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April 22, 2007

                             []< ET NEWS                                
Issue No. 285    ISSN 1554-074X   4-22-2007 
- News
- ET News Journal
- Job Opportunities
- Seminar Schedule
- Comments & Acknowledgements 


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Fire code panel focuses on sprinkler, alarm costs
Providence Business News - Providence,RI,USA
East Greenwich has had to redirect more than $1 million to fire alarm
upgrades in schools, some for a school that will be demolished in the
next few years, ...

I'll see you in Missoula and Great Falls this week.

Have fun! 


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It is to no one's benefit to coach or to be coached on specific NICET
test questions. This disturbing approach undermines the value of the
certificate and over time will dilute the value of NICET certification.
NICET has made public their position on the this subject:

"All NICET examination questions are the property of NICET and are
protected under United States copyright law. NICET exam questions may
not be disclosed, reproduced, published, publicly displayed, or
otherwise distributed, whether intentionally or through neglect."

How does one prepare for an examination? Again, in the words of NICET:

"The questions, all multiple choice, are designed to be answered with
little difficulty by those technicians who regularly perform the tasks
associated with the work element."

As you prepare for a NICET examination you shouldn't have to buy
additional codes and standards than those you use to perform your job.
The intent of a NICET examination is to determine your job knowledge -
your ability to find relevant information within the codes and
standards that you use regularly in performing your job.

I went through the Program Detail Manual to determine how many books,
standards, and other reference material you will need access to while
preparing for an exam.

The resulting breakdown lists the number of elements within which each
reference is cited. I've only included references that I can find and
I've omitted non-specific references such as "general ... textbooks".
I've also included the price for each reference.

There are currently 85 elements to choose from in levels 1-4. The
first number in this breakdown indicates how many of the 85 elements
a particular reference is cited. For example, the first entry is for
NFPA 72, which is cited in 52 of the 85 test elements followed by the
next most popular, Fire Alarm Signaling Systems (29 elements) and so

Price      Elements  Reference
---------  --------  ---------
$   52.00     52     NFPA 72
$  103.50     29     Fire Alarm Signaling Systems
$  224.75     16     Fire Protection Handbook
$   75.00     13     NFPA 101
$   75.00      9     NFPA 70
$   57.00      4     NEMA Training Manual on Fire Alarm Systems
$   35.00      4     UL Fire Protection Equipment Directory
$  259.50      3     SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering
$   91.00      3     SBCCI Standard Building Code
$  113.00      3     ICBO Uniform Building Code
$   70.00      3     NFPA 13 (includes NFPA 231C)
$   17.95      2     AIA A201
$   49.00      2     BOCA Basic/National Building Code
$   45.47      2     Building Professional’s Guide to Contract Doc's
$   36.50      2     NFPA 170
$   33.50      2     NFPA 75
$   33.50      2     NFPA 90A
$  445.00      2     UL 268
$  445.00      2     UL 864
$  205.00      2     ASME A17.1
$  120.00      1     ANSI S12.31
$   64.00      1     ASTM E-380 (ANSI SI 10)
$   95.70      1     Construction Contracting
$   30.00      1     (UL) Electrical Construction Mat'ls Directory
$   12.00      1     Fire Protection Through Modern Building Codes
$   37.00      1     NEMA Guide for Use of Duct Smoke Detectors
$   50.00      1     NEMA Guide for Use of System Smoke Detectors
$   33.50      1     NFPA 110
$   33.50      1     NFPA 1221
$   36.50      1     NFPA 12A
$   36.50      1     NFPA 80
$   33.50      1     NFPA 92A
$    6.00      1     OSHA 2201
$  445.00      1     UL 217
$  560.00      1     UL 268A
$  445.00      1     UL 521
$4,508.87  Total

When I went through the NICET certification process in 1997, I did so
because my students (apprentice electricians) started asking me
questions about the program. Not knowing much about it, I went to work
to find out how, and what I found was a convoluted program. Once I
figured out how to apply I started studying for the exam. Not knowing
any better I used the Program Detail Manual (PDM) as my study guide.
The PDM includes a description for each element and I used the
description to prepare for my exam.

[Download the Program Detail Manual here:]

For example, on page 9 of the PDM you'll find:

Understand the various types of fire alarm systems. Understand the
electrical requirements, the alarm initiating devices, the control
functions, the alarm indicating appliances and the power requirements
of a fire alarm system. Know the types of signaling services that can
be provided and the automatic fire detectors in common use. (NFPA 72,
NFPA 101, Fire Alarm Signaling Systems)

There's a *lot* of useful information included in each of these
element descriptions. To prepare for this test I would turn each
sentence into a question of myself;

"Do I understand the various types of fire alarm systems?"

NFPA committees have some unique definitions of terms that don't seem
to include common sense, so I dug into the reference material (found
within the parentheses following the element description). For this
particular element, 31001, the references are NFPA 72, NFPA 101, and a
book called Fire Alarm Signaling Systems. I had NFPA 72 but I didn't
have either of the other two references. After a quick review of NFPA
72 I found the answer to my question and wrote it down, including the
article from whence it came. As I continued to study elements, I found
that I didn't have all or even most of the referenced material so
I borrowed a copy from someone, bought a copy, or did without. Some of
the references are excellent resources and I still use many of them
today. I found some of the references to be unnecessary (caveats to

I followed this process for each and every element in Levels I-IV and
kept notes that I later used during an exam. I also shared my notes
with my students as I showed them how to familiarize themselves with
the reference material. I wound up with a handout for each element.
Some were short - 1 or 2 pages while others had 20 or more pages.

As I taught my 10-week Fire Alarm Systems class, I would hand out
copies of this material as we covered it, weaving NICET study material
into the classroom material. We would review NFPA 70 and 72 and then
we would discuss how to prepare the books for an exam by using tabs
and memory shortcuts to help in finding relevant code language. I
survived 4 exams and made lots of mistakes, which I also shared with
my students via the handouts such that they would be better prepared
than I.

Another instructor noticed what I was doing and saw an opportunity to
bundle the handouts into a book and sell it as a NICET Test
Preparation Handbook. As a staunch capitalist I want everyone in the
known universe to buy a copy of every book I ever write, however,
it isn't necessary.

COST $0.00 <--

As you wind your way through the PDM you will inevitably find
reference to material that you don’t have. The intent of a NICET
examination is to test your ability to answer questions using the
reference material that you use to perform your job. I agree with that
up to a point. Electricians use NFPA 70 regularly. If they work on
fire alarm systems they use NFPA 72 and A Building Code (e.g. IBC/IFC)
but they probably don’t use the Fire Protection Handbook, or Fire
Alarm Signaling Systems, or the laundry-list of NFPA publications, not
to mention the exorbitantly priced UL Standards.

While preparing for my first NICET exam, I asked my employer to send
me to an NFPA seminar. I pointed out that it would make me a better
employee, add value to his company, and oh by the way, it would help
to prepare me for a NICET exam. My employer agreed, eventually. I
attended a 3-day NFPA 72 seminar taught by Wayne Moore and Dean Wilson.
I was able to hone my ability to use NFPA 72, I became more proficient
at code compliance and job estimating, and, as an added bonus I was
able to ask Masters Moore and Wilson about the history of some the
goofier NFPA requirements. You can't put a price on that.

Attending an appropriate seminar right before a NICET exam is *highly*
recommended. Participation in a seminar helps you to focus on the
material that you will most likely be asked questions about. It also
helps you to better understand and apply relevant codes and standards
at work. There are less-expensive alternatives to the NFPA seminar.
AFAA, for example, regularly provides 2-day Intermediate (NICET I & II)
and 2-day Advanced (NICET III & IV) Fire Alarm Seminars nationwide,
which help attendees prepare for NICET examinations. AFAA seminars go
way beyond covering NFPA 72. The discussion includes much of the
ancillary material that test-takers need to be familiar with during an
exam. The additional material comes from NFPA 13, 20, 25, 70, 75, 90A,
92A, 92B, 101, 110, 170, Fire Alarm Signaling Systems, Fire Protection
Handbook, IBC, UL 864, ASME A17.1, CABO A117.1, and much more. By
attending these AFAA seminars you don't necessarily have to buy all of
the referenced standards, thereby saving money.

(discounts available), WHICH INCLUDES A COPY OF NFPA 72 <--

After preparing your NICET study guide, or buying a copy of mine, and after attending a seminar, you will be well
prepared for an exam, however, you're still going to have to acquire a
few items to round things out. I have a short list of highly recommend
publications that are reasonably priced:


 o UGLY's Electrical References. Cost $11.95
 o System Sensor application guides. Cost $0.00.
 o AIA A201. Cost $0.00.
 o OSHA 2201. Cost $0.00.
 o Metric conversions. Cost $0.00.

The links provided here are but ONE place where you can get these
items. UGLY's, for example, may also be found at Home Depot, Lowes,
Graybar, Platt, or other electrical supply house.  

Here's a list of costs using these three tips to prepare for NICET
level I & II:

   $489.00  AFAA Intermediate seminar (discounts are available)
   $ 11.95  UGLY's
 + $100.00  NICET Study guide (optional)
   $600.95  Total

To prepare for level III & IV:

   $449.00  AFAA Advanced seminar (discounts are available)
 + $100.00  NICET Study guide (optional)
   $549.00  Total

If you decide not to attend a seminar, you should consider forming a
study group with others preparing for a NICET exam and grill each
other using the Program Detail Manual to prepare for testing.

Some employers will help you with the costs associated with NICET,
some employers require certification, some offer incentives, and some
won't or can't help financially. In the worst case, you spend several
hundred bucks to improve your lot in life over the course of a year or
two and get it all back when you file your income tax return. CAUTION:
IRS tax form 2106 *may* allow you to deduct some or all of your
un-reimbursed employee expenses, including costs associated with
NICET certification.

You should be able to see that it isn't necessary to buy all of these

Alternative   Elements   Reference
-----------   --------   ---------
AFAA seminar  52        *NFPA 72
AFAA seminar  29       **Fire Alarm Signaling Systems
AFAA seminar  16         Fire Protection Handbook
AFAA seminar  13        *NFPA 101
AFAA seminar   9        *NFPA 70
unnecessary    4         Training Manual on Fire Alarm Systems
AFAA seminar   4         Fire Protection Equipment Directory
unnecessary    3         SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering
AFAA seminar   3         Standard Building Code
AFAA seminar   3         Uniform Building Code
AFAA seminar   3         NFPA 13 (includes NFPA 231C)
See notes      2      ***AIA A201
AFAA seminar   2         Basic/National Building Code
unnecessary    2         Building Professional’s Guide to Contract Doc
AFAA seminar   2        *NFPA 170
AFAA seminar   2        *NFPA 75
AFAA seminar   2        *NFPA 90A
unnecessary    2         UL 268
AFAA seminar   2         UL 864
AFAA seminar   2        *ANSI/ASME A17.1
unnecessary    1         ANSI S12.31
Web page       1         ASTM E-380 (ANSI SI 10)
unnecessary    1         Construction Contracting
AFAA seminar   1         Electrical Construction Mat'ls Directory
unnecessary    1         Fire Protection Through Modern Building Codes
System Sensor  1         Guide for Use of Duct Smoke Detectors
System Sensor  1         Guide for Use of System Smoke Detectors
AFAA seminar   1        *NFPA 110
unnecessary    1         NFPA 1221 (relevant info moved to NFPA 72)
unnecessary    1         NFPA 12A
unnecessary    1         NFPA 80
unnecessary    1         NFPA 92A
Web page       1         OSHA 2201
unnecessary    1         UL 217
unnecessary    1         UL 268A
unnecessary    1         UL 521

  * - If you don't attend an AFAA seminar to get this info, you should
	    seriously consider buying the NFPA standard.
 ** - Much of the relevant material is covered in AFAA seminars
      however, I highly recommend that you buy this book.
*** - Download AIA A201 or you can study the RFP's, specifications,
      and contracts from your place of work. 
unnecessary  - This is my opinion and is based upon cost/benefit. At
               least be aware of what this standard contains.
AFAA seminar - The relevant bits are covered in an AFAA seminar.

If you're testing for the first time in Fire Alarm Systems, I suggest
that you sign up for the following elements:

Level 1 General Work Elements 31001-31006 and 31011
Level 1 Special Work Elements 32004-32006
Level 2 General Work Elements 33001-33009 and 33016-33025
Level 2 Special Work Elements 34001 and 34005-34007

Next week I'll take a closer look at why I recommend this list of

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JOB OPPORTUNITY and SEEKING EMPLOYMENT announcements are provided as a
service. ET News provides a venue for direct contact between job
seekers and employers. ET News is not a placement agency and does not
endorse either job seekers or employers.


Send your announcement to: or post your own ad: 


April 25, 2007 Missoula, MT  
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements   
Contact Bruce Hadella for more information: 
(406) 771-4338

April 27, 2007 Great Falls, MT  
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements   
Contact Bruce Hadella for more information: 
(406) 771-4338

May 2-3, 2007 Orlando, FL  
Intermediate Fire Alarm Seminar (NICET I & II) 

May 22-23, 2007 Denver, CO  
Intermediate Fire Alarm Seminar (NICET I & II) 
Including Denver Amendments 

June 19-21, 2007 Cincinnati, OH  
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements  
Fire Alarm Plan Review 
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 


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National Electrical Code(r), NFPA 72(r) National Fire Alarm Code(r), 
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This reprinted material is not the complete and official position of 
the NFPA on the referenced subject, which is represented only by the 
standard in its entirety. 
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This reprinted material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA on the referenced subject, which is represented only by the standard in its entirety.