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Competence Is Knowing the Limit of Your Abilities

Published On
Jan 16, 2020

Most contractors feel confident that they have the qualifications to install any fire alarm system, regardless of size or complexity. 

You likely already know that only an unfinished fire alarm system can delay the occupancy of a building. A building can open with the elevators not working, or no carpet throughout the building. But, without a complete fire alarm system installation, accepted by the authority having jurisdiction, the owner will not get their occupancy permit, so it’s important that you know what you can and cannot deliver. If you can’t provide what you’ve promised, your reputation and profits will take a major hit.

You may have already experienced this and have come to realize that no matter how well your other systems installations went, delayed fire alarm system acceptance will be what the customer remembers.

If you plan to act as a full-service contractor to your customer base, you must display competence in each service offering to that customer base. For example, if you only performed work in residential one- and two-family homes, you would not even think of undertaking a system installation in a high-rise building. After all, the fire alarm system requirements for one- and two-family dwellings differ widely from those required in the tall building arena. I do not mean limit your work. Rather, I want to emphasize the scope of each challenge you may encounter.

NFPA 72-2019, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, recognizes this. The code devotes Chapter 29, “Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Signaling Systems” to the specific subject. And in fact, states in section 29.1.3, “The requirements of Chapters 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 18, 21, “2 3, 24, 26, and 27 shall not apply unless otherwise noted.” [Emphasis added.]

All other chapters in the code state the requirement differently. For example, section 24.1.3 states, “The requirements of Chapters 7, 10, 12, 17, 18, 21, 23, 26, and 27 shall also apply unless otherwise noted in this chapter.” [Emphasis added.]

So, even the code indicates you must have greater knowledge of the code requirements when you install a fire alarm system in a high-rise occupancy than when you install a fire alarm system in a one- or two-family home.

All the above provides just one example of the differing levels of competency needed to install fire alarm systems in each occupancy. Even when given the examples in the code, many contractors look at a commercial fire alarm system as an easy and profitable add-on to their contract with the owner.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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