The codes that affect your day-to-day business change every three years. The frequency of changes makes it difficult to stay abreast of the countless revisions that occur each code cycle. Coupled with rapid changes in technology, staying current becomes challenging. Not only do you have to keep up-to-date, you also have to provide training for your technicians, so they have the latest information available.
One contractor I have known for some time uses training venues to attempt to stay ahead of the technology and codes changes curve. Within his own company, he sponsors hour-long training sessions. Each of these sessions covers a different subject, including specific code topics from NFPA 72 2010, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Often the topics relate directly to a current project on which the firm is working.
To keep the sessions lively, and in an effort to ensure they provide a true learning experience, the contractor conducts a one- or two-question review “test” at the end of each session. Any of those in attendance who answer the question correctly receives a $50 bill as a reward. That certainly seems to get the technicians’ attention!
When this contractor has the chance, he invites manufacturers’ representatives to present training on how to use and install their products efficiently and correctly. This exposes his employees to available new technology. And often, he will ensure that these representatives come from the manufacturers of the equipment the firm has chosen for its current projects. As you can see, this owner has developed a theme for the training he provides, namely, “keep the training relevant to what the technicians can use.”
In addition to the training efforts within his own company, he frequently attends sessions offered by trade associations and other organizations. He also sends his technicians to such training. He assigns new technicians to sessions that focus on the basics, and he sends journeymen and master electricians to attend the more advanced training.
A few sources offer these fire alarm training programs, including the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA). You can find a list of programs, seminar dates and locations on the group’s website, www.afaa.org.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is another source of training related specifically to understanding the code. NFPA schedules live seminars around the country. You can find dates and locations on NFPA’s website, www.nfpa.org.
Both organizations also offer seminars at your chosen site, allowing your employees to receive training and you won’t have to incur travel expenses for them to attend a scheduled program.
Web-based training is another approach. It provides efficient and cost-effective learning opportunities. Each module presents material from a particular subject in manageable chunks. Then the module provides questions that the student must answer correctly before moving on to the next subject. This method provides an instant review and helps ensure the student has actually learned the material.
The design of the modules matches the current knowledge level of the student. You save travel expenses, and if you desire, you can have your employees take the training on their own time. Some available sessions will help guide the trainee toward certification in the fire alarm field. If you have set certification as a goal for your firm, this type of training may prove particularly valuable.
Both AFAA and NFPA offer online web-based training programs. You can find a summary of the subjects and costs on their respective websites.
You may also find that local fire service organizations offer relevant training programs. Often these programs will be open to nonmembers, such as contractors. Or, the organizations will encourage contractors to join and participate in the learning opportunity.
You can do a bit of marketing at these fire service organizational meetings. Indeed, you may even opt to provide or sponsor training for the local fire marshal or fire prevention officer organization. The benefit for you would be exposure to people who can send work your way. It will also give your firm a positive image with the same individuals who may inspect your work in the future.
And finally, you must include customer training as a component of every fire alarm system installation. It makes more sense for your technicians to provide user training to your customer because it will keep your firm in front of them, not only at the end of the job, but annually, as they change personnel and request additional training.
So, it should be obvious that not only is training important for successful ventures into the fire alarm system installation arena, but it can pay off for you in many ways. Don’t get left behind!
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office. He can be reached at email@example.com.