Feb 28, 2022
Fire investigation, social media management, public information officer, IT manager. These are just a few of the roles that Jake Zlomie performs at his new role for the Central Valley Fire District in Belgrade Montana. We also talk about how you can get involved with your local fire department if you are looking to give back or volunteer. Tune in to for our professional development segment where Jake gives his top three pieces of technology to optimize workflow.
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 wall. Welcome to episode 47 of fire code. In this episode, we're speaking with Jake Slomi. Yes. Jake is back on the podcast talking about his new role with the central valley fire district in Belgrade Montana. In this episode, we talk about all Jake's favorite subjects, including fire investigation, public credentialing, and certifications and technology, and what he sees as how to optimize your workflow.
Jake drops some incredible tips, like how to get involved with your fire department. If you are looking to get back or get more ingrained with fire and life safety at a community level, Jake also breaks down the difference between his current role and his previous role as the AJ for Montana state university.
As a bonus, Jake gives us some insight to his time as a committee member on NFPA 72, don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media. Do me a big favor and go give us a five star review wherever you'd like to listen to your podcast. It helps out with the algorithm.
Let's get into the show. Well, Jake, thanks for coming on the show. Welcome back to fire code tech. Yeah, no, definitely. Thanks for, thanks for having me glad to be back. Uh, it's kind of hard to believe all the progress that you guys, you know, you've been, you've been busy, definitely been busy over the last couple, uh, couple episodes.
Yeah, it's been, it's been fun, uh, being on the podcast and, uh, you know, I think it's been, God, I don't remember exactly the, the number of your first episode, but I think it was maybe in the teens. So it's been over a year probably since we did our first podcast episode. Um, so yeah, been, it's been, uh, it's been a wild ride, uh, professionally and, uh, just in the, the podcast space.
So yeah. Thanks for, thanks for that. But, uh, yeah, I guess, um, it's real kind of informal today, but. I know that, uh, you know, we were talking about it a little bit off air, but, um, I know that you recently, uh, had a transition from your role at the, uh, university of, was it university of Bozeman, um, or, or at what's in the specific name of the college to a different role?
Yeah, no. Um, yeah, so I was, uh, was working over, um, at, at Montana state university here in Bozeman, uh, as the campus campus fire marshal, um, over there and kind of back in, back in August, um, moved, transitioned over, um, as kind of the, to be the, uh, fire and life safety specialist at the, for the central valley fire district, um, here in Belgrade, which is, it's kind of right next to next to Bozeman right next to the college.
Um, and, um, in November of. Uh, November, I ended up getting kind of appointed to, uh, serve as interim fire marshal for the fire district. So it's certainly been a, uh, been a journey and, uh, definitely learned a lot along the way. Yeah. You know, it's, um, it's been incredible for me to hear a little bit about how much you've been learning in this new role and what it means for you.
What, what kind of piqued your interest about this career shift when you were looking at making a change? Yeah, so, uh, overall, you know, I kinda, when I, you know, I. Overall, I, I grew up within kind of within the fire department, um, kind of watching, you know, my, my dad was on the fire department, my uncle, my grandpa, um, everyone was kind of involved, uh, with the fire department.
So I, I, I always kind of had a, a fondness of what the fire department did in a community. Um, and you know, one thing that when we were, uh, my wife was originally from Montana, which is what kind of moved us out here, uh, to begin with. But, um, you know, that was kind of what we were, I was working for a fire department in Illinois prior to moving out here.
So, um, kind of, uh, you know, I was kind of hoping to get back into the, you know, fire service one day, um, and just kind of with, with the, we kind of had. you know, with the growth of the area overall, um, and kind of last summer seemed to be kind of, there was a couple fire departments in the area hiring, um, and, uh, I was kind of fortunate to get hired here at central valley.
And, um, I live, I live within the fire district as well. Um, so it was kind of nice. It wasn't, uh, I didn't have to take a new job and then move halfway across the country or even down the street. We were, um, it's actually a lot, you know, it's a, it's a two minute drive to get to work, so. Wow. That's nice. So that's yeah, so that's super, super nice, you know, it makes, uh, it's, you know, not to, you know, it was like 20 minutes to get to the university.
Uh, I can be at work and in my office in about five minutes now. So it's, uh, it's definitely, uh, definitely nice from a commute standpoint, I don't get to listen to podcasts as much in the car, uh, but I try to make up for it when I can. Yeah, that's cool. So you were speaking with me a little bit about it before, but so what, like, what's kind of the difference between you were explaining the difference between being the, uh, a part of a fire department for like a, a specific city or, and then, but you are working for a district now, which is a, a bit of a, a larger thing.
Yeah. Would you speak a little bit about that? Yeah. So, um, overall, um, it seems like most states have it set up in, in kind of a similar way, but, um, in Montana specifically we have, um, municipal. And by state statute, once a, once a town hits a certain threshold, they're required to provide a fire department.
Um, and then you also have like a fire district or a fire service area. Um, and those are basically kind of a group of more or less a group of citizens that pool together to say, Hey, we're gonna, we want to provide for our own fire protection. And, um, it kind of kind of grows. So it's a kind of a, a political subdivision independent of, uh, municipality, um, somewhere between a municipality and a county, so to speak.
But, uh, our fire, district's fairly large where we're about, uh, 200 square miles overall. Um, and we have about 38,000 citizens that reside within our fire district. Um, you know, we, we have some, you know, some subset communities that we serve in the area, but, um, you know, within, within our fire district, we have the city of Belgrade.
Um, which is actually where our, our, our main fire fire station one is actually located in, in Belgrade here. But, um, that city just reached 10,000 folks here at the last census. Um, so they're kind of the, the only municipality that we worked with and the rest of it's kind of either an unincorporated county, um, you know, properties that are unincorporated or, uh, you know, kind of, or there's, you know, some parts where it's, it's pretty rural and pretty remote.
So, uh, we cover a pretty diverse landscape overall. Um, and it, it brings a lot of opportunity with it. Uh, but kind of, it also has quite a bit of challenges overall to specific, you know, really from the operations standpoint, it can be pretty challeng. Yeah, you were, yeah. I'd love to hear some more about, um, kind of how you've begun to kind of wrap your arms around some of those challenges.
And I guess maybe before that we could speak about like, in the work that you're doing now, um, com compared to, uh, Montana state university, like how you would describe those two roles and like what, how they're different from each other. I think that if people want to like, get a feel for what you're doing previously, the last episode is a great, like overall episode on your career and what you're doing at the university.
And so, yeah, I'd love to hear about how your role now, like in the, um, actual meat of the, the work that you're doing differs. Yeah. So I think, uh, one of the, I guess the, probably the, the major difference overall is just probably one in, in the, the, I guess the developed landscape of the, you know, the area that we're working in, you know, and the, for the university, you know, we had the, kind of the core campus and everything had fire hydrants.
It was easy, you know, getting water for, to put in a sprinkler system. Wasn't a challenge. Um, you know, for the most part, it was pretty easy, pretty advanced, you know, from the alarm standpoint. Um, and it was also, you know, a lot of, you know, kind of the, more of the maintaining those fire and life safety assets that we had to, you know, how do we advise management on, you know, here's the, here's the, you know, this is a building that's a hundred years old, you know, how do we make sure that that maintains its fire and life safety features and, um, You know, it's kind of, you know, you're getting into some like more things kind of really at a technical level, um, where right now, I guess my position would be, you know, we're kind of at a higher level overall, um, with what we're looking at.
Um, and you know, we're still using the same fire code. Um, still using the same, we're still on the same, you know, uh, same codes and standards overall, but a majority of our fire district doesn't even have, you know, we don't have a water supply. Um, so it's up to kind of our operations folks to bring water.
Um, we have a lot of, uh, dry hydrants and fill sites across, uh, across our fire district that can serve as a source of, uh, fire protection, water supply. Um, if we did have a fire event, You know, we have, um, the subdivision regulations from the county are pretty good where we have, uh, we get some pretty good options for what the developer can do, whether they bring in, uh, water, supply and hydrants or, um, they can actually sprinkle the houses.
Um, so that was our, and our last calendar year, our, the number one permit that our office actually kind of issued was for a residential sprinkler system, which was, uh, which was kind of a, a really pretty cool thing. Um, given our kind of the environment of, you know, how it, residential sprinklers can be a pretty hot topic, uh, for, in most communities that you work in.
Uh, yeah. I, I wouldn't have guessed it. Uh, so like, what does that provision kinda look like? Cuz it seems like in most of the us day that's like something that's avoided. You. Like, what is that? Is it, um, what's kind of the thresholds for those residential sprinkler systems. Yeah. So overall, um, you know, we can kind of have, um, if you, if you were to build a subdivision and it had a, like a municipal hydrant system, um, you know, where you, you could, you know, very easily pull a thousand thousand gallons per minute for, at at least 20 pounds or higher for two hours, if you could do that, that's pretty much the gold standard.
Um, and you know, we don't see sprinklers being installed in those properties, um, where it gets, where we do see sprinklers starting to get installed is when we have kind of a, a more rural subdivision, uh, the developer has some options between, uh, you know, they could put either use like storage tanks, they could build a fire pond, um, and you know, it, they could, whether it's a.
There's kind of some different options between, uh, you could put in just a straight, dry hydrant where it's just up to the fire apparatus to pull water through it. Um, you could put in a, a fire hydrant with a pump, um, for the, for that to kind of provide you that, uh, that minimum, that fire flow more or less, um, to help that or it's, or you may, you know, there's a couple where you see a combination where they may run some fire hydrants, but those fire hydrants can't supply a thousand gallons per minute.
Um, so you may have a, you know, 500 gallon per minute hydrant plus sprinklers. Um, so overall our subdivision regulations are kind of, it's kind of interesting where it's basically kind of a volume of water, um, a distance to a fire hydrant overall. um, or, um, and then if you install sprinklers, you know, it, it definitely allows some flexibility where, um, the developer doesn't have to put as much infrastructure in, um, to the, to the development overall.
And then that the, the cost to sprinkle it is then basically just included in the price of the house. Interesting. That's very interesting. I think that, that makes a lot of sense, uh, in my head, theoretically, that, you know, it's kind of a risk based approach for depending on the kind of water supply and like what's available in the community.
So that's cool to hear about, I've never heard about, uh, uh, that sort of approach on a residential standpoint. Um, so that's cool. Thanks for sharing. Um, yeah, I just, uh, I it's been good hearing about your new role and kind of some of the new challenges. Um, yeah, I guess, uh, I, I guess that makes sense. Just so it's, so it was more technical details at the university and it seems like, it seems like you're a bit of a Jack of all trades at your, in your new position as you're, uh, illustrating to me off air.
But yeah. Tell the listeners a little bit about like some of the activities that you've been getting involved with as far as like, um, the inspections side of things and the interim fire Marshall position. I, I feel like it was all very fascinating. Um, when you're describing to me like the breadth of what your role entails now, Yeah.
So, um, overall from a, I guess it's from a, a size standpoint, you know, where our, our fire department here is about, uh, we have about 50 or so employees, um, with probably 35 or so of those being career members. Um, and then the rest of them are volunteers. So, um, it's kind of unique, you know, that's a unique aspect in itself, uh, to be working in a combination department where, um, you, you know, you have a kind of an initial career response and, uh, volunteers that are, you know, are volunteers are really dedicated to what they do.
And, um, They're, you know, they're pulling shifts, just like, you know, and they're, you know, from the average observer, you know, they're, it's no different, you know, they're, but on the, the back end of it, you kind of know, it's like, wow, you know, Hey, they're, they're here for a whole 24 hours and they're not even getting paid for it.
So it's super cool from a, a commitment standpoint, um, and what they're doing and, and how they're helping the community. But, uh, you know, with that, we're kind of, uh, you know, we, we have, you know, what the work that we do is primarily to support, you know, to support them so that they're successful. Uh, when, you know, when they're called upon for an operation, you know, whether it's, you know, fire EMS, uh, we do, we do everything here.
Um, and we even, uh, we're one of the few departments in the area that actually has a fire department based, uh, ambulance. Um, so, uh, some of the other departments in the area will contract that out and our responders are actually the ones who are, you know, we're, we're maintaining the ambulance. We're, they're transporting 'em to the hospital.
Um, so that's something that's kind of unique about our organization too, but, um, you know, with that, uh, we're kind of, you know, we are like most government agencies and most fire departments, you know, we're limited on our resources. So we're kind of, everyone's doing, you know, a lot of work, um, across, you know, across a wide different, you know, a wide variety of roles.
So, uh, you know, basically as kind of intern fire, marshal, I'm kind of responsible for kind of our, I guess our fire code. And, you know, administration of the fire code overall. Um, and, um, but in addition to that, I also am our kind of our, I, our it administrator here, um, which is, uh, that's been a definitely an interesting learning process to figure out how we, how we maintain, uh, you know, I've been always been big with computers overall, but, you know, to think, okay, how do we make our computers so that they aren't a burden to our responders and that it's not a burden for them to fill out a report or, or do the work that they need to do on it.
Uh, but also to say, you know, look at the higher level to say, how do we, how do we build a network? And, uh, the it infrastructure that we really need as a, as a government entity and that's resilient and, and is a piece of critical infrastructure for us. Um, So that's been interesting, um, on top of that, you know, with, with our, uh, ambulance and, um, our ambulance transport that we do, we, um, that's a, we do bill for those.
Um, so we use a, there's a, we have a medical billing company that we pair with, um, that does that. So I'm kind of our contact for that. Um, which isn't, it doesn't add a whole lot, but, um, it's kind of, you know, uh, it's something to, that takes some time every week to stay on top of those and kind of maintain contact with them.
Um, and then kind of the, you know, one of the ones that I've been having a little bit of fun with is, um, I'm, I've also been filling in as our, our public information officer. As well as, uh, kind of managing our social media. So, um, it's been interesting from that aspect of it to see how things, you know, how do we communicate the information and communicate the story that we have here.
Cause, um, that's, you know, a lot of it, we, we see interesting stories every day. Um, and how do we communicate those out? And it's been interesting to watch and see on, uh, you know, across our social media channels, you know, what, what stories that we share, you know, how they grow and you know, which ones will grow quickly, which ones I, you know, they'll be posts and, and ones that I share that I think, oh, this is a really good post, you know, it's really solid info and it just doesn't, it just doesn't gain traction.
And then there's other ones where I'm like, okay, yeah, I'll share this, you know, it's, uh, you know, it's just some, you know, Information and it'll just take off. So it's kind of interesting to learn about our community and, and what, uh, and how we can connect with them cuz you know, in the end of it, that's really what we're just trying to do is to, to connect with the community and get that information out there.
Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. I totally get what you mean about how you think some posts are gonna go off like a rocket and then they just, they have a wet flop on the floor and you're like, wow, that didn't, uh, turn out how I thought it would. And then some stuff you're like, okay, another post. And then it just, uh, goes off.
And you're just like, wow. People really liked whatever that was. I can't tell if it's the graphic or the content or something about that was good resonated people or when I posted it. Uh, so that's funny to hear you have some of the same struggles about like, uh, figuring out how to, um, develop that narrative.
But it's, it's, I feel like it's kind of interesting that, uh, fire departments, there's a lot of really good, like kind of, uh, fire department, social accounts out there. So I guess you have some examples of how people. What kind of content and post it, people have around that subject. So that's cool that you're getting, man, you're really covering a lot of, a lot of ground there, but yeah, it makes sense.
And I appreciate you adding some extra exposition for, you know, the, the format of your department and, you know, people who are volunteers and people who are donating their time and, you know, the, the really beautiful thing for the community that that is, and you know, how, how you preface your, your large volume of workload and that everybody is, um, doing their best to, to wear a lot of hats and, and, uh, produce for the, for the greater good of the community.
So that's cool to hear about. Yeah. And it's, you know, and it's been one of those things too, like, you know, you pick up any, you know, any fire service magazine, You know, that it's been a challenge for, you know, the volunteer fire service organizations, um, just to, you know, retain, you know, attract volunteers, retain volunteers.
And a lot of it, you know, it's, it's kind of a bit of, you know, how we're seeing work, you know, work shift even, you know, where, you know, people aren't, you know, you're not really able to. To leave work to go jump on a fire truck. And, uh, you know, so it's kind of been interesting to see, um, you know, from that aspect and, you know, and we're definitely, we're, we're now no exception to that, you know, we're, we're still seeing, you know, challenges with, um, getting volunteers and keeping volunteers, um, having the university here definitely helps us because we'll get, uh, we'll get, you know, students, um, who are, you know, they're studying, um, you know, a field, but are interested in the fire service.
Um, and they'll kind of, you know, volunteer and kind of learn about that aspect of it. But, um, it's, it's certainly interesting. Uh, and you know, really that's one of the, you know, the biggest. Challenges that we have overall is just the growth. And, um, you know, we're not terribly busy, you know, last, last year we ran 2300 calls.
Um, it was kind of the, the highest year we've had to date, but that was up 10% from the year before. And it was 10% the year before that. And, um, you know, and, and really like one out of every three calls occurs while there's another call in progress. So, um, we can definitely run outta resources really quick.
And, um, it's, you know, that's kind of, to me, it's part of it is there's, you know, there's a lot from an operation standpoint, um, that our operation side is, you know, kind of trying to figure out, you know, how do we be more efficient from that standpoint and, you know, keep everyone safe. But then at the, on the prevention and the, you know, on the overall community risk side of it is to say, how can you know, that creates a lot of opportunity for us.
To get out and about in the community and see what we can do to kind of get ahead of those calls. So we don't have to, you know, so we can minimize that risk. Um, and that's something that we can do, you know, relatively easily, um, you know, just finding, you know, finding those, finding the data and then coming up with those strategies.
Yeah. So as somebody who is a, is a. For the industry and an advocate for fire and life safety, how would you recommend that people get involved if they would like to get involved in the fire service? Cuz uh, I hear you say that, you know, it's, it's hard to get people who are volunteers, um, and just like to, to become involved, but I've also heard from I you and other professionals that, you know, um, opportunities with municipalities can sometimes be sparing, um, because of, uh, funding and you know, uh, the kind of different qualifications that you have to get to, uh, be qualified.
So I guess, uh, yeah. Advice for people on how they can get involved. Um, yeah, I would appreciate hearing about that from you. Yeah. You know, I think, uh, your, you know, probably your best bet for it is to go just, you know, swing by your local fire station. Um, if you have any sort of interest in it, um, and kind of see, Hey, what's, you know, what are your guys' needs?
And you know, what opportunities do you have? Um, you know, there's some departments that are gonna be all career based and unless, um, you know, and that's, you know, it, it works for 'em, but it's kind of hard to, you know, Hey, I want to help out I'm here, I'm willing. Um, you know, but there's other departments that'll be, you know, Hey, you know, they can, they can plug you right in and, you know, get, get you signed up for training on the next week and, and kind of get you started.
So, um, we try to do, um, at least. We try to do, uh, kind of a volunteer academy here where, um, we kind of get folks, uh, signed up and it makes it, uh, one, it, it's kind of more efficient for us to say, Hey, we can bring on, you know, if we bring on two groups a year, it's a bigger group. Uh, we can get 'em through training together.
Um, you know, but you know, I think part of it too is just say, you know, Hey, there's it, it would, you know, we, from a volunteer standpoint, it's not always about even, uh, riding, you know, getting on the fire truck, so to speak, you know, we, um, there's a lot of, uh, a lot of stuff that, you know, the fire department, you know, can get involved with, um, that, you know, is kind of outside the box, you know, to say, you know, Hey, even, you know, like social media and marketing.
If that's, if you're in that arena and you know how to do it, and you know, you're fire, you know, you're gonna have expertise that your fire department could only, you know, wish to have, um, and, you know, say, Hey, you know, there's, here's some, you know, I'd like to volunteer my time. I do this during my, you know, nine to five, but I'm happy to help you guys out.
Um, you know, even from a, you know, from a, you know, a sprinkler designer or code, you know, really heavy code involvement, just to say, you know, Hey, to kind of stop down. So, you know, Hey, introduce yourself and, you know, you know, I'm glad to glad to help out however I can, whether it's just kind of, you know, grabbing lunch here and there and talking about code issues and helping to, to kind of educate and share the, uh, share the knowledge that you have.
Uh, you know, that's super helpful in itself too, you know, it it's, uh, so it doesn't always have to be riding the fire truck. Um, but you know, most of the time. It's it's kind of, you know, that's kind of where the need is. So that's what the fire department will more or less look for. Um, but there's definitely a lot of opportunity to get involved and, and, uh, I would just, yeah.
Stop by your local fire station and see, uh, see what they can see, what help they need. Yeah. That's a great piece of advice, Jake. I appreciate that. Yeah, I think that's, uh, even as somebody who's, uh, more on the, the code and the design side of things, I think that, um, I need to schedule some time to go speak with some local fire departments.
There are, you know, more than a couple within range, driving range, easy driving range of where I work. And I think that would be, um, you know, a meaningful way for me to be able to, you know, donate time or get involved, you know, even if it's not riding the truck. So I appreciate that, um, that, uh, your coverage on that topic.
Yeah. And it's even, you know, if you're involved, you know, like with a local S F P chapter or, um, you know, in Illinois we had a, a fire inspector's association and it was kind of a good mix, you know, you'd get, uh, the, you know, municipal fire, uh, folks there, and you'd get people who would work in the design side and people who'd work on the service side.
And, you know, it was kind of gave, you know, gave them that forum where you could kind of network and learn from one another. but even, you know, I know it seems like from the design side, you know, there, it seems like the, the company reps that come through, um, you know, whether it's, you know, reliable or whoever come, you know, to it's a sales pitch for you guys, but you know, there's a lot that they can learn, you know, about, you know, the products.
Um, and just even to say, Hey here, you know who local fire inspector, I'm gonna have reliable out here. They're talking about these, these sprinkler heads, or Tyco's gonna come out here and show me their new dry valves, whatever it is. Um, you know, that's, that's kind of valuable in itself too, to see kind of, to help everyone come up, you know, see the, the technology as it comes.
And, uh, you know, it's, that's kind of one thing that on the, on the, this side of things, it's, it's easy to. Uh, it's easier to stay up on top of the code updates than it is on the, probably on the technology updates. Um, because if that's something that just doesn't come along, uh, all that often here. Yeah. I understand it is hard to keep appraised of the what's, you know, trending in technology because, uh, things move so fast and you have to make time to learn about the different, you know, um, valving and fire alarm systems.
So even as somebody who is pretty embroiled in systems design, it's hard to keep appraised of. Everything that's, uh, going on. So yeah, I appreciate that. Even at, at that S F P E level, that it would be good information for, you know, getting involved, um, with your community kind of thing, but, uh, on the, on the S F P note, uh, what other kind of, uh, professional societies are you involved in, um, in your, in your, uh, time as a professional?
Yeah, so, um, really right now, um, I'm pretty involved or, you know, I, I maintain involvement kind of, I guess, three, the three core ones that I'm involved with right now are, uh, the international code council. So ICC, um, uh, NFPA for sure. Um, and then, uh, another one that I've been kind of newer to is the, uh, II, which is just that international association of arson investigators.
um, you know, so right now I'm pretty much, uh, involvement wise. I'm pretty much just a member. Um, you know, once, you know, when I was at the university, I was able to get, um, I was on the, served on the technical committee for NFPA 72, um, in chapter 24 for, for a little bit. Um, and then once you, uh, but basically once you to maintain those different, uh, kind of the, the users or the committee makeup, uh, if when you, when you change positions, you kind of, you loo you kind of have to, uh, reapply to those committees.
And I haven't, haven't done that yet. So, um, so right now, kind of just maintaining, you know, membership in all of those, um, and trying to, you know, trying to take, you know, list it in where I can, um, you know, ICC has, uh, they have kind of their various membership councils and those are always, uh, I wanna say those are like a monthly meeting or every other month.
So they're, they're fairly active. Um, and you can kind of go see, you know, there's the fire service membership council, um, is one that I, I try to stay up with to see what's going on in that world of it. Um, and then the other one that ICC has, that's pretty good is they, they have an emerging leaders, uh, emerging leader, membership council.
Um, so it's for individuals who are kind of relatively, I, I think they target like less than 10 years into the kind of a code official code. Type role. Uh, and that's been pretty good too, just to kind of get with some peers across, you know, cuz you know, that's one of the things is like, you know, here, I'm just kind of a, you know, a one man shop currently, but there's a lot of that where, you know, you may be a building inspector and you're like the only building inspector for a town doing everything.
So it's kind of inter you know, interesting to network with those folks too and, and learn from them. Um, and both of those have been pretty good. So man, I, I didn't know that you were on the, an FPA 72 committee when you were, uh, at Montana state university. Uh, that's pretty interesting. I feel like that's those 72 committees are pretty coveted or at least it seems like the big three, like 1372 and maybe like 1 0 1 or something.
It seems like it's really hard to get a seat on those, but, uh, yeah, that's cool. Um, but yeah. It was, uh, you know, and it was kind of interesting, you know, NFPAs always got, uh, on their website. They're always looking for, uh, committee members and it's, um, interesting to see. I mean, it really makes you see the depth of their, um, you know, how deep their codes and standards really go.
Uh, cuz you're just looking through that and like, wow, I had no idea that that was a standard. Um, and it's it's in there, but um, you know, the, the other interesting thing, particularly for those who are working as an aha, um, is that N FPA has a committee seeking enforcers, um, program. Um, and that's basically your, you know, looking for those individuals who function as an AJ.
Uh, and so that's how I kind of got involved with the 72 committee and that was, uh, it happened kind of right at when COVID kind of first started. Uh, that's kind of when I applied and uh, I, I didn't. Have a, a very long stint on the, on it. I was, it was probably a year. Um, and it was in kind of mid draft. So it was, but it was still super interesting to learn, uh, learn the process.
Um, and it was, it was helpful too, that the committee meetings were all on teams. So, um, you know, cause that's kind of really one of the, the biggest challenges if you were to do that would be the travel expenses and stuff. Um, but it, a lot of that has shifted with the pandemic, so it's made it super accessible.
So, um, definitely. Yeah, if you're, if you're interested at all in the, into the committees, um, and you work as an HJ on the side of it, check out those committee seeking enforcers because there's always, always opportunity out there. Um, and it's a good, good opportunity to learn. Yeah, that's cool. I think that even though, you know, set a short stint on it, but that's still cool to have that experience and to, to get to learn a little bit about the process.
Um, so that's neat. I've always, uh, wanted to volunteer, but yeah, just like it takes time to get involved in, to put your application in and I've never made it over that very small hurdle. So , it's cool to hear about your experience with that. So I wanted to speak with you about your, like, so you spoke about your involvement in ICC in a couple of these like rather large, uh, codes and standards entities.
Um, but I know that you have, uh, a real interest in getting professional credentials. Uh, yeah, I guess if you could, uh, talk about a couple of the professional credentials maybe you got in the last like year or so. Yeah. So, um, I, you know, I got a lot on my list that I want to get. Um, you know, I, it seems like I'm always, you know, kind of diving through and oh, you know, Hey, actually, look that, look at that, look at, and it's kind of a, I don't know if I like to take the tests or what it's kind of a fun rabbit trail to, to kind of learn, learn through and, and, uh, and be challenged by, but, um, I guess really in the last year, um, has been somewhat slow, I guess, in terms of that, um, you know, one of the ones that was kind of interesting, um, late last probably April or may, um, I was able to get, uh, uh, cert certification, uh, for, in I a level one and two, um, in fire alarm systems.
Um, and that was kind of. Uh, you know, that was cool. I, I never really had anticipated getting going, you know, towards like nice that certification. Uh, but that was one that was, uh, you know, for it supported kind of what we were doing at the university. And, um, it was one of those things where like, from as a, an age J I was always kind of looking to see, you know, oh, you know, looking to, you know, I was looking for that night set certification as I was reviewing plans and, uh, you know, looking at, uh, inspection reports and stuff.
And so that was kind of, it really made me kind of appreciate the process. And, um, you know, it gave me a better understanding too, of, you know, what, what individuals have to go through just to, you know, to, to main get and maintain those certifications. Um, so that was definitely good. Um, I'm currently kind of working on, I've been, uh, since I've kind of got over here, um, for the fire department I've been kind of working I've, I've done a couple, uh, classes from, uh, you know, fire service focused, uh, overall, um, in some incident command system classes that I've done.
Um, and which has been, those have been, you know, definitely super interesting. Um, and definitely kind of makes you look at prevention in a, in a unique standpoint, um, you know, where you're kind of looking at, you know, here's, this is the incident before you, and you're kind of trying to, you know, think in your head at the same time.
Well, here's the safeguards that the building may or may not have, you know, or it should have. Um, so that's been interesting, um, you know, and you know, one of the big, you know, roles, um, that I have. Kind of assigned to me now that I don't have a ton of experience with, um, is on the fire investigation side.
Um, so that's kind of been, I've been really, uh, I've been kind of diving after it here. Uh, you know, CFI trainer.net is a great website where you can kind of learn, uh, all sorts of, you know, they have all sorts of videos and programs towards fire investigation, um, which, and they're all free. Um, so that's been super helpful, uh, in helping me to kind of build up some of that knowledge.
And it's been, you know, it's kind of. You know, challenging to see find those classes. Uh, particularly in Montana, we don't really have like a state curriculum for it. So, um, we kind of have to look for a, uh, a national organization, um, or the national fire academy that would be offering some classes on it.
So, uh, the end of this month here at the end of February, I'm gonna be traveling to Wisconsin for a, a 40 hour, uh, fire investigation class. Um, and then with that, trying to work on some certifications from II, um, you know, right now I've been working on, uh, paperwork for, uh, their fire investigation technician program.
That's kind of their entry level certificate. Um, and then they have a CFI credential, uh, which is their certified fire investigator. Um, so those have been the ones that I'm really kind of. Working towards now. Um, and then, you know, there's always, always some ICC stuff in there. Um, I'm gonna try to kind of try to work on, um, some, just more of the building code general building code certifications, um, and you know, work, work towards that.
Um, a as I have the opportunity to do so. Yeah. That's really interesting to hear you talk about like the fire investigations. I always love, uh, getting some insight from people when I get a chance to talk to people who are involved with, uh, fire investigations, because, uh it's so it seems so, um, foreign to what I'm involved with every day on a systems perspective, even though that's everything.
You know, kind of my industry is based on, we just had a really big fire, um, within like, like visual from my office building, uh, this last week, it was like a five story apartment building. And, uh, it was a month away from being done with construction and they had already started leasing, um, some of the apartments out and, uh, like they, people were gonna occupy the building in about a month.
And, uh, it's a wood construction building and caught on fire, I guess, uh, ostensibly, uh, reports so far say from electrical issues and pretty much burn to the ground, um, or, you know, like unrecoverable, um, they're gonna have to take a bulldozer to it. So, yeah, that's fascinating. I'd love to hear more about your, um, experience with, um, fire investigations.
Yeah, no. And that's, you know, and it seems like those kind of fires aren't, uh, you know, aren't far and few between, you know, it seems like though, you know, we, we had one, uh, and not, you know, right when we, uh, moved here and, and Bozeman, they had one, um, but very similar, it was like a four story wood frame, you know, type five wood frame, uh, apartment complex, you know, towards the end of completion, like they had sprinkler pipe hung and it was there, you know, you know, system wasn't active and, uh, same thing kind of burned to the ground.
Um, you know, and it was, it's kind of, it's, it's definitely interesting, you know, how we see the, uh, you know, from it's one thing to have, you know, to see the loss from an existing building. Um, but it's, you know, also unique to see what the loss is from a, you know, a building under construction like that and how, how the ripple effects can really impact the community.
Um, you know, overall, um, from a fire investigation standpoint, my experience has been, you know, it's been pretty limited, you know, I've had a couple of classes, um, you know, through the fire academy and through, um, you know, through kind of various sources, uh, you know, while I was at, uh, OSU, we had a couple of classes on, on fire investigation.
Um, you know, so far my, you know, I guess my ex background on it to date has largely been to more or less kind of identify the need for fire investigation. Um, you know, to identify those incidents as well as to. Identify kind of, you know, here's what, as a responder, here's, you know, the steps that you can take to preserve the scene and preserve evidence so that the investigator, you know, and the investigation team can, can really do the, you know, have the best tools and path, the success that they, that they have.
Uh, so that, you know, that's kind of been most of the investigation standpoint, you know, since kind of getting involved, uh, you know, since getting, you know, transitioning to the fire department here, we have had, I mean, we've had several fires so far. Um, so it's been helpful to, you know, we've had, um, we have a couple of, uh, you know, We don't have as many as we, we should, but, um, couple folks here that have investigation experience, um, and that have we, you know, fortunately have been smaller fires that are, you know, we can kind of go through, walk through, um, and handle it at our level.
Um, you know, we had a, a larger fire, um, Last week and, uh, you know, and for that, we called, uh, an investigator from our state fire marshal's office who came down. Um, so it was just super helpful just to even kind of, to be there and, uh, you know, to do kind of, you know, follow him along, see what kind of things he's look, you know, what, what the investigator's looking at, um, and take, you know, I can, I can take pictures, you know, I can point a camera, tell me where you wanna take a picture of, um, so, you know, kind of to, to help out where I can while kind of learning the process overall.
So, um, that's what kind of the end of this month, I'm hoping to have a little bit, uh, firmer foundation, uh, for investigation overall, um, to kind of build out our, our program here some more. And, uh, I've been, I applied, uh, I applied in probably December, I guess, to the national fire academy. They have a 10 day fire investigation course, um, that I've.
Has heard nothing, but, you know, it's been like the it's like the best training out there is what I, what I've heard from multiple different sources. Um, and I've, I'm trying to kind of get into that class. I wasn't able to get this application period. Uh, so now I'm gonna kind of try to keep, keep reaching out to, to get into that class.
But, um, you know, trying to keep my eyes out for training opportunities, um, both online and regionally and, um, and then try to see what, see how we can kind of build the program before we have to, uh, you know, before our next investigation begins is kind of the, all, you know, the hope. Yeah. And that's cool to hear about that.
You're getting the opportunity to like follow a more seasoned investigator around and like kind of see the process. I think that's awesome. And, uh, I got to say, I am impressed and inspired by your commitment to keep learning and keep professionally developing. I think that's really admirable and, um, something that I want to, I've had periods in my career where I've been really good about it, but, um, I need to get focused again on, uh, grabbing some more certs.
So, um, it's always love hearing people's stories to me. That's. That's really something that gives me motivation is to hear about people doing good stuff. So I'm excited to hear about you, even with all the things that you have going right now at your current role, you are still working on developing as a professional and, uh, seeking knowledge where you are looking to develop.
So that's cool. I, I really enjoyed hearing about that. Yeah. And that's, you know, and I think that's one of the things that, uh, you know, was really, I've always kind of maintained an eye out there for, you know, here's the webinar there and a webinar there, you know, some of those easier ones. Um, but that was kind of one of the things too that was, uh, helpful about, um, and super great at the university was, you know, being a learning institution, but professional development was always a, a pretty high priority.
Um, so it was good and, uh, had a lot of opportunity there to kind. Get involved and keep growing and, uh, you know, and, and everyone, our administration here has been supportive of, of that growth and, and continuing to grow. And, uh, you know, it's been, it's really interesting too, cuz in the, um, in the state of Montana, there's a, uh, kind of have two main code organizations, one being the state fire marshals office.
And then, uh, one is being the building codes bureau through, uh, the state's, uh, labor and industry department. But, um, they actually have, there's an actual, uh, estate law that requires the building code bureau to, uh, it's like 1% of all permit fees goes towards education for the state. Um, So what it actually does is it, uh, they ha host a, um, a building codes conference.
Um, and it's typically it's, it's every spring historically. Um, and they'll bring in, and it's like a, a three to four, I think it's like four day. Most of them have been four days, um, of just like ICC instruction and peer code instruction. It's all ICC, you know, ICC instructors and, um, uh, I can't think of the plumbing, whoever the plumbing and mechanical people are.
Um, but they, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So they, and they bring them out there too. So you can do, you know, really, you can have, you know, the fire guys are there. The, the plumbing inspectors are there, the mechanical inspectors everyone's there and they're getting all, you know, their S for the state and, um, And it, when we, when I first, the first one that I was able to attend, you know, the, the registration fee was a hundred bucks, which I'm like, well, that's the best deal.
And, and for an ICC class, that, and for four days that, you know, wow, can't, can't beat that. And, uh, It's actually to the point now where, uh, you know, there's been so much growth and so much development in Montana, um, that the state is actually trying to, you know, they're that they can only keep so much in, uh, in their reserves, you know, spending wise, um, for that, that it's actually the last two years it's been free.
Um, so zero cost to get ICC training. Wow. That's awesome. And yeah, so it's been, so that's a super, you know, that's an awesome opportunity for us here, um, that, you know, most people don't, you know, aren't fortunate to have and, um, they, they're kind of, we're talking about even starting to do something in the fall too.
So, um, you know, so that's definitely, uh, super beneficial here to have the support and the resources from, uh, from the state to be able to, to do some of that. Um, and it, it definitely. Definitely makes it easy to kind of dive into, you know, if you're, if you're interested in an IRC class or an I B C class and you know, maybe you don't want to pay them, you know, it's like, ah, I'm not sure, you know, it's kind of a good avenue that you can kind of explore the different trades and different disciplines to who.
Yeah, I'm glad that there are some good resources out there for, uh, people who are in enforcement. You know, it sounds like, uh, I, I know that training can be some, one time, sometimes one of those things that, um, is really attractive, but can be, uh, cost prohibitive. I know, from taking in courses for our professional certification, that they can get so expensive, so fast.
So, um, that's awesome that you're getting some really stellar opportunities. I mean, probably the training stuff that ICC, uh, puts on is probably world class as far as, uh, what you're gonna deal with from a code perspective for in the states. So that's awesome. But, um, I wanted to kind of, uh, getting close to the end of the interview and I wanted to, uh, speak with you.
I. I always like, uh, hearing from you about, um, you're kind of always somebody who is proactive with technology and kind of, uh, keeping up to date. So I wanted to ask you, like, what kind of, um, you know, like tools or, or, or websites, or, you know, kind of things, technology things, are you using to, uh, stay competitive or just like what, you know, help your workflow?
Yeah. So, um, you know, that's definitely one of those things that it's like, well, I, there's a lot of tools out there that I have no idea probably even exist, but, um, one of the things that has been. You know, where I'm fairly fortunate to be in the position of is that I'm pretty much a one man. You know, it's just me, I'm a one man shop kind of currently, especially from an, an inspection standpoint.
So, um, that has one created kind of some challenges, um, and the overall kind of timing of the workflow, you know, timing of my workflows and stuff. Uh, but it's also created a, you know, there's been a lot of opportunity overall, too, where it's like, okay, well we're not, you know, our, our permit load is not really enough probably to justify one of the more enterprise.
One of the bigger, um, inspection software platforms that are out there. Um, like there's like a couple different major vendors out there that sell 'em to, to cities and jurisdictions all over. Uh, but we're really, probably not quite that big where it would be cost effective to do that. Um, so I've kind of been able to create some of those tools on my own.
Um, you know, so one of the, uh, major tools that I've been, uh, one of the big tools that I I've kind of implemented here in the last month is just from, uh, smartsheet.com. Um, and so we, I have a, a Smartsheet account and it's basically. Excel on steroids. Um, but you can kind of go through and you can create forms.
Um, so that's what I've started to do for permit applications is I have a, a Smartsheet form. Um, so I can send that link to contractors, um, and service providers they can go through and it gets me the information that I need, um, and they can attach the documents right to it. So it kind of stores everything for me.
Um, but it's also nice because since I am kind of that, that one person shop it's basically, you know, from permit fees to. You know, getting the, you know, sending the, the check to our office manager to get it deposited into our account. It's like, it's an all like, literally doing it all. Uh, so it's, it's super helpful to be able to go through, um, and to track, okay, here's, here's the permit fees for this.
Here's the, you know, here's what we collected for it. Here's our, uh, you know, here's the, just the tracking information for the check or whatever, so that we know at the end, you know, come the end of the year. Um, you know, we have it all in one place, so that's been super helpful. Um, another one that I've, you know, it's, I've spent a lot of time, um, A lot of time kind of back and forth with, um, scheduling, you know, we'll play the, uh, play the pretty, a pretty good game of phone tag here with, you know, call, you know, someone calls for an inspection I'll call 'em back.
You know, I leave the office and they're, you know, and out on an inspection and miss a call from him and it goes back and forth, back and forth, or, you know, Hey, what's your availability. And it kind of just, um, you know, that was something that could kind of get me bogged down, uh, that really didn't need to.
Um, so I started to use Calendarly. Um, it's like just calendar and then with an L Y at the end of it. So, um, you can actually just go. Cal lee.com/cvf D fire marshal. And you can book any sort of inspection with me. Um, you know, so that's what I end up doing with our, um, you know, we do some, some regulate.
Your regulatory inspections here, uh, between daycare and cannabis, uh, alcohol, um, those kind of places. So it's super helpful. You know, if I, if I miss, if I'm out and about, I miss a call from a, a cannabis pro you know, a cannabis operator, I can go through, text them the link and they can have an inspection scheduled, uh, for their facility, you know, as soon as I'm, you know, as soon as I'm able and it syncs with my calendar and all that.
So, um, so that's been super cool. It also gives me some cool tools that I can go through and do, um, like little reminders. So I can have it set up to say, you know, Hey, I'm gonna do a hydro, um, on a sprinkler system and I can set it up for, you know, whoever, whoever puts, you know, what number they put in there will get a text message, you know, three hours before to say, Hey, you know, Jake will be here for a hydro, uh, here's what you need to do, or, um, For the remote, you know, a lot of it, you know, having the, kind of with COVID and the shift to the pan from the pandemic, it's been super helpful to, um, you know, to be able to do some remote consultations with different designers and engineers that, um, you know, they can also go on there, book me and it'll, it'll just automatically give them a team's invite.
Um, so, you know, it's basically makes it super easy. You know, I, I, uh, I sent a link on, on Friday to a, a sprinkler designer and they were able to book me for, for Monday for, uh, to talk about a project that they have. So, um, so those things have been super helpful. Um, I'd like to, you know, we kind of have, uh, you know, within the fire department, um, every fire department has a records management system and that's kind of the, the core print, you know, the core piece that that software is gonna do is gonna, um, that's what our crews are gonna, um, Used to, to report all their call, the calls that they respond to.
So, um, that's really the primary function of that. Um, you know, we currently use the records management system that is kind of, uh, it's challenging on a couple different fronts. Um, but what it also does is, you know, there's an, uh, an occupancy module for it, um, that we can do inspections on and do, you know, an electronic inspection that way.
So, um, within probably the next, probably the next couple months here, we're gonna be switching records, management systems. Um, so that will be, that's kind of, that's gonna be kind of another opportunity, um, to kind of clean up our inspection checklists and, um, make sure where you can get a clean and clear inspection.
Uh, process figured out as well as, uh, pre-incident planning for our crews. So, um, I'm definitely excited for that. And then, you know, I think, you know, I'm always kind of looking to see what, what I can do to, to manage the workload and track the calls and, uh, you know, those, those odds and ends, um, just to make sure that, you know, we're, we're doing the best job that we can and the most efficient job, um, instead of having to, uh, kind of reinvent the wheel the entire time.
And that's been, that's been one of the, the interesting learnings to, you know, kind of step into a new role and to see, you know, see how can I make what I'm working on the most transparent for, you know, for the next guy. Um, and so that's been definitely, definitely a lot of learnings along the way, but it's been.
Man that was so many good tips there. I love Calendarly. I'm definitely gonna check out Smartsheets and it's cool to hear what you're doing to try to refine the process. Um, man, Jacob can't thank you enough for coming on the show and sharing all this great information about your career and good resources for others and yes, big, big, big, thank you for, uh, coming on another fire code tech episode.
Yeah. Well thank, you know, thank you so much for having me, uh, definitely appreciate it. And if you, or you know, anyone else come up to Montana, there's only a few of us up here, so, you know, feel free to stop. 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.