Friday, June 22, 2018

Trends in My Industry

The fire alarm industry is a very technical, regulated field governed as it is by numerous governmental agencies at the municipal, city, Provincial, Federal and even International level along with non-governmental bodies.

There is the NFPA, (National Fire Protection Association) which is "a global non-profit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.  NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; partnering with others who share an interest in furthering our mission."  It is this organization that all levels of government refer to when referencing standards.

There is also the ULC in Canada which is the Underwriters Laboratory Canada.  This body "is an independent product safety testing, certification and inspection organization" whose purpose is to "include testing, evaluation and factory surveillance of products to Canadian and international standards for safety."

The Federal government of Canada enacts the the Canadian Fire Code which is enforced on all federally owned buildings and properties, including the Armed Forces sites.  The Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) which governs all electrical installations of fire alarm and related life safety equipment such as emergency lighting units, wiring for suppression systems and magnetic door holders or releases and air supply units.

The Provincial governments modifies the Fire Code and in British Columbia we have the BC Fire Code and the BC Amendments to the CEC.  There is then a non-governmental association that has been empowered by an Act of the Legislative Assembly to monitor the training and ethics of the fire alarm/life safety technicians, ASTTBC.  However, this body is not universal across BC and must be adopted by each individual municipality or city.

With all of these levels of governmental and NGO to deal with one would be inclined to think that the industry would be stagnant or too restrictive.

Yet studies have shown that the industry is in fact steadily growing.  "72% of SDM Industry Forecast Study respondents say fire alarm sales in 2016 were good or excellent." Source: SDM 2017 Industry Forecast Study.

Another area of growth has been in the increased technological advances in hardware such as carbon monoxide detectors and the use of dual sensing devices.  Voice evacuation systems with the improved clarity in tones has created another avenue for both manufacturers and installers to provide higher quality installations.

Some market research has indicate that the sales year over year are expected to show strong growth through 2020; "Mircomarket Monitor, which breaks the market down in several different ways, found that the North American fire protection systems market will reach $18 billion by component and $10 billion by service by 2020." This has in part been attribute to increased sales in the IP enabled panels, cellular systems for monitoring systems that dial out to emergency services, as well as the newer intelligent devices that connect to addressable fire alarm systems.

The increase in new construction, especially in the commercial office space, hotel and even retail and restaurant business was a driving force behind the increased sales.  However as noted above, so much of the fire and life safety industry is governed by code requirements that even the renovation and upgrade business saw large growth as noted by Wayne Oliver, VP of sales for Hochiki.  "The greater enforcement of code requirements and the greater embracing of the fire alarm and life safety changes to these fire alarm and building codes will continue to grow the fire alarm industry."

The latest update to the International Fire Code in 2015 requires all new systems to identify the specific device, the location and if it is alarm, trouble or supervisory in nature. This, while not specifically referring to the addressable panels, which have been around in some fashion for 15 or more years, leaves little room for the older conventional systems which let smoke detectors, manual pull stations and other alarm initiating devices all be combined on one zone.  This along with numerous other jurisdictions calling for carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping rooms, hotels and other multi-family dwellings as per the IFC along with all classrooms in the K-12 range has created a booming market in a rapidly growing industry.

Tim Baker, a director of marketing at Honeywell Security and Fire expects that with so many recent code changes being adopted across North America the service industry will be able to "capitalize on code changes that are taking hold.  CO requirements, low frequency sounders in commercial sleeping spaces - even the move from conventional to addressable fire systems - provide great opportunities to provide customers with more effective life-safety solutions while helping them to comply with current codes and standards." 

With an ever increasing push to SMART buildings, similar to the Smart house market, there is a desire to have integration between all of the building system, HVAC, security, lighting and fire systems.  Combined with the addressable fire systems, this could lead to not only detection of fires, but prevention.  Again though, code requirements take precedence over the desire to improve the data collection required by combining so many systems.

Technology changes are happening in all industries in such an increased capacity that it has made it difficult to keep up.  When the code is only updated every three to four years and technology was changing every two to three years, the life safety industry was slow to adopt the latest technology.  However, with technological advances entering the market every twelve to eighteen months, it is technology driving the code changes instead of the other way around.

As Neil Lakomiak of Underwriters Laboratories has noted, "Most people want to avoid preventing a new technology from getting to market if it will save lives . . . . realized that ourselves and upped our game as a testing and certification organization."

Suffice to say that as we enter the next five years in the fire alarm and life safety industry, we in the industry must keep our ear to the ground if we expect to be able to provide stellar service and the latest trends in safety equipment.

* Reference material: 
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Welcome to my blog

I am a father to two twenty something young adults.  One of my favourite experiences in the last 56 years has been raising my children. I am a step father to two teenage girls.  This is rewarding and challenging.

I am a husband.  For the second time. We were married in April 2017.  My wife is one of the kindest, supportive, loving women I know.  Yet at the same time, she holds me accountable for my BS.  I call her my Polish princess.  She moved to Canada when she was 24 from Poland and the first language her girls learned here was Polish.  Evidently one of the harder languages to learn as an adult, as I am discovering.  We love to take ballroom dance lessons at Arthur Murray in Coquitlam, which we started in order to be able to dance at the wedding and found a new joint passion.

I use the title Cowboy when describing myself and have for over the last 30 plus years.  Its not a career, its a way of looking at life.  Its every country song and western show all rolled into how I interact with situations.  Integrity, honesty and a tough exterior with a tender heart.  Vulnerability and accountability.

I have been an electrician for 30 years.  I have been a journeyman, foreman and contractor.  I love the freedom of contracting, but dislike the paperwork side of running my own business.  I switched to the life safety industry in 2009 and have loved the requirement for troubleshooting and using your brain.  I am currently a branch manager for a mid-sized fire and life safety company which services buildings across the entire province of BC.

I am a writer.  Words have meanings, use them carefully, I like to say.  I have published several poetry books both of my own writings and collaborations.

I am a home chef.  Influenced heavily by my mother's cooking and baking.  I love the creative side of cooking and love to translate that into baking which is supposed to be so scientific, yet I can turn an ordinary dish into the extraordinary.

I have tattoos.  Eight of them.  My left arm is for family.  My right arm is about faith.  Dragons play a large part in my tattoos, the name of my business and most of my fiction reading.  My first tattoo was a dragon curled around a Celtic cross. Protect your faith, whatever it may be.

I have done the DNA test.  For years, I thought I was 1/4 Russian and 1/4 German and only half English.  Turns out I'm 93% English.  The history of the DNA test said that it was the Mennonite side of the family who fled England in the 1400's to settle first in Germany, then in Russia before leaving for North America.  Though, I'm sure there is some Russian and German in that 7%, its not as much as I imagined after hearing my grandmother's stories of fleeing the Bolshevik revolution.

Just a little bit about me....... Welcome to the journey !