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Testimony before the Iowa State Fire Marshal regarding rules implementing Iowa Acts 2008 Chap. 1094 as amended by Iowa Acts 2009 House File 400 October 13, 2009

Posted by shawnpci in Fire Systems.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Des Moines, IA

Good morning. My name is Shawn Mullen. I appear this morning on behalf of my company, Protex Central, Inc. – a 43 year-young systems integrator specializing in fire, security and related systems. As president of Protex Central, I oversee an enterprise of more than 50 employees located in offices in Urbandale, Iowa and three locations in Nebraska.
I am a 24-year veteran of the fire systems industry. I am certified by the National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technicians – commonly known as NICET – at its highest level IV in the fire alarm sub-field and at level III in the special hazards sub-field. As such, I am our company’s responsible managing employee, as required by Iowa statue, for our certification as a fire alarm and as a fire extinguishing contractor.
In addition to my responsibilities with Protex Central, I am immediate past-president of the Fire Suppression Systems Association. The FSSA is an international trade association of fire system equipment manufacturers and installers, like Protex Central, who promote the use of, and seek to be the leading recognized authority on, special hazard fire protection systems; employing existing and new technologies to safeguard people, high-value assets and the environment.

In addition to my involvement with the FSSA, I’m a member of the National Fire Protection Association, the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, the National Independent Fire Alarm Distributors and the National Systems Contractors Association.

I have been a member of the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Contractor’s Advisory Board since its inception in July of 2005. I was recently reappointed to another four year term. During my time on the board, I have been active and involved with the rules making process implementing both the fire extinguishing contractors licensing and the alarm contractors’ licensing laws.

The Proposed Regulations: New Chapter 276 to Iowa Administrative Code, “Fire Protection Installer and Maintenance Worker Licensing” appear to apply to individuals who install or maintain fire suppression systems that are not within the scope of “fire protection systems” as that term is defined in Chapter 100D of the Iowa Code. The proposed regulations define five separate endorsements:
• Automatic fire sprinkler system installation and maintenance
• Special hazards fire suppression system installation and maintenance
• Installation and maintenance of pre-engineered dry chemical or wet agent fire protection systems
• Installation and maintenance of pre-engineered water-based fire protection systems in one- and two-family dwellings
Any combination thereof.

I submit that the special hazard fire suppression systems and pre-engineered dry chemical or wet agent systems endorsements are not within the scope of “fire protection systems” that the Legislature has authorized the State Fire Marshal to regulate pursuant to Chapter 100D.

Section 100D.1(4) of the Iowa Code defines a fire protection system as follows:
“Fire protection system” means a sprinkler, standpipe, hose system, special hazard system, dry systems, foam systems, or any water-based fire protection system, either manual or automatically activated, used for fire protection purposes that is composed of an integrated system of underground and overhead piping connected to a water source. For licensing purposes only “fire protection system” does not include the water service piping to a structure or building from a city water main.”

To be clear, the systems to be addressed by the special hazards fire suppression systems installation and maintenance endorsement of the proposed regulations are not connected to a water source. In fact, these types of special hazard systems use non-water extinguishing agents such as dry chemical, wet agent, carbon dioxide, inert gases, halogenated agents such as Halon 1301, halocarbon clean agents such as FM-200 and fluorinated ketone agents such as Novec 1230.

Clearly, special hazard fire suppression systems using non-water extinguishing agents are not “fire protection systems” as defined in Chapter 100D and are thus are beyond the scope of Chapter 100D and its licensing requirements.
I, therefore, respectfully submit that subsection (b) of section 276.1(2) of the proposed regulations be deleted.
Additionally, subsection ( c) of section 276.1(2) should be deleted since pre-engineered dry chemical and wet agent fire suppression systems are not “connected to a water source” and thus beyond the scope of Chapter 100D and its licensing requirements.

However, should these subsections remain as part of the proposed regulations, I wish to point out several issues that adversely affect the installation and maintenance of special hazard systems.
It is important to remember that several of the agents, and devices used in these special hazard systems are under close scrutiny and supervision from various agencies of the federal government including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Transportation, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Environmental Protection Agency. The mis-handling or mis-application of these agents or devices may have harmful affects on both personnel and the environment.

Regarding Exceptions 1 and 2 of the endorsement for special hazards fire suppression system installation and maintenance, the threshold of 8500 hours or more of employment is simply too long and not logical or based upon any factual industry reference.

A more reasonable threshold of 4000 hours is feasible and relative to the very reference of Level I NICET special hazards sub-field certification that must accompany this exception. Moreover, this threshold parallels training and work experience that most special hazard fire equipment manufacturers and contractors provide to new technicians entering this important sub-field of the fire protection industry.

I submit this same timeframe be adopted for Exceptions 1 and 2 of the endorsement for pre-engineered dry chemical and wet agent fire protection systems.
Regarding section 276.1(4) application fees, consideration must be given to special hazards endorsement applicants since special hazard systems incorporate a low-voltage electrical detection and control system for supervision and activation.

Persons performing installation, testing and maintenance on these alarm systems are currently regulated under Iowa Code 100C. Iowa Code 100C already requires fees including a mandatory FBI background check.
Requiring yet another FBI background check for special hazards endorsement applicants is redundant, provides no greater level of security to the public and presents an undue burden on the applicant and his or her employer. To underscore this redundancy another way, some actuation devices used to release special hazards agent containers are now regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF requires persons handling these regulated devices be subjected to the very FBI background check required by these regulations.

I recommend that the State Fire Marshall revise the proposed fee structure for the special hazards endorsement to be $150 for a two-year license and credit be given for the FBI background check already on file as a result of the Chapter 100C requirement. This revised amount when annualized and added to the annualized amount for the alarm installer’s license would be equal to the annualized amount for the other endorsements of Chapter 276.

Currently, these proposed rules and regulations appear to draw very clear distinctions between each of the individual endorsements. These distinctions are very important. Each should stand on its own. Allowing reciprocity among the endorsements could place persons and property at risk from errors and mis-understanding of how the systems are designed and how they must be inspected and maintained.

For example, technicians qualifying for the special hazards endorsement are not exposed to the hydraulic considerations, installation techniques nor the mechanical operations of automatic fire sprinkler systems. Conversely, qualified fire sprinkler installers are, most likely, not licensed to inspect or maintain detection and control systems nor are they continuously aware of the various regulations from OSHA, ATF, the Department of Transportation, and the EPA that impact various special hazard systems.

I strongly recommend that the State Fire Marshal not consider the requirements for licensure as an automatic fire sprinkler installer as qualifying for the endorsements for special hazards or pre-engineered dry chemical or wet agents. To do so may well jeopardize the very safety and security these regulations seek to provide to the citizens of Iowa.

Lastly, please know that I am happy to provide a copy of these comments to the State Fire Marshal’s office and am available to provide additional background information as well as technical references on any of the noted items. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on these proposed rules and regulations.

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