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NICET versus P.E.

NICET versus P.E.

NICET versus P.E.

thread1426-248496: How many NICET certificate holders are there?

I believe that all Fire Protection Companies are full of it.
They all advertise as fully compliant and address the fact that because they have a PE on staff that makes them more qualified.
Can anyone explain why  they feel that way because I have proof that the more they advertise themselves as extremely experienced the less likely they are to comply.  

RE: NICET versus P.E.

You have proof of this claim that the more a fire protection company advertises extreme experience the less likely they are to comply?  

I'd like to see this evidence.  Saying all fire protection companies are full of it is extraordinary indeed.  As Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Well I tell you what. I have 17 years of fire protection experience. I have being a Operations Manager, National Operations Manager and Iam currently the  Service Department Manager at a company in the Tri-State area. Every single company I have worked for claimed to be know NFPA 25 at avery high level. When I came aboard to some of those companies I was told by the field service tech that no one told them to do it the way I show them. They never did inspection and testing as required. That is my story.
Right now I am also  working as an expert opinion advisor for the Attorney General in NJ to identify these issues and fine or suspend those contractors licenses. That is my other story.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Your first post seemed to indicate you had proof instead of anecdotes.  From the position of the audience this is hearsay.

One could suppose anecdotal evidence to provide some probative value but is certainly no scientific standard of proof.

Back to the premise: do you have any proof of this claim?  While not engineering or physical science it could make an interesting study of social science.

Ignoring the fallacy of hasty generalization, what do you believe can be done to remedy this?  We should all be concerned about the competency of technicians and inspectors in our field.  NICET certification is important but passing a battery of exams shouldn't be a carte blanche for competence.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

You are so certain on the comment of passing a battery of exams should not be a blanche for competence however I have come to the conclusion that experience no longer if proof of competency if your mentors or teachers where not certify to instruct such delicate field.
As far as proof I am afraid I cant disclose anty of that information since these are conversations between attorneys and me. Sorry.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Do feel just because you have a P.E. on staff your field personnel are well qualified to perform Fire Systems Inspections? Having a P.E. not necessarily means that he or she has enough field experience in my opinion. Such degree is only obtained because of education and internship not hands on technical and physical experience.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

For one to sit for the PE exam one must provide proof of experience and education.  That includes engineering experience, 4 years minimum and an accredited 4 year engineering degree or in some states approved engineering technology degrees.

My employer could hire a medical doctor but that has nothing to do with my competence to practice medicine.  A PE is more important for stamping plans affecting public safety, the value is largely for new work.  How much of the FPE exam is inspections?  Per my review sheet none.  The board of engineers want to see technical competence as it pertains to design, that you are sharp enough to have solid engineering judgement.

Besides that, why hire an engineer to do a technicians job?

For me to believe that passing an exam is proof of competence I require some very convincing evidence.  You'll need a real heavy hitter to win me over. This would have to be ground breaking science, quality experts and social scientists have struggled with this since the time of Hammurabi.  You will have solved a great psychological puzzle and achieved great fame! Until this enigma is cracked experience, education and examination will suffice.

Its regrettable you cannot provide evidence to back up your claim, without evidence such an ad hominem statement is easily interpreted as gossip even if it is a logical fallacy and therefore bogus without extraordinary evidence to back it up.  Sufficient evidence requires you debunking each and every claim of each and every fire protection contractor, more than a lifetime of work.   

RE: NICET versus P.E.

I am finaly speaking with someone that has outstanding common sense and evident knowledge. I love the part that you stated that PE's are just for stamping drawings and not necesarily technical work. That was my point from the beginning. Just because you have a PE on staff does not mean that you fylly comply with NFPA 25, 72, etc. ,inspections. Do you agree? I know of about 3-6 companies that are sending technicians with just 6 month of experience out to the field to perform NFPA 25. Do you believe they are complying with all requirements? Tell me no pls.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

There are 3 types of companies:
1) Absolutely unqualified, but with okay intentions.
2) Those out to make money regardless of code, ethics, or safety/quality.
3) Those that are qualified, with good intentions.

1,2 make 3 look bad.

As far as the issues with a PE. Not all PE's are qualified either. They claim they know 72, 13 and all the codes. Most write general notes about code to cover their derrier, and many stamp for a fee. These people "pimp-out" and lower the profession.

A qualified fire protection designer must be in charge of a job and assume the responsibility of their stamp. (be it a NICET or FPE stamp)

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Thanks desnov74 that is the answer i was hoping to get.

RE: NICET versus P.E.


Few companies have a PE on staff that I know of.  The fact is in my state I can only think of one.

Of course fire protection companies advertise as being fully compliant with the law.  The alternative to this is?


RE: NICET versus P.E.


That is true! PE's are a rarity in FP contracting firms.

Take what I have to sat with a grain of salt as I am a relative newbie to FPE, and I intend to become a PE soon.(GOD WILLING!) I do support NICET, and hope to eventually persue dual licensure.

1) Both NICET and PE licenses are the MINIMUM to get started, and the code of ethics for both require designers to not accept jobs for which they are unqualified by education/experience. What NJ1 is believe saying is if they are "qualified" to do inspections, and do they really have the certifications beyond shops and signing. Specifically (Nicet inspection certificate or PE) Usally inspection is treated as secondary by a lot of firms, as NJ1 mentions they send out junior members of the staff who are not fully qualified. Sure the overall responsibility falls on to a licensed professional, and field work is imperative to training, but are qualified inspectors really out there?

2) The problem I have with most PE's are the MEP firms selling FPeng services. The contract documents they produce are generally garbage and useless. The last firm I worked with actually did detailed design, routing, spacing, some sizing, and specs. Plus we actually checked calcs by hand, go figure! The result was tighter bids, way less extras, and good communication with contractors/AHJ's. But the majority of firms I see are producing real schematic garbage, and view FPE as a nuissance because it gets in the way of the LEED-design racket which has more money to be made.

3) My view is that Fire Protection in general is becoming way too sophisticated and evolving to fast to view it as the simple systems it once was. For example the new codes in 72 are integrating fire alarm systems even further, 79 allows for safety and control systems on one network. Other organizations like ISA are doing VERY intersting things with SIS-systems, fire and gas detection, alarm management, etc. Similar things are going on in the suppression side (water supplies, mist, etc.)

So who is qualified, and who should design? My take is that FPE's need to be involved more heavily early on in the design. The FPE's role is one of the integration of system and overall reliability. Take for example, elevator recal. It could cover multiple systems including: elevator control, smoke control, emergency power, fire alarm, as well as overall life safety. The FPE better damn well know what he/she's looking at when inspecting these systems and how they'll inter-relate. As building systems become more integrated, and as the industrial emergency systems mature interoperability/safety will be a big deal. New, retrofit, or commissioning this is and will be more important.

NICET professionals are specialists, and should understand the scope in detail of their specialty. The focus as I see it is and should be more on installation, cost, feasibility, and to a certain extent code compliance within the specific job/specialty. The elements of understanding how to test a specific system, reliability of that which they are qualified. Sprinkler guys should not be inspecting on fire alarm, this in my opinion causes problems.

3.I think the FPE community should follow the structural model:

the FPEng should follow the role model of the structural design engineers who on top of the PE have SE1 Se2 exams. This way, a PE will have seen systems & construction methods before going for the FPE.

I also think nicet should also follow the structural model, creating certifications and endorsing legal/insurance qualification for inspections similar to the AWS and welding/structural inspectors.

The quality of work/inspections will rise, and the value of the profession will increase.

Just my 10 cents. Plans fell through for Saturday night so sorry for the length. Too much redbull.........


RE: NICET versus P.E.


Nothing worse than MEP firms peddling FPeng when it is so very painfully obvious they don't have a fricking clue as to what they are doing.

I usually spot em right away by length of the specifications.  A competent PE that knows what he is doing will have specifications consisting of one or two pages tops. I don't need two paragraphs taking up an entire page instructing me to apply the pipe dope on the pipe threads and not to the inside of a fitting.  It is amazing, this is on practically every MEP spec and I can not envision it being done unless the installer had less than two weeks experience.  If the installing has less than two weeks he won't be running the job and the first time he tries it the experienced people around him will correct him.  Even so it isn't like an inexperienced installer is going to read the specs and I am not going to put this requirement on my layout drawing.

Clue to MEP's.  Most experienced layout technicians have laid out drawings on projects consisting of hundreds of thousands of square feet based on Factory Mutual recommendations taking up two paragraphs.  For the common wet and dry system your entire specifications shouldn't take more than a single page.

36 pages of specifications for a wet system protecting a library tells me right off you don't have a clue as to what you are doing. (Yeah, I got one on my desk right now and contained therein is the requirement hangers on 8" pipe not be spaced more than 16'-0" apart).

Equally, or even more so, disturbing are layout technicians that 1)don't know what they are doing or 2)don't care what they are doing.  These clowns give us a bad name making a sometimes difficult job even more difficult.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Same to the dudes who quote chapter 22 at length, THEN fail my plans because my friction loss equivalent length fittings for schedule 10 grooved ells don't match the schedule 40 equivalent lengths in the table!

Techs aren't supposed to educate the engineers.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Some PE's are great to work with and the more they know, and some are extremely knowledgeable, the easier it is.  I've encountered a number from FM Global dealing with high value properties and it's great.  In a couple paragraphs they tell me what the design criteria is and the water supply to design to and I my job is mind numbingly simple.

When I get done the drawings are sent off and 98% of the time, usually within a week or two at most, I have approved drawings back.  I love it like this.

On the 1 out of 50 projects if I misinterpreted something or perhaps they don't under stand what I did they'll call and in the course of the discussion I know I am talking to someone who knows what they are doing.  Usually it takes a three minute conversation and we're both done and happy.  It really should be this easy.

Then there are "the other kind" where in the course of a 10 minute telephone conversation it dawns on the layout technician that he's talking to someone that doesn't have a clue.

Experienced layout technicians can provide endless stories of total incompetence, perhaps it may be better to call it ignorance, from the professional side.  

Not long ago I had a large project where the water supply was 58 static, 30 residual flow 740 gpm.  It was mostly a light hazard occupancy  while one area was a classic Ordinary Group I that required .15 gpm over 1950 sq ft (dry system) with 250 gpm exterior hose stream demand needing no more than 350 gpm for inside sprinkler at most.

Due to height we needed a fire pump and the engineer thinking "bigger is better" specified a 750 gpm @ 80 psi booster pump.

Where I work the state fire marshal has published "RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE SAFETY FIRE COMMISSIONER

which has this little section:

(a) Modification to Chapter 2:
1. Add a new paragraph 2-1.1.1 to read as follows:
2-1.1.1 At 150% rated capacity or below, the pump suction supply shall not drop below 20 psi (1.38 bar)."

Obviously we would be below 20 psi at the pump suction flange especially considering the local water purveyor required a double check on the suction side of the fire pump.  You don't even have to graph this one out.

So I called the engineer of record explaining the problem and suggested we go with a 400 gpm @ 100 psi pump even offering a deduction.  At 600 gpm I figured we would have a very safe 40 psi suction supply but he wouldn't hear any of it.  He got rude, told me to put design per specifications reminding me he was the engineer of record.

I did as instructed but when I submitted the plans I included a letter to the fire marshals plan department explaining the reason.

As I fully expected the drawings came back rejected.  We got the change order but this time around I didn't offer a deduct figuring my time to correct the drawing was worth something.

Layout technicians all across the country have experienced this and we all have our stories.

I am fine with PE's jumping in but many of them need to become much more knowledgeable or stay out altogether.

Engineering specifications are another matter.  Why the endless boiler plate stretching on for 30 pages when all that is really needed is a couple paragraphs?  I don't need an entire page devoted to how to apply pipe dope to the pipe threads and not the fitting.

Instead of endless specifications for valves and fittings why not simply say per NFPA #13 when everything that is used, with the exception of mild steel rod, must be UL Listed and/or Factory Mutual Approved?  Wouldn't this save a lot of trees?

I started in 1976 when it was so easy.  We had upright, pendent and sidewall sprinklers with 80% of what we did on pipe schedule systems.  This was back in the day where all pipe was sch. 40 threaded and the few calculated systems were done by hand.  NFPA #13 was a small paperback book about 4 1/2" by 6", of about 120 pages that could be easily folded and carried in your hip pocket.

NICET wasn't around and the only people that wanted drawings were the insurance companies.

Learning was a snap.  Inside of a month I was laying out sprinkler systems on some good sized jobs.  I started in June and in November I went to one of Jack Wood's 3 day hydraulic calculation seminars at Viking's plant in Hastings, Michigan.

In January I was laying out 100,000 sq ft calculated systems for K-Mart with very little supervision.  Factory Mutual told us what was required and reviewed drawings. Back then building and fire departments didn't know what sprinklers were and it wasn't until 1980 that I had to submit the first drawing to anyone other than the insurance company.

How things have changed in 35 years.

But as with sloppy professional engineers there are some incredibly incompetent layout technicians and some are NICET certified.  Not long ago I ran into an ESFR system installed in a engineered metal building with 8" bent metal purlins on rigid frames.  

Branch lines were 2 1/2" running perpendicular to the purlins using ESFR pendents with a k=14.

This can never be and should never have been done.  NFPA #13 (2002) Section  "Pendent sprinklers with a nominal K-factor of 14 shall be positioned so that deflectors are a maximum 14 in. (356 mm) and a minimum 6 in. (152 mm) below the ceiling."

With an 8" purlin there is no way you can use any ESFR pendent sprinkler on 2 1/2" pipe and keep the deflector no more than 6" below the bottom of the purlin.  For the heck of it I measured the distance and came up with 17" from the roof deck.

Some layout technicians are not snow whites and while we all sometimes make mistakes something like this should have never got out the door. That fact that it did makes us all look bad.

The industry has evolved to a point where formal training should be required and a few community colleges are starting to offer two year degrees but space is so limited there's no way they can keep up with demand once the economy takes off again.  

With very few technicians being trained and NFSA estimates 5,000 older technicians (wave) will retire in the coming 10 years the shortage of qualified technicians will be beyond acute.  In 10 years time it will be interesting to watch.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Purple star for you SprinklerDesigner2 good war stories!

RE: NICET versus P.E.

My take on this is that all states must require NICET Level II as a minimun in order to inspect, test and maintain all fire protections systems. When companies say that they have trained personnel on staff it makes me laugh. After a six year research/investigation along with NJ Attorney General we came to the conclusion that you really need at least 5-7 years field experience plus NICET Level II in order to recognize or recomend NFPA 25 Deficiencies to the full extent of the standard. FPE's should not get involved on that particular task since they dont even undertake any field activities in my opinion. Any comments?

RE: NICET versus P.E.


"FPE's should not get involved on that particular task since they dont even undertake any field activities in my opinion. Any comments?"

I would have to disagree. I know a FPE in Georgia that owns an inspection company which is all he does.  I would have to say he is more knowledgeable than any inspector.

In some states all that is required is a Level I to obtain an interim license is a little light to say the least.  I think a smarter route would be to limit Level II's to wet systems only limiting the inspection of fire pumps, standpipe, dry and preaction systems to Level III's only. .

RE: NICET versus P.E.

First off if these companies had a FPE that is considered an expert in fire protection and not necessarily fire sprinklers, NICET certified designers or technologists if you will, work in the field of fire sprinkler system design daily with the goal of prudent, cost efficient design employing all of the latest technology, including new materials (piping) ul listed sprinkler heads etc, most of the FPE's I know don't do this level of grunt work.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

It doesn't make sense anyways.  One could hire a team of fully qualified designers / layout technicians for the cost of one FPE with a PE license.

As others have said fire protection is quite a bit more than fire sprinklers and alarms.  An engineer will be much more well versed in theory than a technician. Technicians are well adapt at making cost efficient designs meeting minimum requirements per code.  Anything outside of that scope requires a licensed engineer.

I'm still skeptical how an attorney general is anyway competent to determine how many years of experience is required to be sufficient.  I strongly question how a lawyer is qualified to do science.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

"I'm still skeptical how an attorney general is anyway competent to determine how many years of experience is required to be sufficient.  I strongly question how a lawyer is qualified to do science."


RE: NICET versus P.E.

You probably misunderstood what I meant desnov74. The only reason the Attorney General is involved is for ligitation purposes and to ensure that both the Fire & Safety Division and Contractors comply with the requirements of the statue.
Me as an expert opinion advisor is helping the Attorney General to make that decision that is all.
I am trying to push mandatory NICET for field inspectors and maybe for Foremans during installation projects.
I would like to see that and the attorney general is very interested due to all the false claims found during the investigation.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Just to clarify my concerns is the fact that companies claim thta just because they have an FPE or License individual on staff they claim that all personell if fully knowledgeable in all phases of fire protection. What I am trying to impress upon the jurisdiction after a 6 year investigation is that actions and knowledge from field inspector's can not be supervised by FPE's or License individulas from the office. That is why each inspector must have their own certification a decent amount of year to be unsupervised out in the field. Hopefully we all understand each other now. As i said before every state should have a NICET requirement per individual bottom line.  

RE: NICET versus P.E.


You state that individual inspectors should have their own experience and have passed an exam as a minimum level of demonstrable competency?

Having said that I couldn't agree more.  Is there no regulation or licensure required for inspectors in NJ?

In my state one can have any of a Nicet Level III sprinkler layout, Level III Inspections or pass a state inspector's exam.  I cannot comment on fire alarm.  Is NJ different?

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Well part of the investigation is that the NJ Statue indicates that inspectors must have a NJ state certification which requires level II on inspection & testing of water based NICET plus 19 elements of sprinkler lay out. 90% of 650 license contractors in NJ have not being compliant with that statue and that is what has being causing false claims in nj. Is there any way I can give you a copy of the 2003 statue and 2006 revised statue so that you can see what I am talking about?
It also says that work done by non-certified individulas prior to activation of systems must be supervised by certified individuals. LOL. Do you think companies have at least three certified individulas on staff. NO.
Lots of companies are out of state so how can you even supervised such work. You see the picture?

RE: NICET versus P.E.

"Lots of companies are out of state so how can you even supervised such work."

Regarding on site supervision in my opinion the State of Georgia is getting it right.

Must have NICET III to be a "certificate holder" and every office must have a designated certificate holder.

Water Based Fire Protection Certificate of Competency http://www.inscomm.state.ga.us/ExternalResources/Forms/AllForms/GID-222-SF%20JUL09%20Water%20Based%20Fire%20Protection%20Certificate%20of%20Competency.pdf

In my opinion the most important form is one that has been around for a while but just recently enforced and that is the site supervision form http://img179.yfrog.com/img179/6848/sitevisitlog.jpg

This form must be filled out by either the certified designer (NICET II required) or the certificate of of competency holder (NICET III required) for every single site visit.  The state fire marshal requires a minimum of three site visits but if it is just a couple heads they will be reasonable and might require just one.

The certified designer can sign off all site visits except for the final or completion site visit that must be signed off by the certificate of competency holder.  Sorry if your company is based in Montana the certificate of competency holder will be making at least one, very possibly two, visits to Georgia.  

The contractor's material and test certificate is required to be signed by the certificate of competency holder not just any fitter foreman on the site.  Our fitters love it, not their responsibility anymore. :)

I have worked in a number of states and it is my opinion the Georgia fire marshal is the easiest to work for as long as you follow their rules.  If possible they will work their schedule into yours and I have actually had them bend over backwards for me but you better have played by their rules or they can be as bad and difficult as they are good and accommodating.  It is the contractors choice.

I had one large project where I had 22 site supervision forms filled out.  Note these site supervision logs are signed by both the certificate of competency holder and the owners representative that you were there and did look.

To inspect fire sprinkler systems all inspectors must have NICET III

Water Based Fire Protection Inspector Application http://www.inscomm.state.ga.us/ExternalResources/Forms/AllForms/GID-224-SF%20JUL09%20Water%20Based%20Fire%20Protection%20Inspector%20Application.pdf

but given the shortage of inspectors the state is giving interim licenses to inspectors with Level II certification.  With the interim license the inspector must have Level III in two years or the license does not get renewed.

I think the state was forced into this as a practical matter.  Let's assume 500,000 sprinkler systems (I think the number is closer to 700,000) in the state and all must go at least an annual inspection.  With 87 inspectors working 250 days a year conducting 6 inspections per day (impossible to do it right IMO) that 130,500 inspections per year.  What about the remaining 369,500 inspections that need to be conducted?

We could more than triple the number of inspectors to 300 and still end up conducting 450,000 inspections and we all know it's impossible for an inspector to conduct an average of 6 per day year round and if you can we got a job for you.

But it gets worse.  The state requires quarterly inspections on all state owned buildings, nursing homes and hospitals.  

In my opinion Georgia has done an excellent job in putting together as good a system as it can get.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

I know. I totaly agree. I love the way the system is being implemented in Georgia. I hope we can get to that level in Jersey.

RE: NICET versus P.E.

Geez, me thinks I should move to Georgia, sounds like the type of F.M.'s I like informative yet accomadating, following the rules is a given.

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