As 2022 comes to an end, it is a good time to think about the future of the fire alarm systems marketplace. We are probably in for a rocky few months in terms of the economy, which will most likely put a damper on new construction. As Forbes magazine reported in October 2022, “The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes further tanked the housing and stock markets this week, but signs that the job market may not be cooling quickly enough could mean the economy has much more to lose before decades-high inflation subsides—feeding concerns that a recession may only be inevitable, even if not immediate.”
Additionally, it was reported that “the housing market continues to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the Fed’s rate hikes.”
A deteriorating commercial housing market will impact new fire alarm system installations. However, there is still a need for qualified electricians. New techs in training won’t be on the job site until they finish their requirements. These new workers can also be involved in existing systems replacement. Although the economy may be down, don’t let that fact affect your approach to getting more work to fill any voids.
In addition to the residential market deteriorating, many company owners that had planned to move to larger new buildings are staying put until the economy turns around.
Turning to the code
The good news is that existing buildings will need to keep buildings’ life safety systems in a reliable operating condition. Now is the time to review your list of prior customers and offer services to audit their existing fire alarm systems and ensure they are operating reliably. Point out that Chapter 7 of NFPA 72 requires a system operating narrative (among other requirements) and that your inspection audit of the audible and visual notification appliances to confirm that there are no obstructions impairing their effectiveness, no physical damage, and that changing building conditions have not rendered the appliances ineffective is extremely important to ensuring audibility and occupant notification. The audit of the detection devices will provide similar input to ensure a reliably operating fire alarm system.
Another service you can provide would be performing the required inspection, testing and maintenance on their existing fire alarm systems.
The only chapter in the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code that is retroactive for all fire alarm system installations is Chapter 14, “Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance.” It explicitly states that “The requirements of this chapter shall apply to both new and existing systems.” Most importantly, the code requires that “The property or building or system owner or the owner’s designated representative shall be responsible for inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system and for alterations or additions to this system.” All the owners of existing buildings need your help to maintain their occupancy permit.
By keeping your company in front of these potential customers, you will be in a better position to provide system design for system upgrades or replacements.
Now is also the time to visit local fire marshals to determine whether they have issued citations on any of your current or potential customers’ fire alarm system. These visits also help keep your name on the top of the list as one of the fire marshal’s recommended companies. Because new construction is slowing, the fire marshals will have the time to catch up on existing fire alarm system inspections.
Having a good attitude to provide extra service will help to make your company’s name stand out in the minds of the owner or building management team. So, you must get busy doing something about going the extra mile. As Napoleon Hill stated, “The true benefit of going the extra mile is in teaching yourself to strive always for better and greater achievement in all that you do.”
About The Author
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, was a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is president of the Fire Protection Alliance in Jamestown, R.I. Reach him at [email protected].