My Fire Protection Internship with the NFSA | Caleb Foster, Eastern Kentucky University
I had very little knowledge of the fire sprinkler industry heading into my fire protection internship. As part of the internship, I was given the opportunity to visit several contractors, suppliers, and manufacturers with the Membership Team. Meeting with these companies gave me a much better understanding of the possible job opportunities in the industry.
There were a couple projects I was tasked with for the majority of the summer. The first project was the Expert of the Day. When questions come in to the EOD system, I transfer them to the expert/engineer for that day. I also was given the opportunity to research information, whether it be codes and standards or another source, to assist the expert/engineer with answering questions. The other main project I had this summer was doing the initial research for our customer service portal. With the growing technology in widespread use today, the tools provided in the customer service portal needed to be put into use as well. Once these tools are implemented, the hope is that the response time for the EOD will be quicker and that other areas in the customer service portal will be strengthened.
The best part and most useful knowledge I could gain from the summer internship was going on member visits. The first trip I went on was to Cincinnati to visit a couple suppliers and contractors in the industry. We visited Ferguson, Core & Main, Cincinnati-Dayton, and Dalmatian. Through each of these visits, I gathered information on what contractors do and how projects get bid. I also learned about suppliers and how different fab shops operate.
The next visit was in Lexington, which was a local trip for me. In Lexington, I visited Landmark Sprinkler and learned more about contractors and specifically designers. I got to witness the design process in the early stages as well as a finished product. Later, we got to explore a few of their job sites to see what each stage of a project looks like (some were new, and some were almost finished). This experience gave me a better understanding of designing sprinkler systems.
About halfway through the summer, I got to tag along with a colleague to Atlanta, GA for the American School Counselors Association’s annual conference. The goal of the conference for NFSA is to promote the fire sprinkler industry and to show the job opportunities available for students with high school or college educations. While in Atlanta, we visited a couple contractor’s offices as well as a pump company (SPP). I had little exposure to fire pumps before visiting SPP Pumps. I got to see each individual component in a fire pump as well as how each goes together to form a fire pump.
NFSA’s Layout Technician Class
Nearing the end of the summer, I was given the opportunity to take a layout and design class at NFSA headquarters in Baltimore, MD. The class presented a challenge to me, as most of the other students were already designers for various companies. The exposure was great and the opportunity to learn in a team environment was exactly what I needed to increase my knowledge in layout and design. The experience was quite different than the layout class I had at Eastern Kentucky University. The actual layout itself included much more details specifically on how the building consisted of several obstructions and hazards a designer could potentially run into. This presented more of a challenge which forced me to dive into NFPA 13 more frequently.
After the electronic module version of the class was over, we spent three days at headquarters working as a team to design a sprinkler system for a restaurant. The first day was specifically on classifying the hazard for each section of the building and what components would need to be considered. The second day was laying out heads and pipe. Drawing and keeping everything to scale was not too difficult, but the placement of the heads became progressively more difficult as we encountered more obstructions and rooms. The last day was solely hydraulic calculations – locating the hydraulically most remote area and calculating back to the city water main. The truth I learned about hydraulics from this class is that calculations and equations will never change, so there is little to worry about as long as all steps are followed correctly. Overall, the learning experience was phenomenal.
Site Visits at Shambaugh and Viking
The last member visit trip was a Midwest road trip. The first stop was Fort Wayne, IN to visit Shambaugh & Sons. Shambaugh was by far the largest contractor’s office I have been to. We visited three of their Fort Wayne offices as well as their designer training academy. The number of large-scale projects in the works was hard to believe. Next up on the road trip was Grand Rapids, MI to visit Viking. I had not been to a manufacturer’s office yet, so this was a great experience to see how sprinklers are made and tested before being shipped to suppliers. To wrap up the road trip, we visited one of Ryan Fire Protection’s offices in Indianapolis, IN. The road trip was a great experience and provided a great opportunity for possible jobs post-graduation.
I learned more and gained more from this internship than sitting in a classroom. The fire sprinkler industry is full of opportunity and many students like me do not realize. For future interns at NFSA, take every opportunity to travel and learn. The experience gained through traveling gave me a better understanding of fire protection and of the fire sprinkler industry.
Are You Looking for a Fire Protection Internship? Contact the NFSA Today!
Ready to make a difference in fire safety? Join us at the National Fire Sprinkler Association for an impactful internship. Gain hands-on experience, learn from industry experts, and contribute to safeguarding lives and property. Apply now and begin your journey with NFSA!