FASST Lab Development
Most commercial and multi-family residences in Fairfax County constructed in the last 30 years are equipped with many types of sophisticated fire alarm and sprinkler systems. These systems have proven to be reliable in the early detection and extinguishment of fire, and their dependable service protects many thousands of citizens and billions of dollars in property because these systems work automatically in case of fire and, in most cases, they activate long before the arrival of fire apparatus. Consequently, firefighting strategy is often dependent upon the proper operation of these systems.
After reviewing fire alarm and sprinkler systems training currently available to firefighters and fire prevention personnel, it was determined that additional training was needed to identify the readiness of these systems and to properly shut off working sprinkler systems. This prompted the Office of the Fire Marshal to begin planning for a training laboratory to incorporate working fire alarm and sprinkler systems similar to those found throughout Fairfax County. To our good fortune, fire alarm and sprinkler companies agreed to donate and install several systems.
In the early planning stages, it was ascertained that there were approximately 3,500 firefighters (both career and volunteer) in Northern Virginia who could benefit from this type of "hands on" training facility. Planning included making the same training available for volunteer firefighters during evening and weekend sessions. Upon hearing of the developing Fire Alarm & Sprinkler System Training (FASST) Lab, nearby fire departments voiced their support and began planning their participation in the training.
It was also agreed that it was important to work with the trade unions of allied industries that assisted in the development of the FASST Lab. Most of their employees and apprentice-level trainees learn their trade through years of hands-on work. Unfortunately, their formal evaluations are often limited only to "chalkboard & written tests"; they lacked quality and real-life props. These allied industries have shown interest in using this facility to test their employees' skills during national certification tests.
During the planning for the training laboratory, it was also concluded that it was important to offer similar training to commercial property managers who, in most cases, have little knowledge about the fire detection, alarm, and suppression systems in their properties. It was believed that, if provided with an increased knowledge of their systems, their systems would receive priority maintenance during their budget management decisions. Therefore, the planning also focused on developing and offering training to our community property managers who could also earn valuable CEUs for their professional certifications.
It was also believed that training could be offered on a cost recovery basis to building maintenance managers/personnel for the same reasons. The more knowledge that maintenance personnel had of their systems, the better their systems would be maintained. Further, it is planned to offer some classes in other languages such as spanish, as English is a second language for many building maintenance personnel working within Fairfax County.
The varieties of fire protection systems in the FASST Lab provide opportunities to train fire service personnel, fire protection industry personnel, and building engineers, property managers and owners in a realistic environment. It is a “win-win” training opportunity that can help ensure that the fire detection, alarm, and suppression systems will work correctly, if needed. When systems work correctly, citizens and firefighters will be safer and businesses will experience fewer property losses and thereby assure the continued economic advancement of our community.
The total amount that Fairfax County expended for the refurbishment to transform a small office building into a training laboratory was $2,706.92. Other funds were provided by state and federal grants. The complete value of the donated systems is approaching $400,000. With the systems, it is possible to replicate about 99% of all of the systems found in Fairfax County.
Office of the Fire Marshal
FASST Lab Development
10700 Page Avenue
Fairfax, Virginia 22030