BY WAYNE D. MOORE
WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME IN OUR DAILY LIVES, but do you ever stop to think about where you
want to be in the future? Strategic planning is important for personal and corporate growth. It will help you determine
the types of training programs you and your staff need to meet your goals.
Consider how rapidly the business landscape is changing. You have
always had to deal with the three-year cycle of code changes, but the
systems that your customers ask you to install and integrate are numerous and complex. So-called “plain vanilla” fire alarm system installations
are rare; systems now are programmable and must integrate with other
I often profess that everyone should have a copy of the important
codes, such as the National Electrical Code and NFPA 72, National Fire
Alarm and Signaling Code, in their trucks and office estimating rooms. In
addition, you and your technicians should attend classes to learn about
these codes’ changes and nuances.
With everything changing so dramatically, how do contractors keep up
with all of the codes and technologies that affect their businesses?
Consider that even fire alarm systems wiring has changed. For example,
in the past, when a system design required a smoke detector in a location
that was unreachable with cable and raceway, you had to figure out how
to drill your way through. Today, you can use a wireless smoke detector
connected to the fire alarm control unit that contains the balance of the
wired fire alarm system. Imagine applying these possibilities (and savings)
in existing historic buildings. To install a system in this type of building in
the past, you needed well-trained and experienced technicians to perform
the work, and such an installation would prove expensive for the owners.
A minor mistake could cost more than the profit on the job. New technolo-
gies and methods help preclude that sort of problem.
Strategically, you know that owners are trying to do more with less.
Therefore, stay up-to-date on available products and the modern instal-
lation techniques and think through the process and challenges ahead
of time. If you and your technicians are properly trained, you can help
building owners meet their goals efficiently.
Education is key, but even well-trained contractors must recognize
when they need help. Back in the day, you could install a fire alarm system
with little, if any, assistance from the supplier. Every electrical contractor
understood wiring and device placement, and that knowledge provides
a key to efficiency and profitability. However, when it comes to systems
installation, wiring and device placement are small issues compared to
programming. If you go it alone, you will spend hours correcting mistakes
and may have to hire the supplier’s programmer to fix your errors when
occupancy permit requirements loom.
Establish relationships with your suppliers. Ensure you understand
their abilities and schedules. Your technicians need the suppliers’
FOCUS | FIRE