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.

Job Security - First Hired, Last Fired

For obvious reasons companies that do fire sprinkler installations are probably the most regulated company in construction.

Many states require a NICET certified Level III or IV technician be employed full time in order to obtain or maintain a license.

Some examples.

South Carolina for example.

2. All qualifiers must be certified NICET Level III or above. After you have obtained the NICET Level III or above, submit your completed application, Doc#145 for license to the S.C. Contractors’ Licensing Board and include all of the following:

  • Fee
  • Certificate of Liability Insurance*
  • Verification of NICET Level III or above**

*The name on the certificate of liability insurance must read the same as the licensee and have the same address. The insurers affording coverage must be licensed to write insurance policies in South Carolina. The S.C. Contractors' Licensing Board must be listed as the certificate holder.

Doc# 145 states:
The two-year license fee for each business entity seeking licensure is $200. Each fire sprinkler contractor main office or branch office must be separately licensed and have a primary qualifying party assigned exclusively to that location. The name of the branch office must be the same name that appears on the license of the main office. The license fee for each branch office is $100.The fee for the main office and branch office includes one primary qualifying party. The fee for each additional qualifying party is $50.00. A qualifying party is an individual that has met the requirements established by the board to qualify the licensee to engage in business. A licensee may have an unlimited number of qualifying parties with one employee listed as the primary qualifying party. The applicant must submit a current certificate from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) with this application indicating that the proposed qualifying parties(s) have passed the NICET Level III or IV Fire Sprinkler Technician Written Competency Examination. All qualifying parties must keep their NICET certification current for license renewal.
Then, if a qualifying party (must be NICET III or IV) leaves employment the the following rule applies:

If the primary qualifying party leaves employment the licensee, the licensee and the qualifying party must notify the department within fifteen days of the primary qualifying party's termination of employment. If the department is not notified within fifteen days, the department shall immediately cancel the license. If the licensee properly notifies the department within the prescribed time frame, the license remains in good standing for six months from the date of the departure of the primary qualifying party. If a primary qualifying party is not replaced within the six-month period, the department shall immediately cancel the license.
To make sure there is a qualifying party (a NICET III or IV certificate holder) both the company and the employee must sign notarized documentation stating the certificate holder is a full time employee at a given location. If a NICET holder leaves employment the company has six months to replace them or the license to do business is revoked.

In some states it gets even more stringent.

Tennessee is another example.


(4) "Fire protection sprinkler system contractor" means a person who contracts, offers to contract, or represents that such person is able to contract with a general contractor, subcontractor, or the general public for the undertaking of the sale, installation or service of a fire protection sprinkler system or any part thereof, or who actually installs or services a fire protection sprinkler system, provided that an owner of real property on which a fire protection sprinkler system is located, or a full-time employee of the owner of real property on which a fire protection sprinkler system is located, may perform simple maintenance of the fire protection sprinkler system, such as replacing a sprinkler head;
(7) "Responsible managing employee" means an individual who is, or is designated to be, in active and responsible charge of the work of a fire protection sprinkler system contractor; and

Prohibited activities.
62-32-104. Prohibited activities.
No person shall:
(1) Act as a fire protection sprinkler system contractor without a valid certificate of registration issued by the department; provided, that a partnership or joint venture may act as a fire protection sprinkler system contractor without a certificate of registration if and only if each partner or joint venturer is duly registered;
(2) Act as a fire protection sprinkler system contractor under a certificate of registration without having on staff a responsible managing employee who holds a valid license issued by the division. A person holding a valid certificate of registration may continue work in progress for ninety (90) days after the death or disassociation of its licensed responsible managing employee, or for such longer period as may be approved, pursuant to rules adopted hereunder;
(3) Act as a responsible managing employee for a fire protection sprinkler system contractor without a valid license issued by the department; or
(4) Sell, install or service a fire protection sprinkler system in violation of this chapter or the rules adopted hereunder.

Application for license as responsible managing employee.
62-32-106. Application for license as responsible managing employee.
(a) An application for a license as a responsible managing employee shall be submitted on a form prescribed by the department and shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable application fee in an amount not to exceed twenty-five dollars ($25.00).
(b) One (1) of the following documents must accompany the application to evidence technical qualifications for a license:
(1) Proof of registration in Tennessee as a professional engineer or architect; or
(2) A copy of NICET notification letter regarding the applicant's successful completion of the examination requirements for certification at "Level III" for fire protection automatic sprinkler systems layout.
In Tennessee a company has only 90 days to replace a "responsible managing employee" but, unlike some states, Tennessee does allow registered architects and professional engineers to act as a "responsible managing employee".

States I personally know about that have similar licensing laws, that require NICET III or IV be designated "responsible managing employees" include Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Nebraska, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

It's the first hired, last fired regulation for NICET certificate holders.

In addition to the states mentioned there are many others and a full breakdown of each is provided at the Interactive Map at

A career where College is NOT required!

There are few well paying technical jobs left in the United States where at least two years of college is not required. A certified fire sprinkler layout technician is one of the few.

With experience I would estimate the average pay for technicians to be the following:

Level II with between 2 and 5 years experience: $30,000 annual or $15 per hour.

Level III with a minimum 5 years to 10 years experience: $55,000 or $27.50 per hour.

Level IV with minimum 10 years experience: $65,000 to $75,000 or $31.75 per hour to $36.00 per hour.

It's been my experience if a trainee starts at age 20 he should be Level II in two years when 22 years old, Level III by the time he is 26 and Level IV between 30 and 31 years old. $70,000 per year, more than likely with a company vehicle, at age 30 without a college degree isn't a bad living wage. Could be worse, you could be a school teacher.

Nearly all of these jobs are provided with a full range of benefits including health insurance, 401(k) plans, profit sharing, disability insurance and life insurance. It is what it takes to attract what few qualified technicians there are.

In addition it isn't unusual for many senior Level IV technicians receive company vehicles.

NICET requires a minimum of 2 years documented experience before they will issue a Level II certificate and there aren't any exceptions. For a Level III a minimum of 5 years documented experience is required with a minimum of 10 years for a Level IV. There aren't any shortcuts to the process and even if someone where to come out of college with a BS degree it will still take 5 years to a Level III and 10 years to a Level IV.

Russ Leavitt in his blog has this to say about the shortage of certified technicans.
Over the years, obtaining NICET certification has certainly become necessary in the fire protection industry. A number of state and local jurisdictions now require certification to obtain a fire sprinkler contractor’s license, qualify for a Certificate of Competency, or be named as a Responsible Managing Employee. Many jurisdictions require working plans to be signed by a certified layout technician, the contractor to have a certified technician on staff or individuals to be certified in order to obtain a permit or license to perform inspections and testing. The objectives behind these rules are worthy and I agree with most of the arguments for having such requirements. However, all of us involved in the industry must be mindful there are unintended consequences–some of them serious.

As the CEO of a large organization that has NICET certified technicians in all the fire protection sub-fields I deal with some of these unintended consequences on a regular basis. In addition, I occasionally serve as an expert in litigation which often involves certified technicians and as a result see consequences that others face.

One consequence includes exasperating an already serious shortage of certified technicians and the high costs of developing and training to meet this shortage. For example, several states have enacted requirements for all inspectors of water based systems to be certified (level 2 or 3). This has created and continues to create a serious challenge to keep inspection costs as low as possible for the building owner because an inspector cannot work alone until certified (up to 5 years depending on the certification level required). This will force contractors to often use two inspectors (one certified and one trainee) on even the simplest inspections where one inspector could do the job. The increased costs will be borne by the contractor or passed on to the customer. In reality, this requirement and the associated costs could cause even fewer companies to invest in training because of the long payback time (up to 5 years) thus creating a more severe labor shortage as contractors resort to poaching certified inspectors from each other.

I agree, there's a severe shortage right now and it is only going to get worse in the next coming 10 years.


Two ways to get started.

The traditional method is to be a trainee at a company but these positions have all but been eliminated as to expensive and time consuming.

A new trainee will be learning for the first six months not doing a bit of work that would contribute to the income of the company. Pay is going to be $10. an hour and cost a minimum of $13 once payroll taxes and benefits are figured in. That's a bare minimum of $13,000 training before the trainee can contribute his first nickle to the income of the company.

In the second six months he's going to get a little more money and while will start to contribute some I doubt it will offset what he costs during the second six months. What a $12 an hour trainee takes 40 hours to do I can do in 4.

After a year the trainee finally starts to pay his way and here the company has $30,000 invested and no guarantee the trainee is going to stick around. At one to two years the trainee starts to become valuable and there's danger of him being picked off by a competitor who wants to avoid the first year training costs.

Thus very few trainees in the industry today. If I were to need someone I would rather use the $30,000 to get someone I can use right away.

So if you want to get into the field what do you do?


I find this really exciting but there's now three community colleges, that I am aware of, in the United States that offer a two year Associate of Science degree in the layout of fire sprinkler systems! If I missed one on the list let me know and I will add it.

In alphabetical order.

The first one is Bates College in Olympia, Washington and is the only school I am aware of that offers courses in both Layout and Inspection of fire sprinkler systems. I haven't touched on Inspections yet but will later on in my blog.

The second school is Delaware Technical College and I think that campus is in Wilmington, Delaware.

The third school is a recent newcomer but I know the people who are putting the program together and it promises to be an outstanding program. The is Parkland Community College in Champaign, Illinois. I recently received a brochure concerning Parkland that I would like to share here. Front Side. Back Side.

To give you an idea how tight the industry is on the back of Parkland College's brochure you'll read where part of the program is paid internships where you can earn while you learn! This is unheard of in a community college situation.

If searching for a community college closer to you keep in mind the following.

There are many "fire technology" courses but most of them are for fire fighters. Fine programs but if you want to go into sprinkler system layout you need to look for NICET on the course offering or description.

We work with CAD a lot and if I had to put a percentage of time on it I would guess 75% for the average layout technician.

But taking CAD classes is not an alternative.

A NICET Level III designer who didn't have any CAD experience could be throughly trained in a short time of anywhere from two weeks to two to three months.

An expert who knew everything there was to know about CAD would still take five years to obtain his Level III. In my estimatation CAD is 3% of the program.

Technician Jobs and the Impact of the Recession

The table to the left gives a breakdown of the total NICET certified sprinkler layout technicians as of April, 2009.

As I write this the country is in the worst recession since the great depression with unemployment at 9.5% with some parts of the country unemployment is hitting 15% or greater.

Commercial construction is sharply down with many skilled workers, foremen and project superintendents facing unemployment. In nearly all areas of the country it's pretty bad out there.

Among the hard hit are drafting technicians working for architectural firms, these are the people who do the actual drafting and detail work, because there just isn't enough work available.

But for NICET certified layout technicians this is not the case. As far as I can determine this little niche group enjoys 99% employment. Those very few who aren't working is because they don't want to.

Sound hard to believe? Check for yourself, a Google Search using "nicet sprinkler jobs" through Google this morning shows 10,400 jobs that are gong begging even now.

Like this one:

Our organization is committed to our employees. Our long standing success is built on the teamwork of our workers contributing around the world.

At xxxxx you’re valued.

We are actively seeking applicants for the following positions. If you feel that your skills and interests fit xxx but you don’t see a position below that fits you – please contact us.

Sprinkler Designer NICET III

Company: xxxxxxx

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Requirements: NICET III or IV certification in fire sprinkler system layout. Proficiency with HydraCAD design software.

Responsibilities: Design fire protection systems for a wide variety of projects. Responsibilities include CAD work, coordination work, site survey work, hydraulic calculations, stocklisting, etc.

Pay Range: Pay depends on your level of experience and education.

Benefits: Medical, Dental, Life Insurance, Long-Term Disability, 401K, Profit Sharing.
The benefits offered are pretty well standard across the industry.

Pay depends on level of experience but anyone who holds a Level III or IV certificate has a good amount of experience. For pay we can use to find the average pay for a NICET III certificate holder is $50,000 per year. Salt Lake City is an area that generally pays less than the rest of the county while Dallas Texas brings an average of $62,000, Omaha Nebraska brings $56,000 , $66,000 in Columbus, Georgia and $55,000 in Little Rock Arkansas.

For holders of a NICET IV certificate you could easily add $10,000 per year to the listed salaries with most LEVEL IV certificate holders earning between $60,000 and $90,000 depending on where they are in the country.

A Detailed Salary 2006 Survey for all NICET certifications provided by ASCET. Chart 14 on page 9 indicates over half the national salary range in 2006 is between $45,000 and $74,999 per year.

How many NICET Certified Layout Technicians are there?

In Utah, not many.

Fact is the list is so sort we can put the entire list of fifty (50) on this blog. If Utah had a job and 100% of the people who were qualified did apply you would have fifty applicants.

Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial, Town of Residence, Certificate Number and Level of Certification.

Adams, Daniel N. Murray 76950 IV
Anderson, Lee S. Salt Lake City 100002 IV
Atkinson, Craig D. Murray 105885 III
Berry, Michael J. Salt Lake Cty 78526 III
Black, Edward C. North Ogden 84106 IV
Blue, Craig R. W Valley City 95307 III
Brey, Ronald A. American Fork 80492 III
Bump, David L. Riverton 93589 III
Carver, Kelly D. Pleassant View 106025 III
Chanthasen, Khathaname K. Taylorsville 94210 IV
Christensen, Bruce E. Highland 70517 IV
Darr, Jeffrey C. Tooele 68403 III
Dial, Lebron T. Highland 79070 III
Eyres, Tracy D. Eden 87134 III
Glaser, William A. Tooele 69661 IV
Goodloe, Robert F. Murray 70424 III
Hagen, Marc B. Draper 111359 IV
Hagen, Robert B. Salt Lake City 70982 IV
Hagen, Sean B. Draper 111360 IV
Haight, John A. Hurricane 98793 IV
Hancock, Clint M. Riverton 70026 III
Harris, Raymond G. Murray 63776 IV
Hatfield, Ronald L. Springville 70628 IV
Heiner, Brent D. Kaysville 75758 III
Housholder, Thomas W. Fruit Heights 96701 IV
Johnson, Craig L. Farmington 93912 IV
Johnson, Jeffrey J. Draper 69385 IV
Johnson, Steven W. Lehi 82151 III
Knuteson, Alan G. Payson 109270 IV
Lloyd, Ronald E. Salt Lake City 109185 III
Mann, Kent A. Salt Lake City 69331 IV
Martin, Randall W. Magna 64595 III
Mash, Frank L. Salt Lake Cty 93655 III
Mead, Michael Salt Lake City 98650 III
Merkley, David C. Woods Cross 67313 III
Montague, Frank B. Elk Ridge 109286 IV
Neilsen, Allan M. Highland 71009 III
Nicholas, Stan T. Corinne 99936 III
Olar, Boyd N. Pleasantview 72552 IV
Rasband, Craig B. Salt Lake Cty 78555 III
Robinson, Lynn R. Woods Cross 117914 III
Shepp, Stanley M. Saint George 98169 IV
Smith, Gordon D. Layton 69714 IV
Snow, Kelly G. Pleasant Grove 69715 III
Strong, Dennis R. Salt Lake Cty 64546 III
Tordiff, Joseph J. Farmington 63969 III
Warath, Jeremy G. Salt Lake City 107233 III
White, William A. Salt Lake City 66267 IV
Wilson, Bob L. Orangeville 69468 IV
Wilson, Brian S. Morgan 123139 IV

Here's the problem. NICET certificate numbers are issued sequentially; the lower the number the older the certificate. I have nothing factual to back this up with but I would estimate at least 90% of certificate holders with numbers below 90,000 are in their 50's.

NICET testing for sprinklers began around 1980 and the first certificates issued started around 63,000. Any number below 70,000 gained certification nearly 30 years ago and with the 5 years minimum experience required the earliest anyone would have taken the test was in their mid 20's which would put youngest possible age in the mid 50's.

In actual fact the large majority of those with certificate numbers below 70,000 are in their 60's, 70's or even 80's making a third of those who are qualified 60 years old or older.

Not nearly enough, nowhere near enough and for reason's I will get around to explaining it is only going to get tighter.

As of April, 2009 the total for Level III certification was 1,751 while Level IV certification is 1,054 for a total of 2,805 certified technicians in the entire United States. That's an average of just 56 per state.

Let's assume a job opening comes up in Nebraska (there are several open jobs right now) where the State of Nebraska requires a NICET III or IV certificate holder be the "Responsible Managing Employee". The problem with Nebraska is there's only 27 Level III's and 12 Level IV's in the entire state. If someone has a job opening that requires a Level III or IV the theoretical maximum number of applicants a company could possibly get would be 39 and that is only if 100% of everyone applied. I can assure you this would not happen. They would be lucky to get 2 and some jobs go begging for months on end.

California is even worse. California has 45 Level III's and 34 Level IV's so if everyone applied that fit the qualifications the theoretical maximum number of applicants a California company could receive would be 79. With a population of 33 million only 1 in 417,721 California residents would even qualify and even now all that do are working unless they don't want to.

Here's the problem the industry faces and why it is even going to get tighter in the next 5 to 10 years.

We're retiring. It is estimated over half the Level III and IV technicans currently registered are in their 50's, 60's and 70's and will be retiring sometime over the next 10 years.

I am in my 60's and I'll be one of them.

There are few come up behind us as replacements. Now it's down to poaching certified technicians from other companies and it's only going to get worse.

As it gets worse pay will go up.

Why? Training. Nobody is training and there are few schools, I know of three community colleges and two universities in the United States that offer the training, that offer it.

When I started in the 1970's there were a number of large companies that acted as training grounds. We had Automatic Sprinkler Corporation of America and Grinnel Fire Protection which was the big one. In the 1970's over half those being trained as technicians were coming out of these two companies and today they're mostly gone. Automatic Sprinkler no longer exists and Grinnel was bought out by an fire alarm company and does very little sprinkler installation anymore. The rest of the companies are smaller, $1 million to $30 million in annual sales each, and aren't doing the training. It's to expensive to train.

Nobody ever thinks about us.

Next time you go to the shopping mall, a store, visit a hospital, nursing home or maybe even at work take a few minutes to look up and find the fire sprinkler system.

It's probably there, up there at the ceiling or roof level.

If there's a suspended ceiling all you will see is the fire sprinkler heads but if you go out to a builders supply store, Home Depot is a good example, they generally don't have ceilings making it possible for you to see a lot more of the fire sprinkler system.

Take a good look, notice how sprinklers are laid out in a symmetrical pattern with specific spacing between sprinklers. Depending on the occupancy (use) of the building sprinklers are going to be laid out somewhere between 100 square foot per head and a maximum of 400 square foot per head. Generally speaking sprinklers are going to be spaced between 8 to 10' apart to a maximum of 20' again depending on the occupancy.

With sprinklers when we use the term "occupancy" we're not referring to the type of building structure or number of people that might be in it but the use, what is it used for? Motels, office buildings and hospitals are a "light hazard" occupancies meaning the combustibility of the contents is low allowing sprinkler systems to be "less robust" allowing greater spacing between sprinkler heads and smaller pipes.

Shopping malls and grocery stores are ordinary hazard occupancies that generally require closer spacing of sprinklers (130 square foot) and generally larger pipes while "big box stores" (Home Depot) and storage facilities require even closer spacing (100 square foot) and much larger pipe.

The questions are who does this work? Who actually decides a sprinkler need to go "right there" and "what size pipe" need to supply it? Who decided "how far down from a roof" a sprinkler has to be?

99% of the time these decisions are not made by the architect or engineer for the project. These decisions are not made by the people who do the actual installation. These decisions are made, and drawings prepared by, the Certified Automatic Sprinkler Layout Technician.

Layout Technicians are certified by the "National Institute for the Certification in Engineering Technologies" or NICET. NICET is a non-profit division of the National Society of Professional Engineers based in Alexandria, Virginia.

It's the certified layout technician that lays out sprinkler systems using architectural drawings of the project or by surveys conducted in the field for retrofit systems if architectural drawings are not available.

NICET certification in Automatic Sprinkler System Layout.
This certification program is for engineering technicians engaged in the layout and detailing of automatic sprinkler systems which must meet existing and proposed code and statutory requirements. Areas covered include knowledge of physical science, advanced hydraulics, applicable codes and standards, and contract administration.

Automatic Sprinkler System Layout comprises four levels of certification. Level I is designed for trainees and entry-level technicians who perform limited job tasks under frequent supervision, Level II is for technicians who perform routine tasks under general daily supervision, Level III is for intermediate-level technicians who, under little or no daily supervision, work with standards, plans, specifications, and instructions, and Level IV is for independent, senior-level technicians whose work includes supervising others. Certification at Levels II, III, and IV does not require prior certification at the lower level, but it does require meeting the certification requirements of the lower levels.