Fire & Life Safety: Fire Alarm Certification Training

Dec. 15, 2016
The benefits, along with a new app to help your employees prep

Alarm company owners who provide training and certification for their employees regularly receive high marks when installers are polled about job satisfaction. Not surprisingly, these trained employees show far more company loyalty than those installers who are never given a chance to improve or advance.

If an alarm company begins to offer the latest model control unit with advanced features and functions, this alone will require more training for the installers – a new bank of information and options that goes beyond the standard installation methods they may have become accustomed to.

State adopted rules, as well as the allowable code options to these same rules, are ever changing, and because of that, so must the content that is taught.

A savvy salesperson will offer any new technical feature to give their proposal an edge when presenting to a new customer. If things are to go smoothly after the sale, it will be necessary for the technician to get caught up. If that new feature or function just became available last month, the technician could already be behind the curve.

Don’t Become a Victim of the Schedule

Credit is due to business owners and supervisors who provide ongoing education, but often it is the installation manager – and a demanding schedule – who will pull installers out of a class the night before or the very morning it begins! I have seen it happen far too often.

Installers can be very candid in regards to how this makes them feel, and will often express in negative terms how they think their company is being run. This, not surprisingly, is terrible PR. If everyone – owner, general manager and installation manger – places technical training as a top company priority for the company, the company can realize faster, larger and more advanced installations and higher profits. Alongside these benefits, when installations run smoothly the salespeople have the opportunity to gain more leads and contracts because the company was able to keep their sales promises.

When installers are well-trained, there are fewer installation delays, and even fewer call-backs. Given these facts, try to ensure that your installation manager does not become the weak link in attaining and retaining qualified technicians. Make sure your installation manager has been given plenty of notice when certain technicians will not be available, and on which days. It is important that they manage the installations with the resources available to them and plan accordingly so your technicians are not missing out on valuable learning experiences. After all, as the great Henry Ford put it: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.”

Before-the-Classroom Alternatives

Professional, instructor-led classes are considered the most effective learning experiences; however, if too many classes are held off premises or require overnight stays, it can most definitely break up what could be a smooth installation schedule. There are times it may prove beneficial for some installers who lack a solid knowledge base to invest in some training time before sending them off to a remote classroom.

Before attending a two-day seminar geared towards teaching code information needed to pass a fire alarm certification exam, the installer should already understand the relationship between adopted codes and referenced standards – at a minimum. They need to know how rules are adopted, how they are enforced and by whom. For example, they should be able to explain what an “occupancy type” is, and how occupancy types are determined and sub-divided.

Fortunately, the technology we now use day-to-day has evolved to the point where we can provide new and numerous training methods for professional fire alarm techs. Employers might provide an hour a week in the office for installers to sit in front of a company PC running training software as a way to invest in their education. A mobile app viewed during lunch or downtime may be more practical than an hour or two of in-house training on a PC.

New Fire Alarm Training App

More than a year ago, I was asked to be involved with the development of an app similar to our very successful Fire Alarm certification test prep training software that we have sold for 15-plus years. As a result, an app is now available that uses my software as the basis for the fire alarm questions.

Besides my authorship approval  – and full disclosure: a share in the profits – the app underwent a review by both the Android Play and the Google Play stores for harmful, intrusive, or non-compliant coding. Having passed this scrutiny, the first versions are now available for purchase online, and it includes a free demo version available to illustrate how it works.

Fire Alarm Trainer Level I is the certification starter level. Along with the Level II and Level III apps combined, they provide more than 600 different questions for portable study. All questions are based on the code edition years currently used for NICET Fire Alarm Certification. Packed with diagrams and code quotes, the apps have neat features such as an ever-changing order of presented questions, and the ability to flag questions and return to them later, just as you would in a real-world exam. Once an employee completes each level, there is a chance to review the questions and see the code references that support the correct answers.

Installers will use this training throughout the two-plus years most of them will need to reach Level III of NICET or IMSA certification. The app prices are based on both the phenomenal success of the PC version, and the available number of potential technicians seriously seeking fire alarm licensing and certification.

Go to the Google Play or Apple Stores, click “apps” and enter “Logix LLC Fire Alarm App” in the search box. The apps are linked to Google Play or Apple Accounts, not the device that is actually used. They do not expire and users need not be online to use them. Since your company will be using this app for years to come, if anything should happen to a phone or tablet, you can simply log-in and re-download the app at no additional cost. We know you are in this for the long haul, and so are we.

Greg Kessinger has been SD&I’s fire alarm and codes expert and a regular contributor for more than 15 years. Please email him your fire & life safety questions at [email protected]