Smart question. To help tailor the responses, please clarify what path, or portion of the FP industry you have entered, and where you wish it to take you. I have found that there is a wide variety of occupations and experiences represented here. Which is great.
From submitter: working for a fire sprinkler contractor now, but may look to do suppression and fire protection engineering (life safety + smoke control) in the future.
Fire Protection Engineering Technician program
My advice to you is to not just learn what needs to be done, but put the time and effort in to learn WHY it needs to be done in a certain manner. The man that knows how will always have a job, the man that knows why will always be his boss.
Good luck for a rewarding career in a great industry!
I agree with this. There are so many avenues to choose from in the fire protection industry. Not knowing what stage in life you are currently in, try different roles and find out where your passion lies, hopefully with a company that will actively help support you. Stay organized and set goals for yourself that encourages you to advance. Picture where you want to be professionally in five, ten, or more years (i.e. become an FPE) and begin planning your route now.
I also would have told myself to master hand calculations early, early on, but that's just me...
Along the same lines- I hung around a design department at a sprinkler firm for a while. I got on a NICET water-based design track, and at about the 3 year mark I had more time in the industry than 2/3 of the department. I would be asked to check a stock list, and I'd notice the drawings that were being made by some of the other "newbies" were missing key components necessary to read them. After pointing that out, I would get asked what the standard is for this or that. My response to technical questions was always, "What does the standard say?" Regardless of how well I thought I knew it, if I didn't know it well enough to stake someone's life on it I would consult the standard.
I am a fire protection engineer now, and I still do it that way. My advice is, get a hard copy of 13. It can be any of the past 4 revisions, 2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019. Read it cover to cover. Highlight it. Annotate the margins. Underline anything you need to go back to Ch3 and look up. If you have a question, don't ask somebody- look it up. Then get a copy of whatever standard closely aligns to the direction you want to go. If it's inspections, 25- alarms, 72. Do the same thing. I've found that for high-tech proprietary installations and design, by reading the data sheet on the equipment I have made myself the resident expert on it, because nobody else bothered to read it. Yet, I've also found that if I ask questions on that gear I will get answers too- some of them right and some wrong. In this industry, people who learn from other people will continue to do it that way until they are told that it's wrong, because that's how they learned it, and often times nobody opposes them for decades. Then their wrong way has been reinforced by years of experience- doesn't make it right.
It's also OK to tell someone, "I don't know" or "I will have to consult the standard, and I will get back to you with an answer". If you get into the habit of researching questions, you will get good at finding answers quickly and trusting yourself on interpreting the standards.
Then you will be in a place where you can be asked a question that's completely foreign to you, such as, "I want to spray insulate the underside of the roof with this open-cell product, and there will be an ACT ceiling beneath it. Is this product OK to use?", and you will be able to confidently go through the components, find the relevant standard, and give the appropriate response.
This question impresses me. Many apprentices seem to only think of the present to get the paycheck and never the future.
I think the first important thing would be to find someone in your organization that is dedicated to the trade, who is knowledgeable and skillful to be your mentor.
Learn something new everyday!
All good answers. If you're at a contractor's office, hopefully you have solid leadership with a design manager. Finding a mentor is very important. I was fortunate, early on, to have several. Pick their brains and apply it to your own "style" Talk with fitters, learn how they install and what they look for. Be a knowledge sponge. Learn everything by hand, hydraulic, seismic, etc. You'll need it for your NICET and you'll understand the computer results much more clearly. Also understand you'll never know it all. 37 years and I still see new things on a regular basis.
Learn the basics, the mechanics inside and out. Learn to apply them to the problems that you face, reaching good consistent outcomes. Do not try to memorize and recite code, always look back at code as it applies to the work you are performing. Learn that each time you read it it applies differently than it did last time in light of a different set of circumstances. Then you will be able to choose the path you take.
I couldn’t agree more with the feedback above. (Even about hand-calcs, computers and BIM are taking some of the finesse out of the trade.) I will give it a try… As indicated by the fact that you are eager enough to ask the question, continue to be that sponge for information, from all perspectives of the industry, and see where it takes you. There is so much information available, much of it at your fingertips, and classes available, some free. I tell sprinkler designers that along with the book-smarts, listen to, and learn from the fitters. Try to see things in the field, and cultivate real-world experience to go along the classroom world. Eventually make friends with some of the suppliers and manufacturers’ rep’s and AHJ’s. I even like to pick the brain of firefighters I know, for example what they are trained regarding fire pumps and FDC’s. Learn about fire protection history, good and bad - Triangle Shirtwaist, Cocoanut Grove, MGM Grand, The Station, Grenfell. I had a great contractor boss who told us that making money was #1. But don’t lose sight of the important role you play. In your spare time be a geek and download some of the old Gorham Dana sprinkler books. If you have the means to, join groups (and perhaps local chapters) of the NFSA and/or AFSA, and on their websites access their informal interpretations, and subscribe to their publications, like AFSA’s free Sprinkler Age magazine. (There are many interesting FB groups, but they can be a time waster, don’t take time away from your work and studies.) MeyerFire is the best thing since sliced bread. I was dedicated to sprinklers for so long, I wish I had dedicated more time to things like suppression, detection/notification, Life Safety, etc. And it wasn’t until I spread my wings outside a design cubicle that I made bigger leaps. Use the full capacity of that young brain of yours while it still has low miles on it.
Looks like a good program you have going. Glad to see the new generations such as yourself entering the field. https://www.senecacollege.ca/programs/fulltime/FPT.html
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