Accreditation proposed for residential fire sprinkler contractors

WASHINGTON — The International Code Council’s 2009 edition of the International Residential Code that requires residential fire sprinklers will take effect in less than seven months. Fortunately for contractors and for the reputation of the industry, few jurisdictions will adopt the residential sprinkler requirements right away in January 2011. It would be impossible for contractors to meet the demand that soon. Eventually, though, more states and cities will adopt the 2009 IRC and, as residential fire sprinklers become ubiquitous, the need for qualified contractors will grow.

The effort to create residential fire sprinkler training and certification — primarily aimed at plumbing contractors — has begun.

With Jay Peters, ICC’s executive vice president of the Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Group, acting as the intermediary, a Memorandum of Understanding for a contractor certification program is circulating through the American Fire Sprinkler Association, National Fire Sprinkler Association and the certifying body, Center for Public Safety Excellence.

Once Peters gets those three groups on board, he’s hoping to get the National Fire Protection Association to sign the MOU and, eventually, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association, whose members will benefit from the certification and the extra business sprinklering houses.

NFSA and AFSA, traditional rivals, have announced separate training programs. Peters is hoping that all the parties can be brought together.

AFSA’s System Layout School for Residential One- and Two-Family Dwellings will provide basic training in the layout and calculation of a residential fire sprinkler system. Classes are scheduled for June 21-25, 2010 and August 23-27, 2010.

The class will discuss the standalone, multipurpose, and the flow-through system types. The topics covered include how to determine water supply; material selection; and the requirements of NFPA 13D and the IRC.

This five-day class will include fire sprinkler system layout and hydraulic calculation exercises. This class is geared towards those with limited experience who need assistance with design as well as those wanting to refresh their experience. Upon completion of this class, students should understand the basics of residential layout and how to apply NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One-and Two- Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, and P2904 of the IRC.

NFPA’s residential sprinkler standard, 13D, is best known. Alternately, ICC’s IRC Section P2904 governs combination systems, such as those developed and sold by PEX pipe manufacturers.

NFSA’s President John Viniello also announced training and certification programs in the May/June 2010 issue of Sprinkler Quarterly, NFSA’s official journal. Viniello’s article made the certification sound as if the issue has already been settled. The creation, however, of a new Commission for the Accreditation for Dwelling Fire Sprinkler Contractors, is the subject of the MOU.

“They are going to appoint a commission to develop an accreditation program,” AFSA President Steve Muncy told CONTRACTOR. “The commission has got to first justify the need for an accreditation program and, if that need exists, then the commission will set qualifications and educational requirements and all that goes into an accreditation program. We were asked would we participate in that discussion, and we said, ‘sure.’ We’d be happy to participate given that we have strong opinions on the training needs for plumbers or others not familiar with fire sprinkler systems.”

Under the plan that’s in the works, the accreditation program would be administered by the Center for Public Safety Excellence. While Peters is working with a limited number of partners on the MOU, at least for now, using the CPSE accreditation model, many additional stakeholders will be brought together to form this newly formed commission to jointly develop programs for accreditation, leveraging their collective knowledge, provisions and expertise.

After the subsequent training, contractors will be expected to pass the ICC Residential Fire Sprinkler Design and Installation Exam. Passing contractors would then become “Accredited Dwelling Fire Sprinkler Contractors.” The certification is intended to provide homebuyers, contractors and fire and life safety agencies with an added sense of security in knowing these fire sprinkler systems will be properly designed and installed. Contractors would also have to comply with any state and local licensing and permitting requirements.

The Center for Public Safety Excellence is dedicated to helping local public safety agencies worldwide to streamline and improve services to their communities. Through its individual commissions, CPSE provides a host of programs, including accreditation and education programs for fire and emergency service agencies and professional designations. Additional information is available at publicsafetyexcellence.org.

Additional information on the proposed accreditation program and IRC fire sprinkler code provisions is available from ICC’s PMG Group at 1-888-ICC-SAFE, x4PMG or [email protected]

TAGS: Piping