Sharing is key to safety

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

MT. PLEASANT, S.C.--For Carolina Protective Systems, about 80 percent of its business is routine--keeping up with the latest equipment releases, networking with industry professionals, dealing with new laws--but it's the remaining percentage that is routinely unexpected.
Fire installation companies do not live in a bubble, as such the systems they install and service can be comprised in many ways. David Orner, who owns the company, has seen systems go down by the hand of a building owner or unknowingly through a tenant's renovation.
In the recent past, Orner has shown up for service calls to discover blown fire alarm panels to disabled water flow switches. Whereas the problems themselves might be hard to diagnose, the root of the problems are easily identified.
These problems, he proposes, could be fixed even before they start. For example, architects and others involved in systems design could state who is responsible for each part of the job.
"It's like three surgeons working on a patient at once," said Orner on the conditions of some sites with electricians, alarm companies and sub-contractors all working at once.
Orner doesn't question the competency of these professionals; he finds that people need to respect their area of expertise and trust that someone else might be better trained to complete a job outside their proficiency.
"I'd say 20 percent of the unknown problems are caused by people trying to fix things or doing work they shouldn't have done without calling the fire alarm people," he commented.
Outside pressures mount when large retailers have a store full of goods with temperature conditions similar to the Sahara Desert. It's these situations that cause the customer to put unfair demands on the professional, be that he is trained in air conditioning systems or alarm systems or car repair.
Founded in 1987, Carolina Protective Systems handles fire and burglar system work for residential and commercial customers in the entire state.
Orner, who has been in the industry since 1967, said what's at stake is the safety of the customer and the industry. People need to be protected by the systems that are installed and, also, need to cause unnecessary attention to the eye of AHJs.
"A lot is unintentional, but if there is a problem at least you get someone out there that knows what's going on," he said.