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Aug 24, 2020

On this episode of Fire Code Tech, we're speaking with Paul Inferrera. Paul is a NICET IV certified technologist in fire alarm systems and the design manager of DrawFire LLC, a fire alarm design consulting company.  Paul is also an ambassador for NICET, and he teaches two online classes on fire alarm systems at Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina. In our interview, we go over the fundamentals of fire alarms, commissioning, ITM and much more.  This show provides a great overview of fire alarm systems and resources for continuing education, including the courses at Cape Fear Community College. If you are interested in learning more about the courses, click the link below.


How did you get your origin and your start in fire alarm and life safety?
What are the components of a fire alarm system and the equipment that is involved?
Will you speak about integrated systems and the theory behind integrated systems?
What are the methods of communication for a fire alarm system in how they report?
Describe commissioning and testing and what that looks like in a commercial setting?
Would you speak about DrawFire LLC and the work you are involved with?
What are the Fire Alarm Training courses at the Cape Fear Community College?
How is teaching changing in response to the corona virus?
What is a NICET Ambassador and what does that role involve?
What is a trend in the industry?
What resources do you recommend to individuals who want to learn more about fire alarm?

Below is registration announcements and link to the program:

Fire Alarm Systems Training classes at Cape Fear Community College will start August 31, 2020 and registration is now open. Our courses are self-paced and offered online to anyone with an Internet connection.

The registration fee for the four-month course is $185 (USD) and awards 14.4 CEU’s. NICET awards 1 CPD point for 0.1 CEU (10 points per CEU).
Those who are using the course to obtain NICET Continuing Personal Development (CPD) points will max out the category “Additional Education” and earn 45 points.

Use the following link to sign up for the class and select "Alarms 101" or "Alarms 102":

Alarms 101
This course is designed for those individuals who are in the fire alarm industry and will focus on fundamentals. Students will learn basic electrical theory and understand resistance, voltage and current.

Individuals currently in the fire alarm industry would benefit from the concepts and theories, which will be built upon in the Alarms 102 course.
Students will also acquire a basic understanding of the physics involved in the chemical reaction and the by-products of fire. Students will learn basic electrical workmanship and installation methods of fire alarm equipment and devices.
The student will gain an understanding of the requirements of codes and standards that govern fire alarm systems and installations. (14.4 CEU/45 CPD awarded)

Students will become familiar with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and NFPA 70, the National Electric Code (NEC). These references are consistent with NICET’s allowable references for Level I and II Fire Alarm Systems exam(s).

Alarms 102
This course is designed for individuals who are fire alarm technicians or have intermediate experience in the fire alarm industry and will focus on application and design.

The subject matter will build upon concepts addressing the behavior and generation of smoke, the combustion process and the requirements of codes and standards that govern fire alarm systems and installations. (14.4 CEU/45 CPD awarded)
Students will become familiar with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, NFPA 70, the National Electric Code (NEC), NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, and the International Building (IBC).

These references are consistent with NICET’s allowable references for Level III and IV Fire Alarm Systems exam(s).
Please contact me for more information or visit our web page for complete course information:



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.

You're in the right place. Welcome to episode 10. Fire code tech on this episode of fire code tech, we have Paul Inre. Paul is a nice for certified technologist in fire alarms systems and the design manager of draw fire, LLC fire alarm design consulting company. Paul is also an ambassador of NS, a and a proponent of the fire alarm industry.

Paul teaches two online classes. On fire alarm systems at the Cape community college in North Carolina today in our interview, we talk about inspection testing and maintenance that fundamentals of fire, alarm commissioning, and much more. This show is a great overview of fire alarm systems. And I could be happier to shine a light on the courses at Cape community college.

Go check them out if you need continuing education credits, or if you just wanna learn more about fire alarm systems. Well, hello, Paul, welcome to the show. Uh, good morning, GU. How are you doing today? I'm doing pretty good. Doing pretty good. So please, to have you on the, the podcast. So I just wanted to get started with Paul.

I was wondering if you would tell me a little bit about your background and how you. Found your origins and fire alarm and, uh, fire alarm technology and fire protection and life safety. And, well, I guess most people on fire protection will tell you that they didn't start here. They just kind of ended up here and I'm guess I'm in that category.

Um, my career actually began in the us Navy as an electrician and, uh, most of my experiences with building and factory automation, um, mostly with H V a C. And I was actually, uh, gonna work as a application engineer, uh, and took the summer off and moved to the beach. And, uh, the company that I was gonna start for did a higher end freeze right after nine 11.

So I was kind of in a new town with, with no job, took a job as an electric. Working on a fire alarm system. And after the project was over, I ended up getting a, a job with a company that did the installation, and that's really how I, I got into the fire alarm business. Um, I took drafting in high school, uh, back when drawings were produced by hand and really enjoyed the precision of the work and motivated factor in getting an ISET level three, which is required for fire alarm design is basically, uh, to get off the road and get out the.

Actually, that was a good help. You know, I spent most of my nights on the road studying code books and preparing for nights at exams. So it was a positive out of a perceived negative. Uh, and here I am. Wow. Very nice. Yeah. It's interesting to hear about your background and yeah, it seems like that's a, a very common thread that people, uh, tend to fall into.

Uh, fire protection or fire alarm industry, and then kinda stick. So, yeah. Um, I have a pretty similar story, so I resonate with that for sure. Yeah. So I, I understand that you have, uh, quite extensive background with fire alarms show in the next, uh, couple questions in the interview. I just kind of wanted to get into.

Different, uh, fire alarm topics and kind of pick your brain on 'em. I haven't had the opportunity to speak with somebody who is, uh, I set for certified for, uh, any of the different, I set certifications yet. Something that I've been interested in exploring. Cause I think it's important to not only get the, the engineer's perspective, but also I believe that there's.

A lot of value in somebody who is well versed in putting these systems together and not just, you know, kind of notionally, uh, putting categories and criteria on, uh, paper. Cause we all know that it all, all looks good on paper until you get out in the field. Trying to put together, but so I wanted to start with maybe for, I don't know who all will listen to this episode.

So I just wanted to start with, if you would give an overview of some of the component architecture of a fire alarm system and just kind of go over the basics of, of what these systems are. They're major components, if you would, Paul, uh, well, in, in basic terms, uh, a fire alarm system is designed to protect life and property.

Be that being said, there are three basic types, and that depends on how they report, uh, the effects of a fire. Uh, protective premises would be, uh, a fire alarm system that a, that alarm that, that premise only, and the occupants would have to dial nine one, one, or call the fire depart. um, the second type would be a, a supervising station and this is a fire alarm system at a protective premise that would actually dial out and summon a to the, to the building.

And the third type would be a public reporting system. And these are the old street boxes that you would see on the corner. Predominantly in the Northeast. So you'd pull it just like you would a pull station in some of the fire department, uh, businesses and, and premises adjacent to that street box can also connect to it.

So an alarm in that building would trigger that, that public alarm system that goes, uh, directly to the, to the fire department, as far as the equipment, uh, follow arms systems are basically comprised of inputs, outputs, and a process. Uh, input signals to the control P uh, panel processor would come in the form of a smoke detector or heat detector, P stations or devices that monitor the sprinkler system.

When those signals come in the processor, which is programmed by the installing technician, would process the inputs and send. The appropriate outputs outputs would be, uh, activation of notification appliances in the form of horn strokes, strokes, or speakers. It would also work in concert with other building systems that would capture the elevator shut down the H V a C uh, start fans for smoke control, uh, or send signals to a supervisor station to someone aid.

So that's basically the, the types and, and how they would, would work. Very nice. I appreciate that. That's. Very succinct description. Also, it's hard sometimes, uh, uh, working with, you know, uh, the, the general type of commercial fire alarm system. You don't see some of these, uh, public reporting systems as much.

So it's interesting to hear you talk about that. Yes. I was actually visiting some relatives in New Hampshire and walked out of a drugstore and about ran into one. And when I saw it, I, uh, I was kind of well amazed and actually see one, but yeah, they they're still out there. Hmm. That's very interesting.

Yeah. I haven't seen, I've seen them in like, uh, like pulled off the wall or after they've been taken outta commission. I don't know if I've ever seen one that's that's still. Been in, in the works. So that's, that's, that's neat. So next, just wanted to talk a little bit about cuz I know this piece is missed a lot of times and so I just wanted to speak a little bit about the inspection testing and maintenance requirements for fire alarm systems and you know, uh, how do we know about these requirements?

Where are they found and maybe, you know, uh, something that you might see that's commonly missed in your experience? Uh, yes. The, um, well, the big takeaway is that the owner of the building are responsible for maintaining the system, which most unaware, but the inspection test and the maintenance requirements for fire alarm and cellular systems were found in, uh, NFPA 72 chapter 14.

And that chapter is dedicat. To that, to those testing. Um, it will also list the frequency or how often the inspections and testing is performed. And it will also give you a description of how the methods, uh, to perform those inspections. Um, the inspections are typically performed monthly. Quarterly or annually, the owner usually schedules a fire alarm or specul inspection to be formed at the same time to reduce the impact of operations.

Uh, you don't want the fire alarm guy to come in one day and, and set off the alarm and do their inspection. Then have a specul guy come in a few days later and test their portion of the system, which of course will, uh, alarm the system as well. Uh, so a company that can perform both inspections would be at a lower cost than having one company to inspect a fire.

Uh, and one to the. Maintenance and repairs are usually not planned in the chapter. 14 will also list the requirements for those activities. It'll describe how to communicate with the owner if their is deficient and also testing requirements after repair. Um, I think a big misconception among technicians is, uh, they'll.

They won't do. Program at the keypad, of course, as cumbersome they'll get on their laptop and they'll, uh, do all the changes and they'll dump that program into the panel. Uh, but what that does, that, that constitutes a hundred percent test of the entire system. So of course the owner doesn't want you to go in there and, and test all 14 floors of a high rise when you've just made a, a small change.

But technically, whenever you do replace the operating program, you have to test all functions of that program. Hmm. That's fascinating. Yeah. That's, that's interesting. I didn't, I didn't realize that, you know, when you up up basically update the, uh, logic inside a fire alarm panel that, that constitutes a, a full testing of the system.

Yeah. I could see how. Uh, technician or anybody would wanna be wary of that requirement, um, due to what all that entails. That sounds like a serious thing. Yeah. Well, in the course of a, a regular repair, the code requires that you only test a certain amount of the affected part. Uh, of course they don't want you to test the entire system when you just replace one device.

But of course, if you, if you replace the program, the program controls everything and that why it pulls in the a hundred percent test. That's a good point. And that's good to know. I'm glad that you brought that up. So Paul, you spoke before a little bit about, um, some of these integrated systems and I just wanted to touch on this a little bit more because.

I think that in today's age of the internet of things and how everything has just become, uh, more connected through the advancement of technology, uh, in, in general, I just wanted to, uh, hear you speak a little bit more about, uh, integrated systems in regards to fire alarm systems and, and what that means.

I know you've already kind of touched on it a little bit. Yes. Um, and this would probably. Go along the lines of commissioning as well, but the federal government, they, they, more or less took the lead, uh, with the, the whole building design concept to where all the building functions would work together to perform a, a common function and not really work independently and separately.

And of course, whenever. Connect everything together, uh, that makes it more complex, uh, than just standalone systems, whether it be the sprinkler or the elevator recall smoke control or the access control and that whole building concept, all those systems will work in concert, uh, in effect one another. Um, but the main point of the fire alarm code is that other systems are not gonna affect the operation of the fire alarm system.

So there's a fault with the H V a C system that fault isn't gonna carry over and compromise the fire alarm system. Yeah. Yeah. I just think, uh, it's, it's kind of interesting to me. We are seeing, you know, I forget which, uh, I know three or four is more the integrated system in FBA, but. And I'd know that, uh, and, and what I do as a architected engineer, um, it's a lot of making sure that these integrated systems function the way they're intended.

And yeah, it just, uh, it just seems like a topic that's not going away. And, uh, I wasn't aware of the, the whole building design. Um, charging ahead on that, uh, issue another, uh, topic that's frequently causes trouble or just frequently needs, um, investigation. Um, in regards to doing business with new or existing clients is how these fire alarm systems report.

and there's been a little bit of, of shake up recently in, uh, the reliability of some reporting methods. So yeah, I just wanted to talk a little bit about, um, What re what it means for fire alarm system, uh, to report and, you know, some of the different means and methods to facilitate that reporting. And, uh, what you see is common in the industry.

I know it kind of varies, uh, By the, what the project owner wants. But yeah, I wanted to hear a little bit of your thoughts on that. Well, I guess the big change would be the internet. Of course, the internet changed every aspect of everyone's life. Uh, but when the, the old copper lines start to become extinct, uh, you know, in the past you're required to have two separate forms of communication, uh, with the fire alarm system.

And. Typically with two, two phone lines, two independent phone lines. Uh, like I said, the internet came along and you have the, the voiceover IP to where you'll have your phone and your internet on the same cable going to a building. And when that first came out, you would have, you know, your local cable company hooking up a building, and then they would try to use the fire alarm system to report over that internet.

And. The, uh, the, the power backup requirements for the fire alarm panel. Wasn't consistent with the power of backup of the internet and switching stations. For example, the, uh, fire alarm panel is required to have a 24-hour backup and a lot of the cell and, and switching stations. That the internet used their P backup was only, you know, six hours or 12 hours.

So the communication system, their batteries would go dead. Uh, so the fire alarm would sit there without any communication and, um, I think over the years, they've, they've become more, more streamlined and those requirements are more better to use the, the, uh, internet, uh, but you're still required two independent, uh, forms of communication.

So typically if they use the internet as one form, they'll have a cellular, uh, backup and, uh, whenever they lose internet, they can use the cellular transmit or to transmit, uh, signal that way. Like you would a, a cell using a cell. Um, and as far as reports, the, um, there's company now, where there's systems, where you can, where the building reports and your inspection reports are sent directly to the HJ, um, this allows a technician to perform inspections and the results to compile and, and they generate reports.

Uh, those reports. Dual purposes, they can, uh, report deficiencies to the owner. Uh, the owner's required to have a report that says what's wrong and what they need to fix. And those. Systems will do that. Um, some efficiencies are required to report to the HJ and if you send those results directly to the HJ, then there, they get their communication and their report as well.

Um, it's from a technician's standpoint, you basically just have to, uh, go around with a barcode reader and scan the device after you test it. And all you reports are done for you. So don't have to sit there a couple hours. After the inspection and compile reports they're done as you go. That sounds like a good method.

And Paul, I just wanted to ask, uh, what do you see as the most common, uh, reporting method these days? I'm not sure how, uh, uh, involved you are still with the, um, The, the technician side of things or just, uh, the insulation of these systems. But yeah, I didn't know if you had a pulse on that. I would say the copper phone lines are probably still, I don't wanna say the most common, but they're still there.

They haven't gone away. Um, and of course another is the, uh, the I, the internet with the, the cellular backup and has to basically the easiest way to, to do something. If you have a building that goes up and. You know, they're not gonna call the phone company anymore. They're gonna call the cable company to get their, their telephone and their internet.

Um, and then the, the installing company will also install a, a cellular transmitter to give them that backup. So, um, if the phone lines aren't in place in an existing facility or, or complex, uh, the more commonly they'll go with the, uh, the IP and the cellular. Interesting. Yeah. I just ask cuz uh, on the design side, uh, sometimes it can be difficult to, uh, nail down.

Um, what's being provided as far as the utility and you know, if it's gonna be, uh, fiber optics or copper. And so, uh, and then oftentimes we are leaning more towards now, uh, the IP or, uh, internet protocol. Means or the, uh, cellular with the backup cellular. So yeah, just wanted to, yeah, I appreciate that. But, uh, also, yeah, I wanted to touch on, uh, those, uh, direct reporting means that you were talking about, it sounds like you're a, a fan of that, um, way of, um, generating reports and just, uh, sounds like it's convenient for the, um, inspector.

And, uh, the, the building owner, if you are somebody who wants to, uh, be upright about your, um, taking care of your fire alarm and fire suppression systems. So yeah, I think you'll, you'll find those reporting systems more often in, in large campuses or large buildings where there's hundreds and hundreds of devices.

You just have a little strip mall with a pull station and a smoke detector. You're probably not gonna go, go through all the money and the. To, to use the, you know, the building reporting system for that. You just, uh, do a quick inspection and fill out your report, but they do have their, their applications.

Yeah. I, I didn't think about that. There's probably a break even point for device count and complexity of system for those, uh, inspection report and automatic reporting, uh, methods. Um, so that's interesting. I'm glad you touched on that in the vein of testing. Just fire alarm systems in general. Yeah. I wanted to speak with you about, uh, commissioning in the, in the role of, of testing.

I don't know if you would, uh, touch on that for. What that means for fire alarm and maybe how you would go about that and kind of what that process looks like, Paul. Well, I, I feel that commissioning is the most critical aspect of putting the system in the service, cuz that's really your last chance, uh, to catch any discrepancies or any impairments.

That won't allow assistance to perform as designed, of course, you're gonna have the HJ, that's gonna come in and give acceptance testing, but technicians shouldn't rely on the HJ to find all the problems. And that's really not. Their job. Fire alarm systems are required to be fully functionally tested before you schedule accepting testing with the HJ.

So of course, do you know what's gonna work and they know what's gonna work when they get there. They're not there. Like I said, define problems in large buildings with systems that are integrated. Like we spoke of before, there's a higher level of commissioning requirements, uh, that may be appropriate to do the scale and complexity.

And you touched on the, the two codes that would be NFPA three, which is a standard for commissioning of fire protection and life safety systems. And also NFPA four, which is a standard for integrated fire protection and life system testing. This wouldn't be something that the technician decides to do.

This would be. More in your realm where the, the specification in the engineer is gonna require that the commissioning be. Uh, perform under one of those two codes. Um, of course in that scenario, you'd have an independent third party. That'd be retained by the owner and they'd be listed in the project specification to, to, uh, perform that, that level of commissioning.

Uh, again, you wouldn't do that in a strip mall with. With a pull station of smoke detector, it'd be on a large high rise or a complex where you have large integrated systems with the smoke control on the other way to recall where you really want a higher level of scrutiny and you wanna make sure those systems are gonna work.

Yeah, Paul, uh, that's great. That's a great point. Yeah, my, the company I work for does a lot of work with the aircraft hangers and so. Um, there have been times where, uh, my company has been retained for third party commissioning and just verifying these, how these systems work in just a means and methods of that.

But, uh, yeah, I think it's interesting, uh, doing all the, some of the different tests, you know, activated all the initiation devices, the circuit in circuit integrity testing. Um, you know, just seems like the one that everybody would probably be most aware of is testing the scrubs and making sure they're all synchronized.

But, uh, yeah, it's interesting to, to see that process it's pretty involved. Um, I imagine it's, uh, cost prohibitive for a lot of projects unless they are for very expensive projects. Yeah, I appreciate you touching on that all. Yeah, of course. When you're mul dealing with multimillion dollar aircraft, you wanna make sure that works and you wanna spend the money to, to make sure it works.

And, uh, it's always interesting, you know, the making sure the logic works that it's intended to, you know, for a fire alarm system. Some of these integrated systems, you know, for some of these commercial hangers, they can have, you know, when the, when a foam system activates, it'll open louvers, which are not explicitly a, uh, fire protection and fire alarm feature, but it's controlling the way the building, you know, um, moves it.

He could shut doors, he could open LUS. Um, whether that be in the ceiling or in the, in the side wall of the aircraft hangers. It's neat to see this testing done, cuz it's, uh, you get to see how, what, what an integrated system looks like in action. Although it's not too much fun being opponent, a boom lift and.

Shutting down a duck smoke detector just and listening for the, the air handling unit to shut down. But, uh, no, I'm just, it's, it's still interesting, but it can be difficult sometimes better than being in the office. Yeah. yeah, it can be difficult to perform some of these testing and it, and performing some of these tests makes you think about.

Look how you locate these devices, but yeah, it's nice to have a variety of being out in the field and, and getting to see how it really works and, and also being at the, the computer drafting. So, so yeah, I just wanted to talk a little bit about your, your company. Draw fire LL. And just, I'd like to hear about what kind of projects you're involved with and yeah, just hear a little bit of more about your, your business.

Paul draw fire LLC provides a detailed oriented cost effective option to having I set level four certified engineering technicians on staff. Of course, that could be a little bit of an investment for, for a company. but having that resource will enable those small companies to compete with larger firms to build larger projects.

Uh, but also large corporations will use, draw fire to outsource their design because of our agility to provide a quick turnaround. Uh, of course in the fire loan world, everybody wants to draw us yesterday. Um, and if you're a large firm and engineering department, you really can't turn around things that fast.

And on the other side of the coin, if you're a small company with no design, in-house, uh, it's gonna be hard for you to compete, to get project without a good set of shop drawings. So, um, we hit that niche as well. Um, at draw fire, I basically manage the design department and coordinate the work depending on client priorities.

This can be a challenge sometimes when everybody needs the drawings yesterday. Uh, but actually that's the fun part is managing the, the manpower and the resources to meet a deadline. Um, drawing lines on a piece of paper gets kind of boring, but it's the, the challenge of juggling all the, the clients and all the work.

It's very interesting. Uh, it's neat to hear about seems like there's a lot of different ways. To be involved in construction. And it's not just your, I always like speaking with, uh, entrepreneurs and people who have, have found a different way to, uh, make a living in fire protection and fire alarms. So yeah, I like hearing about that.

I, I hear what you're saying also about people with their either, uh, shop drawings or construction documents yesterday. I think. A byline in the construction industry, or maybe just a, a property of culture and culture in general, right now people want things instantaneously. And a little bit of that may be the, the lack of planning or maybe of the owner.

I mean, the last thing the owner thinks about is the fire alarm. Sit with them more. I'm concerned about the wallpaper and the paint and what it's gonna look like. And then they find out they need a fire alarm system in, and then we get a call. Yeah. And it's interesting too, because. Uh, fire alarm system, you know, a lot of times people don't understand why and, and when the fire alarm system's required.

And yeah, I've run into that situation as well, where, you know, everybody's all concerned and rightly so concerned with the, with the programming and the function of the space. And then, uh, life safety code required. Life safety systems tend to be an afterthought of meeting the do minimus requirements of.

So, yeah, I hear what you're saying. Some of that could come from, uh, ignorance about fire protection or just, uh, getting busy and not remembering, uh, she got some notification and initiation devices in there and meat code and sadly, a lot of times, you know, the money is, is the factor. I went out, uh, back when I was a technician, uh, to a facility, the, the insurance company was gonna require the, the business to have a fire alarm system or else they were gonna raise their insurance premiums.

And this was a, uh, wood working place. And they had saw us that was piled up in the corners. And of course, saws can be just as explosive as, as gas because the particles are so fun. And the company quoted the, the system and the owner decided to pay the pay the insurance premium because it was cheaper than getting the, the fire alarm system installed.

So, um, I couldn't believe it, but they're the owner and that's a little disheartening. I would think that, you know, uh, we, I, I get into situations a lot of times where even when it's not code required, it's. Uh, fire alarm systems put in, just because of the, that it's not an extravagant investment, I guess if you're a small business, uh, it could be, but, um, for any medium to large size, uh, company, uh, the, you know, fire alarm is, uh, a very small percentage of the overall budget of a building.

So I see people adding 'em, even when. They are maybe on the threshold of being required, but yeah, that's a little scary about the combustible dust hanging out in the shop. Just saying that, no, we we'll just take the insurance premium bump. Um, seems like you would want to not only, uh, protect your, uh, building occupants, but uh, ensure the longevity of your building.

Um, put that minor investment. In the grand scheme of things. Yeah. If you consider the cost of replacing the building and all your assets versus the cost of, you know, the premium, uh, of course replacing the building and the assets, and God forbid, someone dies, that's a lot more expensive than a fire alarm system.

Yeah. And I imagine there's a point at which that I imagine you could, uh, evaluate the break, even point in which. The fire alarm system pays for itself and the insurance premium. So got enough. It sounds a little bit, uh, short minded, but, uh, yeah. Anyways, Paul, I wanted to, uh, speak with you a little bit more.

I know that you are involved with a, um, Fire alarm systems training program at the Cape fear community college. And I wanted to hear more about that, um, from you and about the program and about your work there. Uh, yes, the, um, I am an instruct at K V community college and the fire alarm system training program, uh, is designed to produce competent and qualified individuals, uh, is our belief that properly trained and knowledgeable fire alarm system designers and technicians, uh, were reduced to losses due fire or false alarms and improve the quality of life in their community.

And the course was actually. Uh, an in-house training program that I provided for a company. Um, I'm also a nice ambassador. And at the time that I was completing the, the application for the, the ambassador program, one of the questions was how are you gonna promote nice certification in your community?

Which I had no idea how I was gonna do that. Um, and about the same time the owner of our company wanted all the technicians to be at least nice at level two certified. And, uh, by journey to, to level four, I had compiled lots of study materials and, and things of that nature. And, uh, I went to the owner and I offered to teach a little class in house to, to get those technicians ready for the nice set exam.

Uh, And that was a little one hour class that we provided every few weeks, uh, for our people and whoever want to come. And, uh, the college ended up picking up. That little training session and it evolved into the, the classes that we have now. Um, we offer two online classes. We have an alarms, 1 0 1 and alarms 1 0 2, uh, which is perfect people that are working.

Um, the alarms 1 0 1 is designed for those individuals who are new to the Harlem ministry. And we'll focus on fundamentals and that's geared to a ISET level one or two. And we also have the alarms 1 0 2, which is designed for individuals who are fire alarm technicians, or have meter experience in the fire alarm industry.

And we focus on application and design, and that is geared towards a ISET level two or level three. Uh, so if you were a nice at level two, wanting to get into level three, which. The transition between a technician and a designer. Uh, it's gonna be kind of hard for that technician out in the field to acquire that knowledge that they're gonna need for that level three exam, uh, and a great way to get that.

Of course would be an online course. Oh, that's great. I love hearing about, uh, different opportunities for people to learn about, uh, fire safety. And it sounds like you're providing. Unique experience at, uh, that Cape pre community college for people to, um, invest in their knowledge and, uh, life safety and fire safety and firearm systems.

So, uh, I find that really fascinating. Um, yeah. I don't know if you would, uh, uh, go over, uh, I mean, it sounds like you covered the gamut of topics that you could learn because. For these nicest certifications, you have to have a comprehensive knowledge, but yeah, I don't, I don't know if, uh, maybe, uh, you could speak on, uh, maybe some of the segments or some of the different, um, topics that you cover.

I'm sure it's comprehensive in you by no means have to cover them all, but, uh, yeah, that might. Paint a picture for the listeners. Yeah, I guess the, the distinction that we like to make is, is this is a far alarm course. This is, this is in a nice prep course. You can, you can find stuff online where they're gonna teach you the exam and get you ready for the exam, but we develop fire alarm technicians.

So we don't just talk about what's on nit exam. Go through physical science and the fundamentals and things that are gonna help you understand how fire works and how fire is detected. And if you know those fundamentals and have that knowledge. Grasp and the other concepts are much easier because you've got the fundamentals.

Um, a couple advantage of the, of the course is, uh, it's available online 24 7 at your availability. So if you work nights or days or weekends or whatever, the, the course is always there whenever you are available to take it. We also, our test questions are also on a computer online with a time. So, uh, you get a lot of practice when you go in to take that exam, you're on a computer answering questions in a time environment.

And a lot of students will say that the T exam was easy after they, they took our course. And I believe that's because one they've they're in that, that testing environment and two. They know the code inside and out, um, each course has about a thousand test questions and most of those questions come directly from the code book.

Uh, if you know the code, then any exam's gonna be easy, no matter who's giving you the exam. Um, the only drawback, uh, that I can identify is the cost. The course is only $185 and people don't feel that they're gonna get anything for that, that low cost cuz other courses, you know, they're five, six, $700, uh, and only give you a sample of the material that we offer in our classes.

Wow. Paul, that's a, I didn't, wasn't aware of that about the cost. That's an incredible offer for, uh, such a low price. These courses are, they can be just extreme prices. I was looking at prep courses just this week for another certification. And most of them just started a thousand dollars. And that's like, if you're already subscribed to their, you know, $300 membership, so man, and $185, I I'd definitely consider taking, taking the course, even though I am by no means.

A beginner at, at fire alarm design. That sounds like something I would be definitely be interested in. So I'm so glad to hear about that. Well, we got classes starting on the 31st, in a few weeks, so, uh, we can definitely sign you up. Um, when the college asks me what we can do to get more people, um, I tell 'em raise the price.

This is too cheap. Um, and like you said, they, they give you upwards of a thousand dollars. And a, a thing to look for is the EU that are. those programs you're talking about. You may get 0.1 0.2 CUUS for that training. Uh, and our course is gonna give you 14.4 CUUS. So, uh, a lot of technicians will use our class to get points, to get re-certified.

Um, you know, ISET requires that you get 90 points over a three year period. But you can take our class. Uh, and when you pass it, you earn enough, your CU credits will convert over to 45 N set points. So right there, you get a four month class, you, you learn something and you get 45 points for your ni set renewal, uh, which is unheard of all at a very low cost.

Yeah, that's incredible. And I think another, uh, excellent distinction is. For engineers need these, uh, CEUs as well. So I think that if you're an engineer looking for, uh, certification points for your professional engineering license, or, um, I'm not aware if, uh, there are other certifications in which you might apply as well.

I'm sure there are maybe, uh, like a CFPs or a CSP might have continuing education requirements. So sounds like it would. An excellent option for anyone who works in fire and life safety and wants to know more about these things. I think it's, uh, only responsible. Um, if you do work in these areas to have continuing education, even if it's not, uh, your hand is not forced by some, uh, licensing agency.

So yeah, I'm really, really happy to hear about. Paul seems like a good option and I'm glad to be able to put a light on it. So, well, I wanted to talk about, I feel like it might be a little bit tone deaf in today's, uh, uh, pandemic times. If we didn't talk about how you are adapting the, uh, the curricula at Cape for college, and sounds like you already have.

Uh, addressed it in some ways with the op with the online, uh, option. But yeah, I just wanted to ask if there are any ways that you see the way you teach fire alarms changing cause of this, uh, cause of the pandemic. Well, actually I don't for the classes I teach there, there's no change, uh, with the online nature of the chorus, it's already COVID friendly, uh, mask or optional.

Uh, as far as the college goes, The college is working with local county health and emerging management officials to actively monitor the noble coronavirus disease to protect the health and wellness of our campus. Uh, we have established safety protocols to include social distancing, face coverings, cleaning of classrooms throughout the day.

Uh, the college also promotes personal hygiene, such as hand washing. Ask students to avoid physical contact, such as shaking hands and staying home when they're sick. Uh, of course the campus is open, uh, for advising and admissions and financial aid. Uh, which of course that is also offered online virtually.

Um, as far as the fall, some of the traditionally in-person classes, uh, will be offered online or in a hybrid format with a combination of, in person in online instruction. Um, as part of. Federal coronavirus aid relief and economic security or cares act, uh, KFI community college received $2.3 million in federal funds, which will be provided as a direct payments to students as an emergency financial aid grant for expenses occurred or related to the disruption of campus operations due the virus.

Uh, and we did have one student who had to, uh, withdraw for Corona. Uh, Issues they were having. And of course they were able to, to use those relief funds and, and, uh, were not required to pay for the class. Um, in their case, we actually just rolled them into the next, the next class. So, um, just because we're virtually online, uh, I mean, you're not gonna catch it by coming to class, but you may con contract it other ways and it may affect your ability to come to class.

And of course we're gonna accommodate everyone. Very nice. Very nice. Yeah. I, uh, just wanted to touch on that, cause I know it's probably on everybody's mind. Uh, maybe too much, maybe this should just be about that. The fire safety and whatnot, but yeah, I just wanted to touch on that a little bit anyways. Uh, I know you spoke about your, um, N a ambassadorship earlier.

I, I would love to hear more about that. And also just in general, I think you've, uh, kind of illustrated it through this interview wide. Uh, NSA certifications are important that just for your, uh, assuring your knowledge base. But yeah, I would like to hear you speak a little bit more about. certifications and the value of these?

Uh, yes, I am a, a, I ambassador in the ambassador program was started to, um, just get the word out to the community about, uh, what N certification is and, and to promote it as well. Um, I also serve on. Uh, I set board of governors as the chair. Uh, the board meets twice a year to set strategic goals and establish operating policies for I set.

Um, but certification in general, uh, in any industry is, is important to the quality of life and communities to provide the public with bridges that won't fall down and buildings that are. Uh, it is important to make the distinction between certificate or certificate and certification. Um, anyone can take a class or seminar and receive a certificate, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're certified.

Nice. It is a third party organization that does not provide training. Uh, some. In some agencies that provide certifications will also provide training to get you certified, which is kind of a self-serving enterprise. Whereas Ned is a, is a third party. They don't provide training. Um, NSAID certified individuals are experienced incompetent.

What makes them unique is that they require experience or time in the job as well as knowledge in the form of an exam. For instance, You're gonna take a, an exam for all four levels, but you're gonna also. Work experience for those levels for level one, you'd need three months for level two is two years for level three is five years.

And for level four is 10 years. So you may have the knowledge to pass that level four exam, but if you don't have 10 years of experience in the industry, then they're not gonna certify you. And I think that's the biggest. Distinction between I a and, and the rest is that they it's a two there's two components for that certification, not just passing an exam.

Yeah. I think that's a great point. It's not just a, uh, something that you can sign up for and everybody passes, but it's, uh, two part process in which not only your knowledge is tested, but, uh, the there's an experience requirement as well. Yeah, I'm glad you illustrated that fact. Yeah, that's interesting. I think it's important for people to, um, get certified and, and, uh, not only, uh, be subject matter experts, but have third party, uh, verification of their knowledge.

So I'm glad that you touched on that, Paul, but, um, so I wanted to, uh, end with talking about a couple, uh, professional development topics. Yeah, I just wanted to ask Paul, um, do you see any, uh, uh, what do you see as trends in the, in the industry right now in fire alarm in life safety? I'm not sure I would call it a trend, but, uh, There are efforts, uh, to change legislation, to eliminate licensure, which is of course PEs and also, uh, certification requirements.

Uh, the argument is that current requirements are a burden to the individual and they increase the cost to the owner. Um, as we talked about. Businesses that don't wanna fire loan system. This is somewhat shortsighted and the cost save initially would be eclipsed by the cost to repair or replace work that is performed incorrectly or by people who aren't certified.

Um, and you know what, what's the cost on a, on loss of life? I mean, it's hard to put a dollar amount on that. Um, so a largely from a bridge collapse or a far alarm system that didn't work properly and result in death are much more costly. That having someone that's competent to, to install a system, most individuals will say, well, I know what I'm doing, so I don't need to be certified.

Uh, but how does the owner and the public know that someone is competent without a certification to, to measure the performance. Um, and that was a really a big thing for me. Um, I still remember the day that the fire marshal came to a commission of fire alarm system. And the first thing he asked me was, uh, where's your United set certification.

And I'm, like I said, I mean, I was competent. I knew what I was doing, but I didn't have a performance measure to indicate that I was. Uh, so when you do get that one, you could demonstrate that you are competent and you are certified and that'll sometimes get you a higher wage. So if you're certified. Do get paid a little bit more and your company can compete on projects that require certification.

Um, companies tend not to wanna get people certified because they're gonna want more money. But, but yet the, the other side of the coin is that that company can. It opens them up for more projects that are, that are worth more money for them to do. So. Um, it's a win-win as far as I'm concerned. Yeah. Well, I hope that's not becoming a trend in the industry, although I've heard of different states trying to, uh, lower that barrier to entry, but yeah.

Uh, I'm thankful for organizations, uh, certification organizations and professional organizations out there, like. S F P E and I'm sure N also who are, uh, lobbying for these certifications and the qualifications of professional to be stress test. So yeah, the, uh, national society, professional engineers or NS P they're they're actively involved in, in as well.

Um, so the, the they're basically trying to eliminate the professional engineer. You know, if you're living at professional engineer, then you're not gonna want someone you're not gonna require the certification as well. So it's kind of a, the first domino to fall would be that PE. So even nice to certified technicians still support NSPE because, uh, you know, it's, it's an engineering team.

So certified technicians work closely with professional engineers, uh, to provide the same goal. So one is, is just as important as the. Definitely. Definitely. I agree. Yeah. It's as a fire protection engineers, there's I require on, uh, essentially all my jobs, unless it's, uh, requested, um, otherwise by the owner or by the project stakeholders that, uh, designers be nice at certified and provide those qualifications as a component of the design.

Uh, so yeah, I mean, That's not gonna be a requirement unless usually is not gonna be a requirement unless, uh, engineers involved just say, Hey, we need really need qualified individuals performing this work and ensuring that it's, you know, ensuring that they are certified. And so, yeah, I could see how those go hand and glove, um, Those two certification aspects.

Yeah. It's really good to get to get that certification in the specification, but it's even better. Uh, when that specifications is enforced, uh, a lot of times we read the specs where it calls for this and that, but they don't actually require it. Um, so good on the write up, but not so good on the follow through.

Yep. Yep. Yeah. To struggle, uh, to. Enforce these things. And a lot of times, uh, it comes in the form of shop drawing, shop drawing review in which we're, um, you know, asking where the nice set qualifications, you know, add them to the draw, add your stamp to the drawing, or provide your nice set qualifications and in another form.

And, you know, even though it's on the drawings and in the specifications, um, sometimes contractors who don't have nice set level three or four, uh, certified. Um, professionals, maybe they were the low bid and they'll be like, well, we didn't, you know, we don't have, I said three qualified designers and you know, so, so what do you want us to do?

And, uh, so yeah, so we get into those situations and a lot of the times we'll, you know, say little requirement of the, you know, contract documents or the requirement of the contract documents. We enforce, we do everything in our power to enforce those. Um, yeah, I know what you're saying. It can be a struggle to, uh, ensure that the letter of the contract documents is enforced and our company does get a few calls from a, a company that does get those projects and then they find out they need a nice set certified designer for the shop drawings.

Uh, my advice be read the contract first. Definitely. So Paul, I wanted to end with that. Um, are there any resources that you would recommend to professionals you wanted to learn more about. Fire and hard systems. Well, I hear there's an online class at K three community college , uh, but really the, um, N FPA, they provide free online access to all their codes and standards.

And no one really has an excuse for not following their guidance because. , you know, it's free. You can go on internet, you can sign up and you can read all the codes and standards. Of course, if you wanna buy the book, you know, you have to purchase it, but NFAs not gonna charge you to, to be knowledgeable of the codes and standards, you know, all that's for free.

Um, I mean, other than that, I mean, you got the internet and the whole world is your oyster, so there's no excuse, really not to know something. It's all there. I appreciate. Awesome. Well, Paul, I just wanna thank you so much for coming on the podcast and I'll be sure to put links to Cape for community college and drop fire LLC, in the show notes that people wanna find out more about you.

And yeah, I just wanna thank you so much. And I enjoyed our conversation. Yes, sir. Guess it was good to talk to you today. 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. Thanks again, and we'll see you next time.