Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

Does Anyone Teach How to Install, Test, and Maintain Fire Alarm Systems?

By Douglas Krantz | Electronics

Does Anyone Teach How to Install, Test, and Maintain Fire Alarm Systems?

Does Anyone Teach How to Install, Test, and Maintain Fire Alarm Systems?

Greetings Douglas,

I am new to Fire Alarm industry.

I'm seeking assistance on the following basics in the fire alarm business:
  1. Fire Alarm Architecture for Design
  2. Installation Cable Sizing
  3. Conduit Requirement, Etc.
  4. Routing
  5. ITM [Inspection - Testing - Maintenance]

None of this seems to be taught by any single entity, and no one seems to go into great detail.

Thank You, BA


Most people think of the word "Education" as what is learned in school. Sometimes they also think of the words "On the Job Training" as the formal training needed for first few days to first months on the job, and so we learn exactly what to do, this training is under the direct guidance a person.

That is not what I think of as education. Schooling and formal on the job training are just the bare beginning. The real education comes after the "schooling" and after the "formal on-the-job training"; the real education is "informal and lifetime on-the-job, and off-site, training".

As we learn one job, and continue to learn finer points on that job, (and when we make mistakes and learn from our mistakes), we gain education that can never be taken away from us. Then, when we get promoted or change jobs, we take what we have learned in school, and also on all the various the jobs we have had, and apply that education the next job.

This includes taking such wildly varied jobs like Television Broadcast Engineer and jobs like Accountant. This on-the-job experience can then be directly and indirectly applied to the next job, like the fire alarm work you've listed. (Yes, I've done that. Check out my LinkedIn work experience. Find Me on LinkedIn)

As you go through life, from the employee's point of view, that's called using experience; from the employer's point of view, that's called gaining new blood.

Nuf said about education.

Categories of Fire Alarm Jobs

All of the basics you've listed in your inquiry can be considered jobs.

A few of the jobs you've listed (like Fire Alarm Architecture to Design) require, either formal training gained attending schools geared for this, or informal on-the-job training that includes extensive experience on all of the other jobs you've listed.

A few of the jobs, like Testing, don't require much in the way of schooling, and on the on-the-job training is usually short.

To be proficient at most of the jobs, though, a mixture of outside the jobsite informal or informal training and on-the-job experience is needed.


Fire alarm systems are electronic systems.

The rules and codes, like what is published by the not-for-profit publishing house National Fire Protection Association, Inc. (NFPA), shows us what is needed for a completed Fire Detection and Alarm System.

However, to achieve the completed Fire Detection and Alarm System, and to continue to maintain it, a basic knowledge electronics is necessary.
  • Fire alarm architecture to design has to follow a lot of rules, but is based mostly on electricity and electronics. Knowledge of codes and rules are required to understand what goes into a Fire Detection and Alarm System; knowledge of basic electrical and electronic fundamentals is required to understand the "how-to-design" the Fire Detection and Alarm System.

  • Installation cable sizing has to follow a lot of rules, but it is also based on the manufacturer's literature. Not only that, but just choosing the size and length of wires and cables requires basic electrical and electronic knowledge.

  • Conduit requirements are based on a lot of rules, but, well, conduit carries wire, and wire is electrical. Before figuring out what the requirements are for conduits, you have to know the size of the installation wires, where they are going to go, and what signals they carry. That, too, requires electrical and electronic knowledge.

  • Routing requires a little understanding of rules and of architecture, a lot of experience, and a smattering of electricity and electronics (remember that wire is electrical).

  • Inspection can be making sure everything that's supposed be there is actually there. However, really know that the system is installed correctly, inspection requires at least some knowledge of basic electricity and electronics.

  • Testing is mostly making sure things work the way they're supposed to, but some knowledge of basic electricity is helpful.

  • Maintenance, to be able to do much more than replace a battery, requires a high level of electrical and electronic knowledge. The word maintenance implies replacing faulty equipment and wiring, but to find what needs to be corrected, maintenance requires a good background in electricity and electronics.

Source of Education

There is no single entity that can provide the training needed for a lifetime of work in the fire alarm industry. What's needed 10 to 20 years from now is new, and isn't taught by anyone now. Keep learning what's new.

While there are some schools that specialize in fire alarm engineering, they are heavy into the pre-bidding type of engineering. Usually the pre-bidding engineering requires Professional Engineering (PE) certification.

Engineering for contractors, like yours, is more experienced based; a person starts out at an entry level job, and as that person gains experience and expertise at a position, they advance to a more intensive position.

Whether it's as a Professional Engineer, a contractor's engineer, a person sizing cables, looking into conduit requirements, routing cabling through buildings, or Inspection/Testing/Maintenance, knowledge of electricity and electronics is necessary.

Since you're out in the industry now, full-time schools aren't available to you. However, there are other sources of learning.

The web can provide a lot of bits electrical and electronic knowledge, but books are better. Read the reviews on the books before buying, them. Then, study the books, figure out how the learning shown in the books apply to fire alarm work.

Life does not hand you the necessary education, you have to take it. This is the beginning of the education you are going to acquire during the rest of your life.

Douglas Krantz
Life Safety
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