Join Drew as he sits down with Mark Wilson and Tim Renaud, fire protection industry leaders and the hosts of the new CFAA Fire Alarm Technician’s podcast. Focused on the intricacies of the fire alarm industry and changing codes, standards, and best practices, they offer wide-ranging insights to technicians across trades.

Mark and Tim discuss their backgrounds and how they joined the fire protection industry, as well as their current roles educating and equipping technicians across Canada. From understanding the newest technology and tools of the trade to unraveling the complexities of UL-C codes, Mark and Tim shine a light on the importance of continuing education.

Drew, Mark, and Tim dig deep into key industry trends, including the potential for collaboration between American and Canadian fire and life safety organizations. They explore avenues for mutual learning and exchange, and discuss how harmonized best practices can elevate standards around the world.

Tune in to Episode 57 of The Fire Protection Podcast for a discussion that transcends borders, identifies areas of improvement, and addresses common challenges facing fire protection professionals across nations.

 

  • 00:12: Introduction
  • 01:05: Mark & Tim’s roles and background
  • 08:30: How did the CFAA Fire Alarm Tech podcast come about?
  • 16:39: Hopes of harmonizing Canada’s codes and standards
  • 18:12: Code regulations in Canada vs US
  • 20:13: NFPA vs ULC
  • 30:38: Canada’s consideration of remote inspections
  • 36:50: Empowering technicians
  • 37:13: Accessibility through podcasting
  • 38:25: Inspect Point’s foam inspection capabilities
  • 40:01: How technician culture is changing 
  • 41:56: Conclusion

 

Full Transcript

Drew Slocum:
Right. So, have you guys been on a podcast before?

Tim Renaud:
On just our podcast? No.

Drew Slocum :
Our guests are Mark Wilson and Tim Renaud; obviously, I’ll let them do an intro, but they just launched this new CFA Fire Alarm Tech podcast. Yeah, it’s cool to see more podcasts coming out, and we haven’t had a new one in a while. It’s kind of industry-agnostic, just talking about issues within the industry and stuff like that. And I think I caught Mark spreading it the other day, so I was like, let’s get him on the podcast to talk about it. Great, great. Welcome, guys. Welcome, guys, to the Fire Protection podcast.

Tim Renaud:
Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Drew Slocum:
And feel free, whoever wants to talk as much as you want. Why did you start the podcast and give us a little background?

Tim Renaud:
In the fall, I took on the role of national marketing director for the Canadian Fire Alarm Association. Part of my responsibilities in this volunteer position is to be in charge of the EUR for CFA, which is usually distributed every second month and goes out to a mailing list of many people within and outside Canada. And IT, though it is directed towards our registered technicians, has technical columns that could be interesting for anybody in fire alarms. So, if you want to subscribe to that, you can go to the CFAA website and subscribe to the EUR there. Then, I tried to find other ways of communicating that were a little bit faster, maybe in frequency. So then I’ve been thinking about a podcast since I’m a musician and a music producer. Doing a podcast is a blend of my talents of being in a fire alarm and all these things together.

So it seemed logical to go there, and that’s what we’ve started. The goal was to begin on January 1st. So we dropped the first podcast on January 1st, and the initial goal was to do it monthly. However, I soon realized I had so many requests for content, so much content. Therefore, we will do it biweekly, every second week, and see how that goes. So we’re slated, and Mark and I have been working on a schedule here. We’re scheduled for June with a plan; almost everything is recorded already. So it’s going along well, and if we can keep that up, then our production schedule stays ahead of dropping them, and yeah, it’ll be good.

Drew Slocum:
Wow, you have all of them recorded through June.

Tim Renaud:
Almost to June. We’re almost there.

Drew Slocum:
Wow, that’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Mark Wilson:
Remember, we’re much shorter than yours, so it’s less time-consuming.

Tim Renaud:
But I am doing a lot more editing and trying to keep it a tight podcast, so sometimes the conversations will be 40 minutes, and I am chopping them down to make them consumable as a 15, 30, and 30-minute max is what I want to keep it to. So somewhere between 15 and 30, I want to continue a conversation if it’s going well, as you probably don’t. If it’s going well, I want to keep it going, and if it’s sound for everybody else, then good.

Drew Slocum:
No, I fully agree. So I guess Tim, what is your background, Mark? You can follow up with him. What’s your background in fire alarm and, I think, fire protection?

Tim Renaud:
So when I was 19-20, I pulled wire and did fire alarms for a friend, a musician friend of mine, and just started doing that. And then he had a tiny company, and I was the junior kid with no credentials in the early nineties; there needed to be more credentials to get. Then they lost some contracts, and I was a little guy on the totem pole, so I ended up moving in. I was a bike mechanic for a while, and I was in telecom for a while. I did microwave radio telecommunications for a while and traveled all over Canada. And then I came back; it was a very up-and-down industry, being in that right and had a kid on the way. I was getting married in the early 2000s and thought that the fire alarm was perfect.

I went back, took some night courses, and got my credentials up because at that time, now BC, I’m in British Columbia, Canada, and here we had some credentials you need. It’s all through the ASTT, so it’s like CFAA, but it’s local in BC. We’re also working on getting CFAA the credentials in BC. So, at that time, you went to the British Columbia Institute of Technology and took courses, and I did that, got back into fire alarm, and worked at a couple of different fire alarm companies as a tech. Then, I started working for a notifier distributor and quickly went from being a tech to a project manager to being in sales to being the lead sales guy. Then, this opportunity arose to be a regional sales manager for a notifier for the product I was repping or selling. The rep was retiring, so I went for the job, and I’ve been doing that since 2015. I have all of western Canada, so it’s a big area. I have BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. So, if you look at a map of North America, that’s about one-quarter of North America.

Drew Slocum:
Funny enough, I have it up, and I knew you were the western manager. I’m wondering if he goes up to the Yukon Northwest Territories.

Tim Renaud:
Yeah, once in a while. Most job decisions are done in Edmonton or Vancouver, Toronto. So it’s only sometimes necessary to go up there as a rep, but it is a fun trip. I love those cities up there. Whitehorse is a fantastic town if you ever get a chance.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, I’ve heard you probably get to see some cool projects, too.

Tim Renaud:
Yep.

Drew Slocum:
Cool. Yeah, thanks, Tim. Mark, I know you’ve transitioned to a new company lately. I’d love to hear a little bit about your background.

Mark Wilson:
I’m somewhat similar. I’m an electrician by trade, so that’s where I got my start. But initially, I was doing nothing related to fire alarms, ironically. It was all PLC motor control and high voltage stuff, and where I was working was shift work and night shifts. So, after doing that for a while, I’d be looking online at different colleges during my night shifts, wondering what else I could do rather than sit here all night and work. That’s when I came across a fire protection engineering tech diploma at a college in Ontario. I thought, you know what, it’s now or never. So, I picked up and took a leave of absence from my job and pursued that. Then, when I returned to Alberta, it wasn’t difficult to find a job as a fire alarm technician, so I just kind of fell into it and haven’t looked back since.

So, I’ve taken on various roles as a technician, like Tim, working my way up through supervisory management sales. I’ve spent time doing almost everything you could want to do in this industry. I’m the Alberta Regional Manager for Troy Fire and Life Safety. I oversee the fire alarm division here in Alberta and have been involved with the CFAA for over a decade, primarily assisting in Alberta. We have a chapter here, and our primary focus is demonstrating value to our membership. All the CFAA registered technicians want to benefit from their membership. Therefore, we’ve been hosting monthly webinars and striving to enhance engagement and outreach. So when Tim approached me about the podcast, I thought, “Yeah, that makes total sense. We should do that.

Drew Slocum:
And I feel like podcasting is all about quick snippets. You can listen on the way to your job site, office, or wherever you are, and you’re constantly getting new information about new products or just what’s happening in other parts of the industry, right?

Mark Wilson:
And that’s precisely what we’ve aimed for. Everybody’s busy, and putting out a long-form podcast on a core topic might put people to sleep. So we thought, let’s keep it to 15 minutes, and then a technician on their way to their first job in the morning or maybe on their way home after work can listen and get that new information or perspective.

Tim Renaud:
And I think I’ve been consuming podcasts since 2007 as an early user. So, in a way, I’ve been doing market research since then because I’ve been thinking about which podcasts I listen to and how I listen to them. I listen to the hour-and-a-half podcasts while I’m on a long bike ride, and they’re in the background; I have them in one ear. They’re great for that purpose but don’t require active listening. On the other hand, podcasts like New York Times Daily are the kind where I want to hear every word; they’re 15 to 20 minutes long, which makes sense for active listening.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, they’re more frequent, too, as you guys mentioned. Then you have the long-form podcasts, which are like three-hour interviews. I’m like, oh man, how do you digest that, and when do you have time for that? On top of that,

Tim Renaud:
When you have insomnia. 

Drew Slocum:
Right. Getting to the tech training side, I know that’s been prominent in the CFAA. I get all their alerts. You guys do a lot of training throughout Canada and different provinces. Has that morphed over the last few years with going remote versus in-person, and how has that experience been?

Tim Renaud:
Mark, do you want to speak to that? Go ahead.

Mark Wilson:
Yeah, I think it has. If we go back ten years ago or so, each chapter, each provincial chapter, would typically hold a seminar once a year. We’d call it our annual technical seminar. And that was about it. Some chapters maybe did a few lunches and learning sessions throughout the year, but it was always in person. And considering that some of our provinces here in Canada are pretty large, the geography is vast, and the expectation that a technician will travel 800 kilometers to attend an event is, I mean, just not realistic. It’s not feasible. So, in more recent years, being able to conduct more virtual webinars and now, through COVID-19, everyone’s a little more comfortable with the medium, I think, has helped a lot. This has allowed us to increase our frequency, and as I mentioned, we hold a webinar here in Alberta. We try to do it once a month and typically get anywhere from 50 to a hundred people attending. So it’s been great.

Drew Slocum:
You have a good point on the pandemic, making people comfortable with virtual. I sit on NFPA 915, the NFPA standard for remote inspection and testing. I forgot they added testing to that, and that’s significant. I think there’s some Notifier or Honeywell focus on that, too, Tim. Essentially, it’s about getting him and the industry ready for remote-style inspections and testing, and the pandemic accelerated that because somebody needed it during that time. There were areas and jurisdictions where you couldn’t be in person, so they had an option for that remote video feed to verify the fire alarm system. So we kind of accelerated that. But you guys did that with the training, too.

Tim Renaud:
Yeah, and everybody’s comfort with online learning has increased. My kids, of course, have fatigue about it, and I think that’s another thing we have to battle. They had a crucial part in their high school or elementary school journey; they had to be online. So I think there’s also a little pushback from it, but we’re starting to strike that balance now. In most of our CFAA seminars that we do live, we have a hybrid component; we have cameras there, and we can have people online, too. You always get the best bang for the buck being there, but that’s only sometimes feasible. And this way, people can at least participate.

Mark Wilson:
One other significant thing we had to adapt to, and I’m wondering how long it’s been a requirement. Still, a few years ago, when you were a registered CFAA technician, you essentially became a life member if you kept paying your membership fees once you had obtained your registration. Then, some fire marshals said, “That’s okay, but we want to see a continuing education component.” So now we have a requirement of eight continuing education credits per year for our technicians. So, that kind of presented a challenge as well. We had to figure out, okay, if we’re going to require people to complete eight hours of training essentially, how can we deliver that to them in a manageable or efficient way? Technicians are more flexible than office workers. They’re booked out on jobs and out there making money. So we want them to do training sparingly. So all of these little things filtered into, okay, how do we need to pivot, change, and do our best for the membership? Right.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. You also start giving credits for the podcast lessons to verify that somehow.

Tim Renaud:
Somehow. Yeah, it’s excellent, too, with the online aspect; Mark and I are, of course, in western Canada, and it’s tough sometimes being involved in Toronto-centric companies, and a lot of what happens in Canada happens in Toronto. So for us to be able to be online and be part of these meetings, I mean, me being national marketing director from way out in Vancouver, over 3000 miles away from where the CFA’s office works because of all this remote work. I can get out to Toronto occasionally, but only sometimes. And also just the internal communication that we have within Honeywell. I’m involved in regulatory meetings that I was never involved in before, but because of our remote work, we’re in team meetings all the time. And that is, sometimes it could be better, but it’s also perfect for business.

Drew Slocum:
And I think it’s beneficial for code adoption, too. I think it will start to speed up. The fire protection industry has traditionally needed to adapt and adopt codes faster. So, some of that remote component should help speed that along. Instead of meeting once a year, you can now meet thrice. One is still in person, but the other two are virtual, and everybody’s comfortable with it now.

Tim Renaud:
And at least keep up with constant communication. Yeah.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, go ahead, Mark.

Mark Wilson:
Sorry. I would say that is a focus in Canada right now. Again, we always had our provincial codes and standards, which were not necessarily in lockstep, so it took a lot of work to juggle, especially for national companies. In this province, they’re using this standard, and in that province, they’re using another. So, there has been an effort recently to harmonize our codes and standards across the country and make things like code adoptions a little more consistent, making it easier for us to train. We’re not saying, okay, if you’re in Alberta, this is for you, and if you’re in Ontario, this is for you. It made it challenging to say, just kidding, don’t pay attention if you live here, but if you live there, you better pay attention. It just got kind of tricky, right?

Drew Slocum:
We’re paying attention down here in the States to how the ULC standards are being rolled out. I would love to bring that down here, too, right? Different cities and states have their regulations. It’s all NFPA format, but you get jurisdictions that want other things. It makes it; it needs to be standardized everywhere and complicated at a national or regional scale. So how do you do that? We’re not

Tim Renaud:
Perfect yet, but we’re

Drew Slocum:
Getting there.

Tim Renaud:
We’re trying.

Mark Wilson:
This is one of our significant challenges, and Tim can speak to this better, but because it is just North America, if we talk at that scale, things are very different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And we have some codes in Canada that you need in the US. All the major manufacturers are typically American companies; when they’re developing these products, some new products will come on the market. We all get excited, and we’re like, oh, great. And then, it doesn’t meet the Canadian code for zone LEDs, so you’re like, we can’t use that now. So it can be frustrating sometimes, but yeah.

Tim Renaud:
The harmonization is excellent. It’s good that we’re starting to harmonize UL and ULC standards, but currently, in the US, we do this, and in Canada, we do that. So it’s a harmonized standard but has yet to coordinate indeed. When we have things like, oh, an LED has to be red in this country or amber in that country, that could be better for a manufacturer; that little tiny thing could be costly to roll out. So those things still need to be sharpened up. And we have things like in Canada having two stages and having the residential audio applications that we have that are so different than the US, which sometimes requires specific products for a country that is roughly 10% of the business. So it’s hard.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, it could be more straightforward. And I know with fire alarms, you have ULC in Canada and NFPA 72 in the states and elsewhere; funny enough, the sprinkler is aligned on NFPA, and I always wondered about that. I’m like, why didn’t ULC get into sprinklers? Luckily enough, it’s harmonized there, at least on the sprinkler side, which makes

Tim Renaud:
It is easier for the supply chain.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, yeah. So, could you explain ULC for listeners who need to learn about the differences in standards from NFPA to what happens with the ULC in Canada? What’s been happening in the last few years, and what is the nation trying to do to standardize?

Tim Renaud:
Sure. Okay. So maybe it’s a primer on how Canadian codes work. We have a national model building code, the NBCC, the National Building Code of Canada. We then roll out that model building code for provinces to adopt. And each one of those is, of course, a governmental decision. So it will be the governments in each of those provinces, like your state governments, deciding on those. Then, we have specific things. The city of Vancouver, where I live on the outskirts of Vancouver, has its charter. So Vancouver is an anomaly in Canada; there are few cities like that where Vancouver has its own building code and fire code. It can be different than the rest of Canada other than British Columbia, which is very interesting. So, one side of the street would have one code, and the other would have a different one.

When you’re at the border of Vancouver, and this is something that I’ve lived with as a fire alarm tech in this town, you just drive your truck five minutes, and you’re in a different code site with another set of codes, which is very interesting. However, most of Canada operates based on the province, regulated by the national building code. Then, that building code, of course, refers to standards. The building code is only so prescriptive on what to do, like NFPA 72 for building codes in the US. So, we have different ULC standards instead of NFPA 72. These ULC standards encompass not only product standards like UL but also standards for installation and application. Sometimes, much of the application guidance is found in the building code. Still, there are also references from ULC on smoke detector spacing and how to handle certain types of ceiling constructions and beam depths, among other things.

When dealing with smoke detectors, those would be specified in ULC standards, not the building code. So, it can be a little confusing. Depending on the occupancy, you must refer to the building code and the ULC standards because the building code will also dictate when to use smoke detectors. Therefore, you have to consult all these documents together. After that, we have the fire code to consider when undertaking a project for a new building. Once the building is occupied, it falls under the national fire code, which serves as the model, and then provinces develop their fire codes based on that model, which can vary widely depending on the province. With all these harmonizations that we’ve started to work on in the last couple of years, there is a mandate that the first one be implemented within 24 months of the new code. The 2020 building code was initially slated for implementation but was delayed to 2022 due to COVID-19.

So finally, when it came in, they had 24 months, which gets us, the clock is ticking. We’re now in it, and this is what’s happening this spring: the provinces need to get on board. So, the province of Manitoba and Saskatchewan announced that they are moving on; the province of Manitoba announced it months ago, so they had some time to prepare. But the province of Saskatchewan announced in December that they were switching over in January. So it was swift. I recently learned that Alberta will be transitioning on May 1st. BC is looking to follow around the same time. So that’s Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba; Ontario’s plans still need to be determined. They tend to have many changes they want, particularly in Ontario, with a very active group there.

So that still is; we’re waiting for the decision on that. Quebec is also pending, and then the Atlantic provinces; I am still waiting to hear something. We tend to get updates from the territories, the northern part of Canada, because changes often originate in Toronto, Edmonton, or Vancouver. They typically align with the national model codes up there. So we’ll see what happens. It seems that we’ll have all that information by May or June. I hope everything will have been clarified by then, and we’ll start to understand. It’s a lot to grasp when you delve into the code changes, and that’s beyond the scope of our conversation today. However, there are so many changes, and that’s what Mark and I aim to address in this podcast-learning chapter: to delve into specific aspects. Mark, would you like to talk more about that, including in seminars?

Mark Wilson:
Yeah. Some of the significant changes we have seen are with the ULC standards. You’re well aware of this now. The specifications point to a template for what an annual fire alarm inspection should look like or an idea of what it can look like, but it was never enforced to the extent of “you shall use this template.” It was just a suggestion, like, “Hey, here’s something you can base your forms on.” But now, with the adoption of the 2019 standard, it’s mandated to say, “You know what, no, we want you to use this specific format, numbering; everything needs to look exactly like this.” And that change came about based on a lot of feedback. I’m sure there were various reasons, but some include the challenges faced by authorities with jurisdiction (AHJs) reviewing these reports. If every report looks different, it becomes difficult to determine whether it highlights deficiencies.

It aims to prevent confusion for end-users, building owners, and the fire service, who may review these reports. It will help with that, but how we address deficiencies will be slightly different, particularly in how we document them. We need to ensure there are explicit code references so that a technician doesn’t simply state, “This building was constructed 30 years ago, and I believe it should comply with today’s building code,” only to find out that those issues are not deficiencies but perhaps recommendations or other considerations. So, in some respects, we’ve aligned with what NFPA has been doing by defining terms like “deficiency” and “recommendation.” As for new construction, we are also catching up on some practices observed in the US and elsewhere.

So, for instance, we have yet to utilize low-frequency sounders in Canada. Although they’ve always been available to us, our codes didn’t mandate their use in a dwelling unit. Typically, you’d need five 20-hertz signals. Some changes are catching up with advancements, while others could be seen as a cleanup effort, ensuring that technicians are more thorough in documenting what they observe. Overall, it’s a positive shift, but as Tim mentioned, there are numerous nuances that we need to train people on and make them aware of these new standards and practices.

Drew Slocum:
From what I understand, it moved many of the ULC 536 and 537 report templates on the verification side from the appendix into the code. So previously, it was merely a suggestion, but now it’s a requirement. Yes, there may be some challenges that we, as an industry, will have to navigate. Still, overall, the readability and standardization for technicians and training will significantly improve. Additionally, there’s the aspect of data flow; by capturing all this data, we’ll be able to identify the top 10 deficiencies seen across provinces or the entire nation of Canada. This allows us to focus more effectively on addressing these issues by the code. This parallels with what NFPA has attempted to do with standardizing data collection from inspections and maintenance. I recall doing a podcast on this project around three years ago, where NFPA aimed to achieve standardization but encountered challenges due to disparate data practices. With consistent reporting and mandated code standards dictating how data should be presented, achieving standardized data collection becomes easier. Therefore, this is another significant benefit of the recent changes.

Tim Renaud:
The standardization, having technicians across Canada that could move from Alberta to BC and work all those as we have work shortages in the US and Canada both and very hard to find qualified people and being able to use our workforces, especially for national companies like Troy. A lot of my distributors do the same thing. I have quite a few national companies, and being able to use your technician resources depending on massive projects, maybe you need a couple of senior techs on that big mine project. Now, there are all these different authorities and training required. This will make that kind of flow a lot easier throughout Canada. And when we have a diamond or gold mine that comes up, those are big, billions of dollars projects you need to send people to. This ends up helping out a lot.

Drew Slocum:
Hopefully, I don’t know if you guys are looking at it with me, but is the ULC standard looking at some of the remote inspection and testing that I know NFPA is working on? Is ULC potentially bringing that in? I know you work for Notifier; you have some pretty cool products we do on automated testing and stuff.

Tim Renaud:
In the CLSS suite. Yeah, so in the Connected Life Safety Suite, which Edwards has a very similar one, all of our competitors have a similar one; I’m wearing the CFA hat today, so I don’t want to be too self-promoted. I always have to dance that line. But I think we are all on the same page. I do a presentation across Canada on the future of fire alarms, and it’s very agnostic. We talk about all the different technologies out there, and in my research doing that talk, I found out, yes, all of us are on the same page. We’re all looking for how we can do this. We’re all up against the same cybersecurity walls, too, or in general. We have a lot of governmental agencies or even school districts that want things to be off the cloud. So even just simple things like that, where those are some of the headwinds.

How do we make that safe for these end users and the consumers of these products? You and I make the same decisions at home on what we want on the cloud or not, and that’s what these end users are doing. I think we need to respect that as you and those selling these products are watching how we would make that decision as a consumer, and then, in the products we are trying to sell, what can we adjust for these guys? But all these headwinds will come with developing these codes and standards. I don’t know what you’ll do at this point. It is, especially when we talk about remote testing. You got to be on-site; you got to have somebody on-site. Yes, you could have a senior tech helping remotely, which could meet ULC, depending on how you do it as a company. You’re not just going to have an electrician there, but there’s some junior electrician there who’s staffing the panel while you’re a thousand miles away. That’s probably not a good idea. So it’s finding the ways to do that.

Mark Wilson:
And again, in a country like Canada, we have such a vast geography, so these services benefit our end users. And so that’s, to Tim’s point, something on the sales side of things: how do we get that message out to all these building owners, operators, the big property management companies, and how all of that to say these tools are available? Yes, we can’t program a panel remotely., or we can’t test a panel remotely, at least right now, but just the diagnostic ability. As a technician working in Edmonton, I’d have to hop in my service vehicle and drive five to six hours sometimes just to get to a service call. And you get there, and it’s, oh, it’s just a battery. And you’re like, man, now this customer has to pay this huge bill because I had all this travel time, and it was a $60 fix, where now we have the technology, we can look at that panel and go, oh, it’s battery trouble, and maybe there is someone local. We can say, ‘Hey, pick up a seven-amp power battery, put it in, and clear the trouble.’ And so those are some of the, at least for now, the use cases that we have for the connected gateways and – 

Tim Renaud:
They meet the standards and codes by doing that,

Mark Wilson:
But a lot of people aren’t aware of it, right? It’s like anything fire alarm. So the more we talk about it, the more we make engineers and especially building owners aware that it exists. I think that’s beneficial.

Drew Slocum:
And AHJs, too, I think 915, and if the standard created is, it’s a tool for the AHJ at the end of the day to allow that if it makes sense now, it’s just a template. Still, they have to enable it in certain circumstances, but it’s giving something, and traditionally, the industry’s lagged behind other trades.

Mark Wilson:
Because, and to answer your question a little bit too, there is a ULC standard, or it’s, I believe, a joint standard ULC UL on the cybersecurity piece that they’ve been working on because that one is a significant factor for a lot of ends users is, do I want to allow this equipment onto my network just for security reasons? So that is something that, again, the fire alarm industry is aware of and has worked on to ensure these systems are safe. Someone cannot hack into your network or something through your fire alarm because that’s a genuine concern.

Tim Renaud:
Those standards that they’re working on, I mean, I know they’re working in templating off of what the US is doing, and NFPA is doing for the standards, and I know I’ve been in the room for some of this, and the challenge is how to keep the standard evergreen as our technologies change fast. The standard has to be so general, and people are, well, it should specifically talk about this. If it does, that could go away in five years, then what?

Mark Wilson:
It would be months. 

Tim Renaud:
Be or five months, right? Software is so fast, which is relatively new for us, and fire alarm systems are so software-driven as we get to our phones or iPads or whatever pane of glass we’re using for fire alarms. It’s just this software head end, and it’s more likely not as proprietary, that becomes tough from a standards point of view.

Drew Slocum:
It’s fun stuff to talk about. I’ve wanted to do this with CFAA because they’re a great organization within the fire alarm community worldwide. I think what you guys do to empower the technicians is one up on a lot of associations out there.

Tim Renaud:
That’s good. We are trying to hear from our members that we can do more. We are trying to do more with this podcast, trying to bring in driven content that is technically savvy, essential, and, at the same time, possibly accessible for end users and AHJs to be able to read it and not be lost. And I think that’s something in the podcast, too: trying to balance between getting into the weeds for some stuff but always pulling back and making it accessible for everyone. And that’s a tricky balance to make it valuable for everybody listening.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. Yeah, you try to balance it out. And again, what we’ve wanted to do over the last four and a half years, Chris Logan’s a great buddy of mine in the Ontario area; he started the Fire Sprinkler podcast, and we bounce ideas out; hey, what should we talk about? Or don’t double up on guests or whatever. Only a few of us are in this fire podcast community, so it was fascinating to learn about what you guys are doing with the CFAA.

Tim Renaud:
Yeah, and I think we’re going to drive our content to Canadian codes, to technicians on the site, trying to make it… My idea, the vision was, and I was talking to Mark about this initially, as I’m thinking about a tech leaving the office and going to a site and in their truck, in their vehicle, they can listen to this podcast, and they’ll have that time. They were in the car with a senior tech for 15 minutes, and that’s what we wanted. I think it’s so focused that there isn’t something precisely like that. And I think that’s a good thing. Chris is doing a good job. You’re doing a great job. I’ve been listening to both of your podcasts; they’re great content. It’s good. I think for guys like Mark; we can hear perspectives on what NFPA is doing because then we can have that context when decisions are made for ULC. We know many people are also in these NFPA meetings, and we sometimes get exposed to the US codes and standards. 

So it’s good for us.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, and many technicians, fitters, whatever… depends on whom they talked about. Do I say fitter first, or did I say technician first? It’s starting to blend, and many companies do a multitude of subsectors inside of fire. So, you need to know more in the field these days than just your traditional fire alarm or sprinkler.

Mark Wilson:
And just trying to change that culture a little; your company is not solely responsible for training you. Having that mindset of seeking out information and wanting to learn and better yourself is more important than ever, but there are also more opportunities to do that. So we’re just another one of those ways, I guess.

Tim Renaud:
Another part of our podcast’s scope, if I can tease some of our upcoming content, is our ongoing series featuring Women in Fire Alarm. I’ve already recorded and am editing a panel discussion where we delve into their experiences in the fire alarm industry, how it has evolved in recent years, and what that looks like. Additionally, we’ve begun exploring topics beyond just codes and standards. For example, I started a podcast episode discussing ground faults and troubleshooting. As the conversation progressed, it delved into the psychology of being on-site, troubleshooting, and navigating the complexities of working with people, which can often be more challenging than dealing with panels and wires. These are the discussions I’ve had with senior technicians or colleagues in CFA meetings. Still, many of our on-site technicians need the opportunity to engage in such conversations. So, we aim to provide that platform within this podcast.

Drew Slocum:
That’s awesome. I’d love to come on your podcast once you guys get some open time at some point, too.

Tim Renaud:
We’ll get you on. We’ll schedule it in and record it. We are looking forward to having you as a guest.