Make Your 2007 Resolution to Be a Better Professional

I hope all of our “Tech Talk” readers had a great 2006. It was an exciting year with some real advances in security and IP technology at the top of the list. We can expect more of the same in 2007. This month, I am going to delve into some standards that began to take hold this past year and offer some guidelines for making your New Year’s resolutions.

Study NFPA 730/731, SIA CP-01
A new set of security standards known as NFPA 730 and 731 debuted in 2006. Even though there are still some areas to be ironed out, you can expect to see this standard setting the course for the security industry in the near future. It may take at least another five years or more, but the trend is set.

In addition, the CP-01 false alarm equipment standard is now a reality. If you have not heard of this standard yet or do not know what it is, now is the time to catch up and get informed. You can get more information on this standard at the Security Industry Association (SIA) Web site (www.siaonline.org).

Surprisingly, there are still a few manufacturers that do not have a CP-01 compliant alarm panel. Make sure you are installing compliant panels, as this standard can no longer be ignored. Not only are many jurisdictions now requiring the CP-01 standard, several states, such as Texas, are making it mandatory.

To keep current on manufacturers with CP-01 panels, go to the UL Web site (www.ul.com), select the “Clients” tab and then the “UL Online Certifications Directory” link. This will take you to the UL database search engine. UL has created a new Category Control Number (CCN), AMTB, for CP-01 certified products. Enter AMTB into the UL Category Code input box, execute the search, and you will find a list of the latest companies and panels that are CP-01 compliant.

Book Helps Make NEC Accessible
Earlier in 2006, I had a chance to read a very good tech book by longtime electrical code guru Mike Holt called “Understanding Low-Voltage and Power-Limited Systems.” Holt worked his way up through the electrical industry from an electrician’s apprentice to master electrician. He has an entire training and media organization dedicated to helping the technician better understand electrical theory and practice, with particular emphasis on the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Make sure to check out Holt’s Web site (www.neccode.com) and at least sign up for his free online newsletter. At his Web site, you will also find some excellent free training presentations. In particular, check out the “Free Stuff” section.

Depending on your jurisdiction and the AHJ, understanding the NEC is important for conducting everyday security installations. Since we typically deal in the area of low-voltage electrical wiring, we often fall under the radar screen of the standard (120VAC) or high-voltage electrical community. Because of this we often act as if rules, such as the NEC, do not apply to our work. This could not be further from the truth.

Remember, the NEC is a life-safety code that was developed by and is still driven by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In fact, the NEC is actually NFPA 70. So, even if you install security equipment in areas that do not heavily enforce low-voltage installation codes and standards, you owe it to your customers to make their equipment safe to operate.

I have found it common for electrical inspectors to not always be clearly versed in low-voltage code. So it will be up to the dealer and technician to be able to defend their work per NEC. If an inspector tells you that you cannot have low-voltage and high-voltage cabling in the same enclosure, you will need to be able to refer to codes such as 725.55.

Some important areas with reference to low voltage in the NEC are:

  • The removal of abandoned cable and proper tagging of newly installed cable
  • Being able to easily access cable and junction boxes above a suspended ceiling
  • Proper installation of cabling in environmental airspace and through firewalls
  • The correct method for supporting cabling; is it OK to strap low-voltage cabling to existing raceway?
  • Protection of cabling from physical damage such as nails and screws in wall studs

It can also become expensive for your operation if you are not up on NEC changes. Many times, the first instance an alarm dealer gets involved with the NEC is when an electrical inspector comments, “You will need to replace all the wiring in this building before the installation can be approved and a Certificate of Occupancy [CO] can be issued.” The bottom line is that your new customer cannot operate his or her business until you redo all the wiring in the system you just installed. Now, you get the picture.

A couple of the biggest comments I hear about trying to digest and interpret the NEC book is that it is hard to read and understand. I agree that it can be a very boring read as it is basically a list of do’s and don’ts of electrical installation. But what I particularly like about it is the way the rules have been simplified and, in many cases, supported by easy-to-understand illustrations, something for which Holt is well known.

Pledge to Be a Better Tech in 2007
As we all start in an exciting 2007, I thought it might be good to put together some “Tech Talk” New Year’s resolutions guidelines:

  • Make a serious commitment to reduce false alarms. Only install CP-01 compliant alarm panels. You already know this story; put it to practice. Be proactive, not reactive, to fight false alarms in your community

  • Learn and become more involved with IP technology security equipment. The network and Internet are here to stay; get on board or be left behind

  • Improve your “soft skills” by developing better and more efficient communications with your customers. Improve your methods of training them

  • Increase your own and your associates’ training activity and opportunities. Many security industry organizations and manufacturers are upgrading and expanding their training content. Take advantage and participate in at least a few new programs

  • Improve your installation skills and practices. Show pride in your trade and craftsmanship

  • Become current, and implement National Electrical Code (NEC) guidelines. Even though the NEC 2005 code changes have been out for a while, they are now being adopted more by local AHJs and inspectors

  • Keep current with new tools and tool technology. This will make life easier and more efficient on the job. New high-tech tools, such as network analyzers, are dropping in price and becoming easier to use. You don’t have to be a programmer anymore

  • Read SSI‘s “Tech Talk” more than once each month and pass it on to your associates (sorry, I just had to throw it in). Be sure to E-mail me your requests and ideas for upcoming articles

  • Review and practice workplace safety. Remember, even the most experienced technicians and installers need a weekly reminder on even basic safety practices

  • Have FUN at what you do. If you are a supervisor, make sure your crew is having fun as well. This might sound crazy, but it will go a long way in making sure all of your tech work goes smoothly

    This short list of items can make for a more enjoyable, safer and profitable 2007. Put your variation of this resolution list in writing. Discuss it with your staff, and po
    st it on your operations room wall as well.

    Your Feedback Is Important

    What would you like to hear more about in “Tech Talk” in 2007? I often get some of my best ideas from you, our faithful readers. Make sure to Email me your comments on what you have or have not liked in the past and what you would like to see more of this year. I will see what I can do to fill your order. I look forward to hearing more from you this year.

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