Hawaii sheet metal workers partner with local officials to bring fire life safety to forefront

Sheet Metal Workers Local 293 in Honolulu has been making strides partnering with city and fire officials to bring fire life safety to the public consciousness.

Over the last year, Art Tolentino, business manager, and his staff have met with Manuel Neves, chief of the Honolulu Fire Department; Robert H. Lee, president of theHawaii Fire Fighters Association; legislators and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to educate them on the importance of fire and smoke damper inspections in commercial buildings.

“They know what works,” said Ann Kobayashi, Honolulu city councilwoman. “I didn’t even know any of this existed, but when he explained what he needed to be done, that this works, it was important for all of us.”

Although the fire department relies on the National Fire Codes, it’s a challenge to make building owners abide by them, Neves said.

“When we have a partnership with other entities to help us move the safety of the public and firefighters forward, it makes it easier,” he added. “We learn a lot as well. As firefighters, we respond to all types of emergencies — from the mountains to the sea — and we can’t know everything, which is why we rely on the expertise of these folks. It’s good all the way around for everybody to work together.”

The partnership allows for International Certification Board (ICB)-certified fire and smoke damper inspections completed by contractors who have trained and certified technicians on staff. To date, Local 293 has about 50 technicians who have earned the certification necessary to do the inspections, Tolentino said.

In Hawaii, a signed document isn’t needed to enforce the inspections. When the partnership happens organically, with educational opportunities for all involved, why push the issue, Tolentino said.

“It’s a real warm environment for us,” he added. “Without the support of Gen. President Joseph Sellers, Jr., NEMIC (National Energy Management Institute Committee) Administrator David Bernett, and committee members of NEMI (National Energy Management Institute) and NEMIC, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Many times, the dampers are properly installed but changes are made to them after installation that renders them inoperable. Hence the reason for inspections, said Kyong Tae Chang, owner of Preferred Mechanical, a Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) contractor in Honolulu.

“These inspections will be good for that factor,” he said. “For a contractor like us, having certified men I can send in will take photos of that, make a report and take it back to the building owner and show what needs to be resolved.”

Once the inspection report is complete, the fire department will be presented with it when they come to do their inspections. Sharing knowledge is an avenue to keep people safe, Tolentino said.

From the fire chief to legislators, the buy-in was unanimous. The Honolulu Fire Department, created in 1850, also has added a fire life safety section to its website.

“Whatever we can do to make it safer for our firefighters and the public, we’re all in,” Lee said.

“I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing,” Caldwell said during a recent meeting. “I had no idea this was part of it. I learned today. I’m glad you’re working together.”

NEMIC is a not-for-profit organization jointly funded by SMACNA and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association). NEMIC identifies opportunities, seeking to create or expand employment for SMART members and programs that assist SMACNA contractors.

For more information on emerging market opportunities in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, contact NEMIC at TABBCertified.org or call 800-458-6525.

Originally posted on Eye on Sheet Metal