Saturday, August 8, 2009

If "Layout" Doesn't Sound Like Your Cup Of Tea What About Inspections?

Up to this time I've been talking about Automatic Sprinkler System Layout but there's also Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems that you might interest you.

This certification program was designed for engineering technicians in the automatic fire sprinkler industry who are engaged in the physical and mechanical aspects of inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based systems including foam and foam-water systems. (The program does not cover systems that deal with CO2, halon, and dry chemical.)
Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems comprises three levels of certification. Level I was designed for technicians who assist in the inspection and/or testing of fire protection systems, Level II is for those who perform standardized tasks under routine conditions as assigned, and Level III is for those who perform comprehensive inspections of complex systems without supervision. Certification at Levels II and III does not require prior certification at Level I. Certification at Levels II and III does not require prior certification at the lower level, but it does require meeting the certification requirements of the lower levels.
This sub-field is relatively new having only been around for 10 years and is fast becoming one of the most sought after technicians there are.

Using Google to search "nicet sprinkler inspector" brings up 50,400 pages of mostly jobs that are going begging. Right now certified inspectors are in even more demand than certified layout technicians. It is really amazing how much demand there is.

How much? I have little doubt if someone could magically drop of thirty NICET III certified inspectors at the bus Atlanta bus station with $500 in their pocket, a rental car and access to the internet they would all have jobs by the end of the week.

Like the layout technicians certified inspectors are even harder to find.

As of April, 2009 the Georgia has a total of 84 NICET III inspectors living in the state.


Enclose a non-refundable fifty dollar $50.00 application fee and an a non-refundable fifty dollars $50.00 filing fee in the form of a company check or money order made payable to the State Fire Marshal’s Office (personal checks are not accepted). In addition, provide a resume of your work experience, including dates directly related to the inspection of fire protection sprinkler systems. Furthermore, state your knowledge and experience of the inspection process. Include any education and /or certifications i.e. N.I.C.E.T III certification in Inspections & Testing of Sprinkler Systems which is directly related to the inspection & testing of fire protection sprinkler systems. Submit this information on an attached, but separate sheet of paper, along with this application. Include a copy of your current Inspectors License and a copy of your N.I.C.E.T test level met letter (REQUIRED) or N.I.C.E.T inspection and testing certification. In compliance with O.C.G.A. Chapter 25-11, I hereby request I be issued a Sprinkler Systems Inspector License or have my Inspector License renewed by the Georgia Safety Fire Commissioner. I intend to engage in one or all of the following: The inspection and testing of water based fire protection systems.
In Georgia sprinkler systems are required be be inspected, tested and tagged annually but before we research demand let's take a look at what a day in the life of a typical certified inspector might be like.

Having called the day before our inspector gets on the road at 7:00 AM to get to his first appointment shortly after 8:00 AM. This inspection is rather simple, a single wet pipe spinkler system it takes a little over an hour and a half to walk through the building doing a visual inspection, testing the alarms, opening and closing valves (the most physically challenging part of the job), performing a main drain test and filling out the required paperwork.

At 10:15 AM our intrepid inspector is at his second appointment of the day which is a small manufacturing plant having one wet system and two dry systems. Having worked through lunch it's 1:15 PM by the time he's completed all his required tasks.

Grabbing a quick bite to eat on the road our inspector is at this third appointment of the day by 2:00 PM it's just a single small wet pipe system and he's out of there by 3:15 PM and at his final appointment of the day at 4:00 PM which is a motel.

The motel is completed by 5:30 PM, all the paperwork is completed and our inspector finally heads for home arriving at 6:30 PM. It's been a long day but not unusual.

This represents an "average day" and our inspector inspected six systems. In my opinion this is more than "average" with the "average" number of inspections a day being closer to four (my opinion) but we'll leave it at six.

Let's do the math.

A conservative estimate of the number of sprinkler systems in Georgia would be 500,000. I actually think it is but we'll leave it at 500,000.

If each inspector did six inspections per day for 250 days an inspector would perform 1,500 inspections annually. Bear in mind I think the 1,500 inspections figure is high with reality being closer to 1,000 to 1,200.

With 83 inspectors each doing 1,500 inspections a year the maximum possible number of inspections that can be performed in a year is 124,500 or not even a fourth of what is required.

As dire as this picture is it's even worse because I serously doubt an inspector would be able to average 6 inspections per day for 250 days. The actually figure would be closer to 4 or 5.

Then, on top of all this, the insurance carriers of many large industrial plants require quarterly and not just annual inspections.

The point I am making is the industry is woefully short of qualified inspectors and it is only going to get worse as more states adopt laws requiring inspections.

Some states, such as Texas and Florida, only require a NICET II to obtain a license to perform inspections while others, like Georgia, require a NICET III.

Personally I think NICET II with two years is not enough experience but those decisions aren't up to me.

How many new inspectors are being added?

Not many.

The push for NICET III inspectors has been going on for about six years and in that time the number of Level III inspectors went from a literally handful to 83. That's an average of just 13.8 per year or a little over 1 per month.

But the big growth spurt has slowed considerably because many who had the required experience already have the certificate.... there are fewer coming up behind the ones that blazed the trail.

But I will know for certain the November 3rd when I purchased an updated registry. We know there were 83 on April 3rd and we'll compare that with the new numbers in November.

Getting certified.

A number of current inspectors came from the ranks of experienced sprinkler fitters (the guys who actually do the installation) but that's the hard way to get there in my opinion.

Because of prohibitive training costs you can forget being hired on as a trainee, for between two to five years depending on state licensing requirements, before you can be productive in bringing income to the company.

Once again the easiest route will be a technical school.

Bates College in Olympia, Washington offers an AS degree in inspections and I am pretty sure there's a few more but will leave the searching up to you.


Pay varies around the country but from what I have seen it appears to be between $18 and $22 an hour but almost all include some sort of performance commission of between 8% and 12% of sales. If the average inspection sells for $150.00 and an inspector does 5 per day total sales equals $750.00. 10% of $750.00 equals $75.00 which is added to the hourly wage. With these schemes it is not unusual for inspectors to receive $300.00 to $500.00 added to their weekly pay in bonuses or commissions.

I've known a number of inspectors to make in excess of $60,000.00.

Many states accept NICET II for inspections and I suspect pay in the states that do accept Level II would be a little less. Nothing to base this on just my gut feeling.

There's lots of road miles that come with this job with working in a rural area 100 or more miles a day being normal. Nearly all inspectors I know have company vehicles furnished.

A clean driving record is an absolute must for a job like this.


  1. Hi;

    I am looking for a technical school in NJ which provides certification schooling for Nicet II in fire sprinklers. Would you have any leads?

    Thank you.

  2. This is a great post! I didn't know that much went into sprinklers. It is very interesting to read about.

    Alena |

  3. Wow, thank you for this great post! I am so glad that I cam across this. I have always thought about a career in this and after reading this I know more about it now and I feel even more excited about it! I didn't even know so much went into sprinklers!
    Holly James |