In the summer of 2019, I received an email from Tim Lindsay, then owner of Cantec, an electrician and a 30 year veteran of the fire protection industry in Victoria. He had invited me to join him, along with several other companies, at a meeting to discuss a concern he had regarding the future of the fire alarm industry on Vancouver Island. I was surprised to find almost every company in the Victoria area represented, some by more than one person. The room was packed. To my knowledge, this was the first meeting of its kind in recent history.
Tim began by telling us a story about a meeting he had attended of the Fire Prevention Officers of Vancouver Island and their guest speaker, a gentleman from Vancouver. To Tim, it felt as though this individual was trying to tell the Fire Prevention Officers that the standard and quality of work being conducted on Vancouver Island was substandard and unacceptable. Tim wasn’t arguing necessarily, but he was concerned that if the general perception from the authorities was that we, as a group of service providers, were not conducting ourselves according to the standards, that they may look elsewhere, like Vancouver, for direction.
This kicked off a very lively and interesting discussion. All agreed that, for the most part, there was room for improvement on how we do our work. As a result of this meeting many of us saw the value of creating an association to improve how we operate and to collaborate on industry related topics. The goal was to ultimately help all members to adhere to the codes and standards that govern us and our industry here in British Columbia.
As businesses, we recognized the value of working together to achieve this goal.
A core group of us began monthly discussions of how to do this and by January 2020 we were officially incorporated as an Association. While most involved up to this point were from the Victoria area, early on we recognized the value of including the entire region of Vancouver Island as many of us worked throughout the area. It was for this reason that the name Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association was adopted and any involved in the fire protection industry were invited to become members. A five member board was elected, and all brought the same passion to the association. We all recognized that there was a unique opportunity here — to help the industry.
We recognized that the fire protection industry, especially here on Vancouver Island, was suffering from lackluster enthusiasm to adhere to the code. Generally it was as a result of a general lack of knowledge, but there were other contributing factors.
The fire protection industry is governed by two principal codes: The British Columbia Building Code and the British Columbia Fire Code. Basically one governs how buildings are to be built, while the second one dictates how buildings are to be protected, inspected, and maintained with regard to fire safety. Both standards are adopted as law in BC and both Codes refer to other governing standards, such as the CAN/ULC Series of documents and the NFPA code. Each of these documents then focus on specific areas such as Smoke Alarms or Fire Alarm Testing, and articulate the finer details of how the work is to be carried out and documented. By extension, these are also recognized as law in BC.
We recognized that these codes were the standards that we needed to adhere to, but we all emphatically agreed that industry at large and all involved — including fire protection companies, engineers, sprinkler service companies, the general public and even the fire departments — had contributed to a lower standard. We all had some horror story to share of something we had seen or come across in our careers. It began to paint a picture. Everything from improperly installed fire alarm systems, systems being poorly maintained or not being maintained at all, fire department officials giving out completely wrong information, or building owners refusing to maintain their life safety equipment in their buildings. Our investigations convinced us that fire safety in general had been compromised. It’s not to say that there weren’t companies or individuals that weren’t trying, but the industry at large could do better.
This impelled us to want to do our part as an association to help all of our members, and the public in general, to do better at adhering to the Code. We needed to direct attention to these documents and to promote code education. And we recognized that we needed to do this as a group. Thus we coined the phrase “Raising The Bar.” Together we would do our best to promote education, awareness, industry recognition in collaboration with the local fire departments, our members and the public at large, all with the goal of improving Fire Safety on Vancouver Island.
In the beginning we knew we had a daunting task ahead of us and that would take years to make any headway. However through the regular participation from the members and by holding regular monthly meetings via Zoom, we have made progress and created more awareness of the issues.
Today is June 1st, 2021 and it has been a year and a half since we began. We have already made significant progress and gained recognition. It is our hope that VIFPA will continue to grow, to gain the support of industry stakeholders and of the local fire departments and that this organization can in turn provide the necessary support to the people of Vancouver Island. Fire Safety is our #1 goal and our aim is to achieve that by supporting those who install, inspect and maintain those systems.
June 2, 2021