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Take the Initiative to Improve Your Fire Alarm Systems Knowledge

Getty Images / Jackie Niam
Published On
Jan 24, 2022

One of my favorite quotes from the motivational guru, Zig Ziglar is, “If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting!”

If you presently work for a contractor, do you wait for the owner or your immediate boss to provide education on the fire alarm systems you’re installing? Or do you take the initiative and find sources to educate yourself on the proper way to install a fire alarm system? You may argue that the owner constantly buys the low bid so each system you install is different on each project. But that should not deter you from attempting to learn everything you can about systems installation.

First you need to gain basic knowledge of fire and fire alarm systems in general. There are at least three sources for general fire alarm training: NECA, AFAA and NFPA.

Next, you can contact whichever manufacturer you are installing, and they will provide free information on the proper installation techniques for their equipment.

It is also vital that you understand that NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, contains almost all the various requirements for the application and installation of fire alarm systems.

I have often written why it is important to read the entire Code. I know it is not as fun to read as a spy novel, for example, but it is nonetheless necessary. Chapter 1 of the Code is clear in Section 1.3.5: “The requirements of Chapters 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 18, 21, 23, 24, 26, and 27 shall apply unless otherwise noted in the specific chapter. Chapter 29 is designed to stand alone unless it specifically references an earlier chapter.” (Chapter 29 is for one- and two-family homes and would not be used for large commercial properties.) As you can see, all chapters apply to all commercial fire alarm systems, except for Chapter 29. So if you cannot afford any of the presentations offered by the three organizations listed above, then you can take the initiative yourself and simply study the Code.

Another favorite mentor of mine is Napoleon Hill. One of his many positive statements applies to this discussion: “If you really study those who have reached the top of any organization, you will find that they are the people who cheerfully accept challenges, take the initiative and get the job done. They don’t complain, and they don’t make excuses. Those who never get anywhere in their jobs and careers can’t seem to understand that achievers don’t become achievers after they reach the top. They reached the top because of the way they conducted themselves along the way. You can easily become one of those individuals who regularly advance in the organization—if you are willing to pay the price. Any good manager will tell you that the type of people who are most in demand are those who can think for themselves, who will take the initiative to do the right thing without being told and who will stick to the job until it is finished. You can be one of those people if you choose to be.”

Hill also stated that “It’s hard to say which would be more discouraging: drifting from job to job because you’re always the first to be laid off, or laboring in monotonous obscurity at the same job. The first results from not doing what you are told to do, the second from doing only what you are told to do. You can ‘get by’ for a time following either approach, but you will never get ahead. Personal initiative is more important in today’s enlightened, high-tech workplace than it was during the Industrial Age, when the ability to follow orders was a critical skill.”

Taking the initiative, in your case, means studying the Code, getting free assistance from the fire alarm manufacturers your company chooses for a project and applying that knowledge to your job. Keep in mind that every fire alarm system is UL-listed the same way. In other words, they all must receive and process alarm and trouble signals, and when in alarm must operate the notification appliances and signal a remote supervising station. Generally, the only difference between manufacturers would be the options they have to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

This period of economic recovery from the pandemic is a perfect time to re-evaluate how you approach fire alarm system installations and how to address the problems you may encounter. Don’t keep on doing what you’re doing—take the initiative now!

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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