The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) recently launched a new educational program for its members: the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance (ITM) Inspector Development program. The program utilizes on-demand and live-training courses combined with a robustly structured on-the-job training and mentoring program with the goal of candidates passing NICET Level II water-based inspection certification exams in less than two years.
The first round of classes began in April, and 20 students launched into 56 hours of on-demand courses and 21 hours of live, interactive web instruction. Next comes seven hours of live instruction and over three days of hands-on field testing and inspections at AFSA headquarters in Dallas.
Now that the first class has been underway for a few months, the reviews are starting to pour in, and they are overwhelmingly positive. One student, Jesus Beltran of Kaufman Fire Protection in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has had a particularly excellent experience.
“It is a very thorough and very specific program that is teaching me in a way that will allow me to understand the systems I will eventually test,” says Beltran. “I am very confident that when I graduate this course I will have the knowledge and understanding to inspect and test any fire protection system out in the field.”
Beltran has already begun applying what he has learned from the program to his work in the field, and has found that one of his favorite things about the program is the accessibility it provides to experts. “I am very glad that this program has live webinars,” says Beltran. “I can actually talk to a teacher and voice any question or concern I may have.”
Beltran’s immediate supervisor, Mike Montoya, an inspector for Kaufman Fire Protection, is already seeing great improvement in Beltran’s work.
“Jesus has been introduced to many different types of fire sprinkler systems, such as dry pipe systems, pre-action systems, deluge systems, fire pumps, jockey pumps, wet systems and anti-freeze loop systems,” comments Montoya. “He is also learning how to test backflow preventers, assemblies, and repair the backflows. Jesus is doing very well in the ITM program.”
Beltran isn’t the only student enjoying his time in the program. Jonny Lovesee of Foothill Fire Protection in Rocklin, California has found that he is thriving in this type of educational environment. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this course,” says Lovesee. “It brings to light the necessity of our daily duties as inspectors and reinforces how vital our job is. It’s quite remarkable, with technology, that we can create an environment where we can all learn as one and discuss as a class the topics and questions we all face through this course.”
When asked if he would recommend this course to others, Lovesee was adamant that he would. “It provides valuable knowledge on interpreting the standard that is NFPA 25, and equips you with all the tools to perform ITM on all fire sprinkler appurtenances. There is so much information you gather from all lessons that it would be beneficial for any aspiring inspector.”
Some students, like Frank Downey of Colonial Fire Protection Systems, Inc. in Rochester, New York, are veterans of the industry, and yet are finding the program extremely informative. “I have been in the industry for over 10 years and I learn something new every session,” says Downey. “The availability of the different instructors has been a great tool in my learning experience. It has been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to the future lessons that will be provided.”
In addition to preparing students to pass the NICET Level II water-based inspection certification exam, the program’s goal is to encourage and foster character-building traits such as honesty, integrity, confidence, professionalism, reliability, and credibility. It also is meant to strengthen communication skills, both written (for noting inspections and testing observations) and verbal (communicating with customers).
To complete this program, students are required to complete a few key tasks. First, they must commit approximately three hours a week to program studies. They must also keep pace with program activities, including on-the-job tasks. In order to pass the class, students must attain a passing score of 70 or higher on each assessment and exam. Ideal students for the ITM program include existing staff members, local community college fire protection or fire fighter program graduates, aging installers, military service veterans, and others with the aptitude and attitude needed to become a professional inspector. The program exists for students who want to learn, students who recognize their respected role as the face of their company, and students who can communicate well with customers without overusing industry jargon.
The next round ITM Inspector Development Program courses – Fall 2016 – has sold out! The next cycle begins April 17, 2017, and early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register today, visit firesprinkler.org/ITM.