about people getting involved and encouraging professionals to become, um, certified and that way they can be, have a greater level of knowledge about the industry and the systems that they're providing and also having a way to advance themselves in their career, um, and networking the networking and organizations like this, um, are great and invaluable for your career.
So those are all great points, Steven. I like hearing about that. Yeah. Uh, yeah. I, I really encourage everyone. I mean, nice. It is just, you know, in so many companies now I encourage all companies that, you know, if, if your employees take this on and do this on their own time and. Wanna improve themselves, then they, they, they, they should get a, a salary bump.
Um, you're doing it for, for yourselves, but you're doing it for your company and protecting your, your company's liability. And, and in a sense, you know, you should be rewarded. Um, but my, uh, N does a really good job. I, I tell you, I, I, um, worked very closely with him and, and involved with him in developing other other courses and other things.
Um, but yeah, that, that, that's a big one for me. N he's very close to me. So, uh, moving on to a little bit about, um, where you're working now, Steven, and what kind of, uh, I, uh, what kind of projects and work that you're, um, in now for context about kind of this stage of your career, Yeah. So, so, um, from, from Louisville moved down to, to the bay area and, uh, I, I found a company that is a, a regional, uh, family owned company based in, in San Jose, uh, with offices in Seattle, uh, Sacramento, uh, Reno, and, and, and again, it's, it's, uh, it's a low voltage integrator probably does probably 70% in, in, in the security business, but RFI does boy, they do, uh, a fair amount in the fire life safety industry.
I I'll tell you it's, you know, working, uh, for a company like, like RFIs, give me a they've I'll tell you more than anything. They they've been so supportive of. All the things I'm involved in, whether it's NFPA or N or my CF P S certification or, or getting involved with a AA or S F P E they've been so supportive.
Uh, and, and that's made a huge difference because you, you know, the company, you know, RFI, uh, has invested a lot of, uh, money and resources and supported me to, to go to these conferences and be involved with these organizations. What, not only has it given them visibility, but for me, the networking and being out there, um, you know, just, just you have to stay relevant and you have to stay visible.
Um, for me, I, I will say that out here that these projects I'm involved in, it's so many high tech companies where, where the needs are, are, are a little more, um, uh, I feel a little more pressure, a lot more going on. I I'm involved. several very, you know, very, very large companies that you know, where we're monitoring, where they're making, um, you know, these clean labs, these claimers where, you know, they're, they're making chips and the, you know, wafers and, and all the things involved with, uh, machinery needed to process the, you know, uh, these things and where, where we're monitoring, you know, two, three, 4,000 gas, gas points in these systems.
Wow. Um, and, and, and, and, and these, these type of high tech companies is one in particular. Um, you know, if, if, if the building was to dump or we had to evacuate the building, I I'm told they, they would lose over a million dollars per hour in production. Um, and it's just, yeah. When, when you're monitoring, you know, 10, 15, 20 types of gas is coming into a facility.
Through, uh, you know what I call these gas monitoring panels on top of the fire alarm panels. Uh, it, it's been really interesting for me. I, you know, I've, I've learned a lot about these industries and it's just, it's, it's just overwhelming, uh, the stuff that you do on top of, you know, providing the early warning, uh, uh, aspir systems.
Um, I enjoy working with the high tech companies a lot. I, I enjoy working with, with, with the many school district I'm involved in, in colleges out here. Um, it's just, um, you know, the, the economy's been pretty good out here. We've been blessed. I, um, the product that, that we primarily lead with is, is, is Siemens.
And we, we get great support, great resources, you know, a lot of white papers, a lot of, you know, seminars, a lot of different things, you know, right now we're. Thus we're involved in these, these energy storage facilities, which are up and coming now. Yes. Uh, doing a number of those, uh, in different types of, uh, uh, technology used for detection and those types of facilities with flame detectors and different types of things.
Um, so it's been, uh, you know, you, it's just been really interesting. I, I tell you, I just learned so much from these different facilities that we're in. Yeah. I'd like to pick your brand more. You talked about some really, uh, complex and interesting topics. Haven't had too many opportunities in my career to work on gas detection systems because of, uh, they're just, well, at least in the occupancies that I've dealt with in my career, they're not as common.
And they're very complex and sensitive and you know, these sensors, um, you know, they, uh, like all sensors, they can go bad. So it's hard to design these systems, um, for thousands of points. That's pretty remarkable. And then, uh, another issue I'd, I'd love to hear more from you about is I just sat through a great presentation last week about, um, lithium ion, uh, batteries and their failure methods and the fire safety around, um, sensing the off gassing, um, uh, electrolytic, uh, chemicals within the batteries and how that can be a precursor to like a flaming fire.
But, uh, maybe that's too in the weeds, but if you have any thoughts on either of those subjects, I think they're very fascinating. Yeah. Um, those facilities, the lithium island facilities and storage facilities, you know, it's, you know, it, it's a lot of physics and understanding these gases and the vapors and how they come off.
Um, Siemens had just developed, uh, a new detection, uh, for these types of gases and fumes and, and, and, and that, that can spark in, in these storage facilities. Um, so I'm just learning that myself. I, I tell you, you know, the other thing out here too, being out here in Northern California and the central valley area is, you know, the, the agriculture, um, I was just, uh, elected, um, to, to serve on a new standard, which is fire protection of cannabis growing and processing facilities.
And, and while it is focused on cannabis, it could be really. Any type of grow processing facility, where, where you don't see a lot of codes, you know, out here there's all types of ag facilities, but you know, the one that, that I felt that, that I could have an impact that, that, you know, I've just, you know, her horror stories from, from fire departments and, you know, different jurisdictions.
Um, you know, when I saw a presentation about four or five years ago at an NPA conference, and you know how these type of facilities are, are, are showing up in communities and, and, and really, you know, the, the, the, the fire departments, aren't really sure, not really knowing what is the right thing to do to protect your community.
You know, what, what are the things you need to put in here? How, you know, what do you need to do to, you know, to, to make these places. And, and so, and you can imagine these, these cannabis facilities are, are going up all over the country. They, they project in five years that, that this cannabis industry will, will be a 20, $25 billion legitimate business.
And, and, you know, it's just, it it's really about time for, for, you know, the codes to develop in this area and provide guidance really, you know, not only to, for, for these facilities to be built safely, but how to maintain them. How do you continue to, to make sure that, you know, these places are saved five years down the road and, you know, uh, so I, I'm just starting to learn a lot about this industry.
You know, some of the things that came to my mind, you know, was. , you know, just the amount of H V a C equipment or the electrical power that's required in these facilities or, or the types of, uh, uh, of machines that are involved, that, that have no listings, uh, for these things. Um, you know, fire exits, you know, I've seen video, I, I, I've seen a number of photos when you go in these facilities and, and there, there are no fire exits, you know, um, and, and really the type of gases that, that come out of these, the type of solvents that are involved in these, it, it's just something that, that, um, certainly here that, um, needs to be addressed.
And, and we, we have to be, uh, responsible. We have to be responsible in, in protecting these things and, and, and start doing it right to, to save lives. Uh, not only for the people working in there, but for the communities and. Fire. Department's trying to enforce these things and trying to understand what are the things that need to be done.
So that that's been a big thing for me out here lately, uh, after being involved in a number of these seminars. Wow. Yeah, that's very interesting to hear about, that's been a topic that has been getting a lot of, uh, discussion, um, in Oklahoma's past legislation where these facilities have become more common.
So I think that's really neat that you are gonna be on the forefront of, um, people in the fire and life safety community who are trying to evaluate the best way to, uh, protect these kind of occupancies. In, in my estimation, the hazardous materials in general is, uh, extremely difficult area of. The, you know, the building code and, and systems design.
And there is a lot of instances in which, uh, I think the whole community misses the mark on protecting these kind of, um, hazards. So I think that's awesome that you are getting a real, uh, insider look at, uh, how we're going to respond to this, um, burgeoning industry. Um, I don't think it's going anywhere.
Um, definitely, uh, not for you, but I would say likely the, the whole nation. So, um, yeah, that's fascinating. Yeah. And what I like, what N F P a does is they make the committees, I think there's 16, maybe 20 members on, on this committee, but they make it balanced. So there there's, you know, a small percentage of people that are involved in, you know, that with integrators, people that are.
Actually out there, uh, you know, installing these systems, maintaining these systems, making sure, you know, they're installed correctly. So I'm a I'm, you know, that, that I would say is my special inter screwed, just, but, but I've noticed on there that they have a balance of, you know, fire officials from over the country, uh, a and E community is represented, represented.
I find, um, I found that, you know, on there it was interesting mix cause and they had this on the NFPA site, there was, uh, a gentleman with the butane industry and the people providing these type of, you know, chemicals involved in, you know, extracting, uh, you know, uh, the cannabis and such. So it's, it's well represented.
It's well balanced, you know? Um, so, um, really looking forward to, to providing my input. And helping make these facilities secure and safe. Yeah. You know, and I've also found too. It's interesting. I I've, you know, these facilities, you don't even know in most cases that these are in, even in your communities, you know, they're, they're, they're, they're not something that, you know, you have a billboard or, and, and, you know, to me that's a little disturbing, you know, Uhhuh , you know, where, where I have seen some of these located, matter of fact, uh, one of these were, you know, is relatively close to, to one of our offices.
Um, so yeah. Uh, I'm looking forward to, to, to help him develop this standard. Yeah, I think, uh, I don't know if you heard about that, um, that tragedy that was in the LA with, uh, one of these, um, processing facilities that ended up, um, I believed, uh, taken some, uh, firefighters lives. Um, but I think that we need to have a focus on these facilities so that we can prevent events like that.
And, you know, the, the fact that they might have been in a business building or, you know, not in a facility design for this sort of thing. Interesting enough. You know, I, I was driving on the highway with the group of coworkers to a job site visit and they were saying, well, you can probably surmise it.
That's a, uh, grow facility because look at the, the huge H V a C units for this warehouse building that's out in the middle, uh, you know, kind of nowhere off the side of the highway. And we're like, well, yeah, that, that makes sense. You know, that large H V a C capacity that you were talking about. Right.
Right. And, and where I've seen inside for just. Things that I would never think of lighting where, where I've seen pictures, where they're running extension cords throughout the facility for lighting and, and different things that require power, uh, on top of the H V a C um, yeah. It's um, it's, uh, it's just, it's just kind of the wild, wild west, you know, right now.
Um, you can find a little bit in NFPA one under the, in the fire code there, but yeah. Not, not enough. Um, so this is, uh, you know, well, well needed. Um, um, so yeah, without a doubt. So yeah, I'd like to talk more about, you know, we spoke a little bit about your involvement with NFPA 72 and you know, your focus in NFPA 72 and your work on that technical committee, but.
Yeah, I, I hear people. I have people and I've felt this way at times. Um, the NFPA 72 is so diverse and such a, a document that brings together, uh, litany of different, uh, systems and components. Uh, yeah. I'd like to hear more about your work on NFP 72, cuz I think that, um, people can be confused by the document at times and it's, it's got of a bit of a learning curve, which, um, maybe that's coming me coming from a fire suppression background.
My first job outta college was fire suppression. So I got NFPA 13 drilled in my head, but NFPA 72 was a little bit more difficult. Yeah. I. You know, with NFPA with lately, I've noticed in the evolution of, of the codes that come out every three years, is there there're, there're been slowly getting away from using the, the word firearm, you know, even though it is, you know, primarily a firearm code, it, it's more about emergency communication systems, you know, bringing in the voice area of refuge, you know, all the other system components.
And of course, firearm is the major component of that, but it it's just evolving, you know, especially with the technology where, you know, we can, you know, we can, we can network these systems, you know, through, through the infrastructure of, of the buildings, you know, with, with ethernet and, and, and all the different ways that we connect these buildings and wireless systems it's, you know, anymore, um, Gosh, you know, the firearm code and, and serving on, on, on chapter 18.
Um, I've learned so much about all the different components, you know, from, from, you know, the proper ways to, to test systems. I mean, it, it covers the gamut, uh, uh, you know, it's not, you know, N a PA, um, doesn't tell you the type of occupancies to put in the building, but it tells you, you know, once that is determined where you need to, to put things, you know, in the building.
Um, and, and it's, um, yeah, I, um, I remember the day when, when, when, you know, 72 was broken up in, in a number of publications, number of code standard books. Um, but you know, they're, they're trying to make it more user friendly where, where people can, you know, that need to use this code can find things.
easier. And they're trying to, to, to make it a little more updated with taking out, uh, more negative type, um, uh, contacts in there where, where you don't need it to, to say where you do need to provide a pool station or a smoke detector and, you know, the development of performance based versus prescriptive and, and the different things.
I, I, um, it really is a good resource. I, I tell you, I, uh, I refer back to it, you know, all the time, uh, during the course of a week, you know, um, you know, there's always something I can learn, but, but it really is the best standard we have out there on, on top of, you know, the, the IBC or the I C or the life safety code.
It, it really is the foundation for the fire life safety code, you know, you know, you can look at so many other documents out there, you know, Elevator code, but, but things seem to reference back to, to 72 in one sense. And I, I get more of a clear direction in a lot of ways, you know, starting with that and, and, and, and, you know, adding other things where I need to.
Yeah, definitely without a doubt. So I like to kind of wrap up interviews and in the conclusion of these discussions with some just broader questions about, um, the industry, I think we talked about a lot of good trending topics and things on the horizon for fire and life safety. But I always like to ask when I get knowledgeable professionals on the show, um, what kind of advice you would have for, uh, any sort of professional in the industry?
You know, somebody just getting into the industry or somebody who wants. Um, gain an edge. Um, what, what would you add to say to somebody like that? You know, I would say to them, um, post COVID that understanding that, but there's a, there's a lot of, when you look at, you know, the complete kind of food chain of what it takes to, to put these systems in and maintain 'em, you have to understand that fire departments in general, everyone's cutting resources.
And you're bringing in a lot of third party consultants to design these systems. They're, they're, they're bringing in third party, uh, inspectors and different consultants to inspect these and maintain these. But I'm finding lately that, uh, remote video testing is, is gonna be a big thing, right? You know, where, where these fire departments can, can, we can get on a zoom call and we can take them around and, and show them that we've tested.
Know, whether it's 10% or a hundred percent of the system and, and do things remotely, we, we can provide there's software applications out there now that, you know, the, the reports are sent through, uh, what's called the compliance engine and to these fire departments, cuz they don't have the resources and letters did become generated automatically when, if you have a deficiency in how you correct these and you know, it, you know, I'll tell you things changed quite a bit.
Uh, several years ago when, when there was, uh, the huge tragedy in Oakland with the ghost fire and, and were, were building officials, aren't always able to get out to the buildings and, and, and, and check up on these buildings. And, you know, uh, the, you know, what I find in this industry, the only change comes through tragedy, you know, when, uh, insurance companies and FM global and all these organizations.
You know, I find the biggest change, unfortunately comes from tragedy and learning from these things. But, you know, I see post COVID where, where we're looking for just better, smarter ways to be able to maintain these buildings and exercise these buildings, um, you know, without the resources that we had years ago.
Um, and, and I find now that, that these buildings are, you know, we're just looking for, for ways to do these and, and, and a better way for, for you. I will say, you know, green buildings in different ways to do this, where, where we can do this in a way that that is, you know, best for, for the world, you know, um, L E D technology.
Um, and, and just the ways that, you know, things are. Our our, you know, with, with the resources that we use in the buildings, you know, the, the, the technology, and you're probably aware of this guys has changed in the buildings where these, the fires nowadays, these fires, you know, with, with the materials we're using the combustible materials.
To me, that that is the biggest thing going on. You know, these buildings go up, you know, that UL put out a, a, a, a, a video showing, you know, the materials that we had in buildings 10 years ago versus today, and, and what what's involved in, in, in building these buildings and the materials used in the buildings.
And, and, you know, in, in the example that, that I saw in the video, you know, the, these, these newer buildings will go up probably 45%, uh, quicker, uh, than buildings that for me, even 10, 15 years ago, So it's just amazing the technology anymore. I I'm seeing where, where buildings are being constructed out here, where they're bringing in floors at a time and, and it's like Legos.
Right. And you know, just more economical, faster, better ways to, to construct these buildings. Uh, I've seen that in numerous cases where they've been able to, to build a, a four story dorm building in the course of the summer, , you know, you know, where trucks bringing in, uh, floors of a building and sections of a building and constructing them like, like Legos.
So, yeah, it's, it's fascinating. Uh, and we're doing fire alarm design from the factories, you know, versus, you know, at the actual place where the building's gonna be instructed, uh, to be constructed. So to me, uh, there's just, it's, it's exciting. I tell you it's, um, I've never been busier my life, uh, through these COVID times.
I, uh, you know, it's, it's an essential service. Um, you know, um, and it's something that, you know, especially, you know, think about this GU when, during, when these billings were shut down and then all of a sudden, you know, buildings start to open up these buildings haven't, you know, really been used in the course of the year.
And then, you know, you need to inspect and test these buildings in order to bring employees back and the fire departments to be, to feel safe, to go back into these buildings and such. So it's, you know, from, from this COVID, um, I see a lot of changes in this industry where we can do more things remote and we can do things that, you know, this make these buildings better.
Yeah, I think there's a lot of great points there. You know, I've seen that big, uh, push for remote inspection and, you know, some testing as well. And yeah, I've, I've been extremely busy during COVID times. I've felt so bad for people who weren't able to, you know, um, be employed or, uh, you know, have the job opportunities that they wanted cuz of COVID because I feel like fire and knife safety is, has had a big push for the industry to, um, stay on top of things or it's just kind of been charging forward and yeah, we're adapting to new technologies, adapting to the future in fire and life safety and what that entails and you know, trying to stay on top of it all ISS very intriguing.
But, uh, yeah. I agree with you a hundred percent, Steven. Yeah. But anyways, well, thank you so much for coming on the show, Steven. Um, if people want to find you and reach out, or if there's anything that you would like to, to plug, please feel free. Yeah, I,
by LinkedIn, uh, site, uh, for information, um, for, for anything, they just finally underst Steven Lewis, um, you know, out in the, the bay area with RFI. Um, but certainly, uh, I like to engage in, in any type of discussion that involves the fire life safety industry. Um, so, um, I'm available to, you know, I, I'm always excited just to talk to people in this industry to get them involved, you know, mentor to young people and, and.
Just bring my experience. My, my 30 years of experience out here in the field where I've seen virtually every, every type of building, um, I, I would love to, you know, share that with people. Wow. That's awesome. Well, thank you again so much, Steven, and, uh, yeah, I appreciate it. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Gus, for reaching out, you're doing a great thing, uh, for this fire life safety industry and look forward to, you know, uh, really have enjoyed listening, uh, to your podcast. And there's several more that, that I'm gonna listen to. But yeah, you know, we, you know, the key is I think we all wanna make a difference in our own way and you, you're doing a great service out there and thank you without a doubt.
I appreciate that. That means a lot. Awesome. Thanks for listening. Everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation.
Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.