SSN Newspoll results encourage, surprise

Training is important, but some say class attendance is waning
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

YARMOUTH, Maine—It probably comes as as little surprise that folks who do fire installation as part of their business value training. A recent SSN poll showed that they also think going the extra mile with high-level training, like NICET, is also important.

Tom Hammerberg, president and executive director of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association said he found the results encouraging. “It’s good to see there are number of people who feel training is important, because it very much is,” he said.

However, Hammerberg said, the fact that attendance at training seminars offered by the Georgia-based AFAA and other groups has been decreasing over the past couple years concerns him.

“There’s a little bit of conflict between what they’re saying and what we’re seeing,” Hammerberg said. “If your respondents say they have the commitment to training, I have not seen that they actually make the commitment.”

There were 112 voters in the poll, and of those more than 74 percent—83 of them—indicated high-level training is very important.

Another 18 percent—20 people—said it was somewhat important, while only nine respondents, less than 10 percent, said training wasn’t important.

But Hammerberg said those findings highlighted for him the fact that fewer people are attending AFAA training seminars. The association offers ongoing nationwide training on NICET and additional fire alarm-related topics such as testing and inspection, Hammerberg said.

He added: “We’ve been talking with other training groups and they’re seeing basically the same thing. There’s just a decrease in attendance.”

He believes the decrease can be attributed to financial concerns, and hopes attendance will rebound as the economy improves.

Training can be expensive for employers, who typically pay for it. For example, Hammerberg estimated it could cost $500 to $1,000 for an employee to become Level 1 NICET certified.

“But I believe the cost is well worthwhile,” Hammerberg said. Not only will employees be more productive, there will be fewer mistakes, he said. Installation mistakes can lead to everything from false alarms to fires, with possible loss of life and financial and legal liability, he said.

One of those responding to the poll was Shane Clary, VP of codes and standards compliance for Bay Alarm. He said he answered in the poll that fire training was very important, and said he found it “kind of shocking” other respondents indicated otherwise. “If you’re doing fire, you should automatically be answering ‘very important,’ he said. “If it’s ‘somewhat important,’ then what the frick are you doing in the fire business?”

Bay Alarm does both fire and security, serving more than 100,000 residential and commercial customers throughout California.

When asked if they provided high-level training to their techs, 94 poll respondents or about 84 percent answered “yes.” Nine respondents said “No,” and another nine said they were considering training.

John Chetelat, VP of business operations for Connecticut-based Honeywell Fire Group and chairman of the AFAA board, said he was concerned that any company “seriously in the fire alarm industry would not be committed to training, a high-level of training, to some degree.”

He said he considers fire alarm training to be “multi-faceted,” including not just NICET training but such knowledge as an understanding of manufacturers’ instructions on the equipment being used and familiarity with local and state standards for fire alarm systems.

Clary said Bay Alarm trains its employees through its Bay University training program. Its designers are NICET certified and its approximately 100 installers have the fire/life safety certification required by California. That state has not recognized NICET, Clary said.

In his opinion, he said, NICET “is more geared to designers rather than installers. Others would probably shoot me down on that, but that’s the way it is.”