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Fire Sprinkler Fitter


Description

Most commercial and industrial buildings are equipped with advanced sprinkler systems to quench potential fires. Since office towers and factories are so large, the potential for fire spreading is likely and one little fire extinguisher might not do the trick. Therefore, sprinklers act as a precautionary method of putting out a blaze, simulating a rain shower. Fire sprinkler fitters fabricate, install, test, maintain, inspect and repair sprinkler systems in various locations.

Fire sprinkler fitters fall into the group of "pipe trades," which deals with the installation, maintenance and repair of piping systems. They spend a great deal of their time installing sprinkler system pipelines in various commercial and industrial buildings. Accordingly, fire sprinkler fitters install wet and dry pipe sprinkler systems, carbon dioxide, chemical and foam extinguishing systems, stand pipe and hose systems and fire pump systems,

Other types of sprinkler system are foam, fog and carbon dioxide systems, wet or dry standpipes, inside first aid and hose pipe systems, private fire hydrant systems, fire pumps and all other related equipment. Fire sprinkler fitters are in charge of maintaining and testing high and low pressure pipeline systems for the supply of water and other substances used for the purpose of fire protection.

Following a complex set of blueprints, the fire sprinkler fitter assembles a system that will bring the amount of water or other substance into the building from underground lines. They decide what type of pipe to use, the tools that will be necessary and the detailed steps that must be followed to accomplish the task. Fire sprinkler fitters perform various activities such as measuring, cutting, threading, bending and soldering.

Fire sprinkler fitters also install or repair fire protection and fire control systems, either by hand or power equipment, including all piping, tubing and accessories as well as standpipes and hose connections. They connect equipment and fittings to piping systems related to sprinkler and fire protection installation; and test sprinkler and fire protection systems for leaks with air or liquid pressure. They are also responsible for installing and repairing of outside services when these services are used for fire protection. This includes examining drawings and specifications of sprinkler and fire protection systems or installations.

Fire sprinkler fitters are perfectionists by trade, since sprinklers leaks can cause disastrous repercussions. If an emergency situation arises such as a sprinkler leak, for example; like doctors, they must diagnose the problem and create a quick solution. Therefore, when in action, they must always double-check everything they do and make accurate cuts into metal, connecting the pipes tightly. This type of accuracy is to prevent future problems from occurring. Leaky sprinklers could create a disastrous and rather costly flood in someone's office or flood and further damage documents.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Fire sprinkler fitters have excellent manual dexterity, hand-eye co-ordination and have the ability to perform careful precision work. In general they are in good shape and feel comfortable working with heights. Fire sprinkler fitters have a clear understanding of mechanics and mathematics. They have the ability to read and understand complex blueprints and visualize these plans in three-dimensions. The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy working with little direction or supervision.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read and interpret drawings and blueprint specifications to determine layout requirements
  • Select the type and size of pipe required and arrange the piping to provide fire protection
  • Install clamps, brackets and hangers to support piping system and sprinkler and fire protection equipment, using hand and power tools
  • Select, measure, cut, ream and thread pipe and mount prepared pipe in supports
  • Join pipes and piping sections using soldering and welding equipment
  • Connect piping system to water mains, supply tanks, pumps, compressors and control equipment
  • Test system for leaks using air or liquid pressure equipment
  • Inspect, maintain and repair piping, fixtures and controls including hydrant, pump and sprinkler head connections
  • Prepare cost estimates for clients
  • Fire sprinkler fitters work primarily indoors, often in temporarily heated or unheated spaces. They work a standard 40-hour week but occasionally work overtime to meet construction deadlines. There can be some risk of injury when working on construction sites.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Fire sprinkler fitters work in industrial operations, department stores, office buildings, hotels, schools, hospitals and residences. They are usually employed in the construction industry. Also, employment prospects change with seasonal and economic climates.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced fire sprinkler fitters may advance to supervisory positions or start their own businesses. With additional training, they can receive up to one year's credit and transfer their skills to other pipe trades such as steamfitter, pipefitter, plumber or gas fitter.
 

  Educational Paths  
Fire sprinkler fitters receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all states to become a fire sprinkler fitter, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary from state to state, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less of what an employer pays the Journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their state industry training and apprenticeship office awards the fire sprinkler fitter a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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