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November 4, 2007

                             []< ET NEWS                               
 Issue No. 313  ISSN 1554-074X   11-4-2007   
- News 
- Journal 
- Employment 
- Seminar Schedule 
- Comments & Acknowledgements 

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A few years ago, 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I've also included the price for each reference, which may be outdated.

There are currently 85 elements to choose from in levels 1-4. The 
following 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 on.

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 
"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 followed this process for each and every element in Levels I-IV and 
kept notes that I later bound up and 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 s
urvived 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 

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, and what about 
the nebulous references such as "see general construction texts and 
references" or my personal favorite "... basic physics textbooks ...".

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 behind of some 
the strange requirements found within the installation standards. 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.   

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. 
ADVICE. IRS tax form 2106 *may* allow you to deduct some or all of 
your un-reimbursed employee expenses, including costs associated with 
NICET certification.

If you're testing for the first time in Fire Alarm Systems, may 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 

NICET has announced a new computer-based exam for the fire alarm 
system sub-field, to be made available in 2008.  I'm guessing that the 
level 1 test will be available in Q1, followed by level 2 in Q2, and 
so on. This method will certainly be less convoluted than the work-
element exam currently used, however, I can't imagine how the 
computer-based test center will accommodate an open-book exam. 
(reprinted from ET News Issue No. 144, March 28, 2004) 
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Fire Alarm/Clean Agent Suppression Technician
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Preferred:  NICET Certification
Location:   Bay Area/Sacramento/Roseville, CA

Service technician with excellent communications skills - oral and 
written.  Provides technical service to customers on various systems 
during inspections and while troubleshooting system operation.  
Responds to service calls during business hours and after hours and 
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Must possess valid driver license and have a good driving record.

If you are interested in beginning a career with an ISO Certified 
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Contact: Joe Murphy
925-734-5884 voice
925-463-1047 fax 

Post your announcement at 
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.

Contact me to find out how your group can sponsor a seminar. 
November 6-8, 2007 Los Angeles, CA 
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Advanced Fire Alarm Seminar (NICET III & IV) 
November 13-14, 2007 Asheville, NC 
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Basic Fire Alarm Seminar 
Sponsored seminar (closed)  
November 27-29, 2007 Kent, WA
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Fire Alarm Plan Review Seminar 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
December 4-6, 2007 Los Angeles, CA 
Fire Alarm Plan Review Seminar 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
Understanding NFPA 101 Fire Alarm Requirements 
December 5-6, 2007 Albuquerque, NM 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
December 11-13, 2007 Las Vegas, NV
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Fire Alarm Plan Review Seminar 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
January 22-24, 2008 Dallas, TX
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Fire Alarm Plan Review Seminar 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
More info to follow ...
January 29-31, 2008 Baton Rouge, LA
Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems 
Fire Alarm Plan Review Seminar 
Understanding IBC Fire Alarm Requirements 
More info to follow ...

ET News is written nearly every week and almost always sent on Sunday. 

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Some information may be found in this message and that is   
reprinted with permission from one or more of the following; NFPA 70   
National Electrical Code(r), NFPA 72(r) National Fire Alarm Code(r),   
NFPA 101(r) Life Safety Code(r), Copyright(c) NFPA, Quincy, MA 02269   
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.                                              
|                   Michael Baker & Associates Inc                   | 
| (800) 734-3902 || PO Box 737, Gladstone OR 97027 || | 
ET News(SM) Copyright(c) 2007 by Michael B. Baker. All rights reserved 
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Some information may be found within this web site that is reprinted with permission from one or more of the following: NFPA 70 National Electrical Code®,NFPA 72® National Fire Alarm Code®, & NFPA 101® Life Safety Code®, Copyright© NFPA, Quincy, MA 02269.

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.