NFSA launches 40-hour training program for sprinkler contractors

Non-union sprinkler association, AFSA, calls training initiative
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

PATTERSON, N.Y.—More places are adopting laws that mandate the installation of sprinklers in new homes and that, said National Fire Sprinkler Association president John Viniello, has more contractors than ever—plumbers, fire alarm installers and others—getting interested in dabbling in the fire-sprinkler installation business. To ensure that anyone who installs a sprinkler system is qualified, the NFSA on April 30 launched a new training program.

“We’ve developed a comprehensive 40-hour training program. At the end of that time, anyone who completes the course can sit for the ICC exam [International Code Council Residential Fire Sprinkler Design and Installation Exam],” said John Viniello, president of the NFSA. “Several of our top engineers have taken the exam and they feel that it’s an adequate exam,” he continued.

Not everyone is happy with the training program, however. The NFSA’s non-union counterpart, the American Fire Sprinkler Association, says the program is not comprehensive enough.

“The one-week training program is a slap in the face of the professional fire sprinkler industry,” Steve Muncie, AFSA president told Security Systems News. The AFSA has six-month and one-year training programs; a one-week course is simply not sufficient, he said: “If we are serious about controlling quality, this is not the way to do it.”

Viniello said controlling quality is what this program is all about. “We view this program as the fire sprinkler good housekeeping seal of approval,” he said. He pointed out that the NFSA is working with the Center for Public Safety Excellence and the International Code Council to form a Commission for the Accreditation for Dwelling Fire Sprinkler Contractors.

Viniello said he’s seeking the endorsement of other fire industry groups. Asked whether the NFPA would endorse the NFSA training program, Gary Keith, NFPA’s VP of field operations said they would not get involved. “We believe that systems should be installed according to national standards by qualified installers. Individual jurisdictions decide what qualified means,” he said.

The “huge upswing in demand for contractors who are qualified to install residential sprinklers” is driven by the fact that the International Residential Code requires fire sprinklers to be installed in all new one- and two-family homes after Jan. 1 2010.

Several states have or are considering adopting this mandate. To see what’s going on in your state, visit www.nfsa.org/ and click on the IRC update for an interactive map of the U.S.

“We’ve got California, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and a number of other states [adopting or considering adopting] mandates,” Viniello said. “There are a lot of people who want to get into this business.”

Viniello is in discussions with “a very large insurance carrier” about providing a “20-30 percent discount on homeowners insurance if they have a sprinkler systems installed by an installer carrying this accreditation.”