WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? - UPDATED
AN OPEN LETTER TO ASTTBC.
“Promises were like laws; smart men knew when to break both.” -- C. J. Hill
“One can talk good and shower down roses, but it's the receiver that has to walk through the thorns, and all the false expectations.” -- Anthony Liccione
“Don't make any promises that you can't keep.” -- Ann Marie Aguilar
Vancouver, British Columbia - Living and working as a fire alarm Verifier in the Lower Mainland, I find myself in a rather unique position of having been able to observe ASTTBC’s Fire Protection Registration Program from the outside as well as participating, to some extent, in a number of technician compliance issues over the years.
The message contained within the email disseminated to the membership which advertised the two roles that would serve to co-manage the Program (following Brian Stegavig’s departure) was, at least to me, very disturbing. It suggested that the “status quo” would continue and that no additional time for engagement with the Board and Membership for the important work required to actually fulfill the program’s promised obligations has been allocated. I sincerely hope I’ve misinterpreted this as we move forward following the appointments of two imminently qualified, and well respected individuals:
Dave Burgess – Retired Fire Chief for the City of North Vancouver – is the newly appointed ASTTBC Program Manager, Fire Protection Technician Registration
NOTE: It should be noted that Bob Furlong assumed this position as of January 2015 following Dave Burgess’ departure to join the District of North Vancouver’s Fire Department.
May 2016 - Karen McDiarmid has been appointed the ASTTBC Program Manager, Fire Protection Technician Registration. Bob Furlong has assumed the role of Program Advisor.
Dave Clou – Retired Chief Fire Prevention Officer for the City of Richmond – is the newly appointed ASTTBC Fire Protection Program Compliance Officer
May 2016 - Ron Hein is ASTTBC’s Fire Protection Program Compliance Officer..
Both individuals are stellar choices and are still actively involved in several professional associations and local educational initiatives.
For over fifteen years I have watched ASTTBC attempt to achieve what the City of Vancouver believed they would provide (that belief is articulated in the adoption of every Municipal Bylaw which has enacted the requirement for formal Registration since the Programs inception). For over fifteen years I have watched successive Fire Protection Program Managers fail to achieve this mandate (and this is in no way due to their own lack of diligence, passion or drive).
For over fifteen years there has been a fundamental disconnect between what was originally envisioned in the form of the promises which are still articulated on your website, and what the Program continues to deliver. For over fifteen years there has been a similar disconnect between what an individual learns in the classroom and what they finally put into practice as a Registered Fire Protection Technician.
But the ultimate disappointment was made manifest in the radio advertisement you’ve been featuring recently. The Fire Protection Program isn’t even mentioned! What sort of message does this deliver to the more than 800 Registered Fire Protection Technicians (RFPT’s) that pay your dues? Your technician members, indeed the entire Program, relegated to the “back burner”. And these are the individuals you have charged with protecting the public!
The Program is at the tipping point and must either deliver on what ASTTBC originally committed to do, or it will continue to be viewed by its membership as just a “money grab”, and by many Jurisdictional Authorities as a nicely packaged website of broken promises that still include:
I, for one, believe these promises can be fulfilled, and more. I believe that Province-wide accreditation for the Program can be achieved through a renewed commitment by ASTTBC’s Board and membership.
Firstly, the Program’s Manager must be able to liaise and engage more fully with technicians, employers, instructors, various Jurisdictional Authorities, the public, the Province and the Board. The flow of information to the membership and the stakeholders I’ve mentioned must be frequent, more open and unquestionably transparent.
Secondly, the confrontational approach to member discipline (a genuine fear which the role of a dedicated compliance officer engenders) should be avoided and used only where no other reasonable method or system can drive the necessary changes needed. You must, instead, strive to mentor all of your RFPT’s in order to change their perception of the organization and earn their trust as a full partner in their professional development. ASTTBC is (unlike CFAA) a technician based and driven organization.
How are you going to ensure success within the ongoing “part time structure” which you have suggested will continue for the individuals you have charged with your technician members oversight? Quite simply, you cannot. The key to success turns on the time and resources you are prepared (and should) commit to the Program. More-over, you can’t expect your membership to perform to the level expected by the Practice Guideline in a vacuum.
I offer the following suggestions & recommendations for consideration:
a. Non-payment of dues will result in such a suspension and trigger an immediate review of all projects the member was involved in while they continued using their stamp. The employer may be required to engage another RFPT to RECERTIFY the suspended/delinquent member’s work. In this instance, payment of fees immediately following the suspension should NOT automatically trigger re-instatement before the formal review process has been completed. This will ensure an incentive to submit dues ON TIME;
b. Gross, blatant misconduct of a nature that could genuinely endanger the safety of the public. Examples include, but should not be limited to the following:
i. removal of equipment without ensuring an adequate temporary replacement is in place,
ii. use of incorrect (or substandard) equipment to either test or as a replacement for, a required component.
c. Failure to comply with an ASTTBC’s officer’s direction or instruction.
d. Failure to provide the required documentation for review.
e. Failure to meet the certification requirements of their practice. Examples include, but should not be limited to:
i. performing a six-year or hydrostatic test without Transport Canada certification (extends to tagging off on a cylinder that has not been tested by a certified agency),
ii. performing work on an extinguishment system for which the member is not properly certified.
f. Failure to comply with the parameters and procedures outlined in a testing Standard.
g. Failure to provide documentary evidence required to ensure that test equipment has been purchased (and is in proper working order) which is needed to provide a special service. Examples include, but should not be limited to:
i. flow test gear required for standpipe testing,
ii. hydrostatic testing equipment,
iii. back-flow testing equipment,
iv. sound level testing equipment,
v. intelligibility testing equipment,
vi. smoke control testing equipment,
vii. fire pump testing equipment, etc
Province-wide mandated ASTTBC Registration for individuals engaged in the service, testing, and maintenance of building life safety equipment is the goal. This will be achieved through the ground-work already established by John Leech, Brian Stegavig and others. It may involve their further consultative assistance as well as that of a number of individuals outside of the ASTTBC family.
How is ASTTBC going to ensure they have sufficient means to accomplish the steps I’ve suggested the program should adopt? The answer I propose won’t be popular, but then, I’m not in a pageant to win “Mr. Congeniality”.
I propose the following suggested member funded resources (inclusively):
1. An across-the-board increase in member dues of $120.00/annum ($10.00 per month) effective immediately will cover a large portion of the additional salaries and expenses and also provide the means to ensure that Program funding is available as more technicians are registered.
2. An education fee of $120.00/annum ($10.00 per month) for every registered technician in the employ of a fire service company will be levied and paid by the company that employs that technician. This will cover the educational/professional development component of the program. In order to ensure fairness several safeguards are suggested:
a. The MEMBERS will indicate their employers on their renewal form (annually) and submit a copy of the receipt ASTTBC will provide to the company based on the number of technicians reported. These numbers should match all of the Registered technicians renewing for that company.
b. Employers will also submit the names and RFPT numbers of the individuals in their employ on a quarterly basis. The education fee is due every year and will be based on the number of technicians employed in the period, with reports due on January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st.
The first year’s dues will be calculated based on the number of technicians presently employed. Appropriate survey forms should be formatted and sent out immediately with a deadline of May 1st for their return. Technicians that are “subcontracting” to a service company will be considered “employees” of that company unless they can provide ASTTBC with a copy of their business licence. Such self-employed and individually licenced individuals will be required to submit the education levy on their own behalf. The levy should also include any trainee technicians currently registered under the program. The list provided by the fire service companies can be compared with the list that will be formulated from the survey forms completed by the membership. This form should also identify RFPT’s that are currently supervising trainees as well as the names of those trainees.
3. I propose that all trainee technicians will be required to stamp tags with a special stamp that also identifies their educational qualification. Once successfully graduated from an approved ASTTBC course, you will more closely be able to assist their positive growth as members of the fire protection service community. The employer should submit a form after 480 hours of trainee employment and pay 50% of a full member’s dues (even if the trainee is only employed on a part time basis) until such a time as they have achieved full certification status. The trainee stamps will have a special number and will be recycled to a new trainee once full certification has been achieved. Reports involving trainees will be reviewed on an ongoing basis to track their progress more effectively. A “stamp fee” will apply with each issue that’s 25% of the standard stamp fee. Payment of this fee is also credited toward the full stamp fee when the trainee achieves Registration. A large “T” on the stamp’s face will identify the individual as a trainee. Every document stamped by a trainee must be accompanied by the RFPT’s stamp that is supervising his progress. The trainees stamp will be applied to the back of an approved tag and on the face of the testing report. Test reports will be submitted (in a number to be determined) and compared to the trainee’s log book.
It is my hope that what I have articulated in this letter will result in some serious reflection and prompt some further discussion by ASTTBC’s leadership and Boards.
I want the Program to succeed.
I want the Standard of Practice to improve.
All of the key elements are in place for this to happen, but, as I mentioned at the outset, we are at the tipping point. Your membership continues to look for guidance in the dark. ASTTBC must find the means to light the way.
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