Why Cross-Train Fire Protection System Installers

Mike Bradshaw

Expanding the specialized knowledge of fire protection technicians can provide safety and strategic benefits.

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Safety professionals — whether in healthcare, engineering or law enforcement — know that growing their base of knowledge and continually learning are crucial to providing the best standard of safety. It’s no different with a fire protection systems technician or installer. The benefits gained from expanding outside of the specialized knowledge of an installer or technician is huge. And not only to the overall safety and quality of the systems used. There is also a strong business case to be made — being able to provide an expanded suite of services can help grow a technician's or installer’s business.

What are some of the safety and strategic benefits and what first steps can an installer or technician take to level-up?

Enhanced Building Safety

While it’s important an installer or technician is an expert in their specialty, being familiar with adjacent systems and services can greatly benefit the overall safety of their client’s building. For example, if a sprinkler installer is able to recognize a gap in their client’s fire alarm system, they can recommend the client talk to one of their company’s fire alarm technicians — and impact the overall building safety. Building owners can’t be expected to be aware of risks that they can’t easily imagine. They need help identifying and understanding the exposure to risks from any potential gaps in their existing fire protection systems. According to FEMA, from 2014 to 2016, over 100,000 nonresidential building fires occurred each year resulting in over 1,000 deaths and 2.4 billion in property losses per year.

A holistic approach to maintaining fire protection systems would eliminate a significant portion of this damage and reduce loss of life. By focusing on the building’s overall safety rather than only on delivering the services requested by their clients, a fire protection technician or installer can provide an invaluable service to their clients. While doing what is necessary to comply with the building safety codes will satisfy AHJ's requirements, it does not necessarily ensure that the building is as safe as it can reasonably be from the threat of fire. A trained fire protection engineer can suggest ways to increase safety without incurring significant cost.

Better Business Practice

So, what’s the business case for a fire installer or technician to invest in cross-training? Aside from earning Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain professional licenses and certifications, there are a couple other strategic reasons to cross train. In the previous example, a sprinkler technician, skilled at their job, is asked by the building manager to take a look at the fire alarm system while they’re onsite. But the technician comes up empty. While the sprinkler technician is highly skilled at their job, they don’t have the benefit of the broader knowledge of fire protection systems.

Cross-training is a great strategy to address this gap and bring in new business from existing customers. The more technicians know about how their specialty fits within the whole fire protection system, the more likely they will be to give an informed answer to real-time questions. They are also more likely to spot issues that the building owner should address. Installers that took this business-based approach to training have seen the difference. Sales increase and the owner no longer has to worry that their company’s brand is diminished when a team member doesn’t effectively respond to the questions they get while on-site.

Taking the First Step in Training

Prioritizing training is necessary for installers and technicians’ CEU credentials. Looking outside of team members’ individual specialties is a good start. Even better is creating a plan to cross-train teams. Focus on which adjacent safety measures make sense for specific fire protection systems. Listen to clients when they ask for additional services and begin to research courses that can fill a gap. For specialized fire protection courses, ensure you’re engaging a certified and trusted provider who can help you reduce your clients’ exposure to the risk of a fire.

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