IAEI’s Changing Leadership Role…Helping Inspectors Adapt to Change in 2004

All I know is what I read in the newspaper.” I have used that line before. It is a quote from Will Rogers, and Chub Sewell used to open his articles in the North Carolina State magazine that way for many years.

Recently we have been reading in the newspaper, hearing on the radio, seeing on television that the economy is beginning to get better. Unemployment is getting lower, although not by much; people are beginning to spend again; and just today the GNP is up above estimates.

What does that mean to us in the electrical industry, especially as electrical inspectors?

During the past year while planning for the Diamond Jubilee, I talked to many of you all across the IAEI, and I got the same message: “We can’t come to the Jubilee because our training and travel budget has been cut.” It seemed that even though construction of new buildings, especially in the residential market, had not slowed down because of the economy—interest rates were low; building was still high; and the inspector’s workload was remaining high; even revenue from permits remained strong—other economic pressures for local and state governments were being met by cutting money from budgets in the inspections department. Therefore, no training, no travel to get training. Seems like a catch-22 situation, doesn’t it, when one of the most important aspects of protecting the citizenry is compromised because the inspector can’t get continuing education on the technical material to do his or her job effectively or efficiently?

A speaker at the Jubilee said that one reason our inspectors are not in the news like the firemen is because they are doing their job of enforcing the Code and no one notices because no major incidents occur. Fires are major news stories and firemen do a great job of putting them out. But good inspectors and good inspection departments with well-trained and certified inspectors don’t get noticed. Is it because nothing happens? Is it because there are no electrical shock or electrical fires, or at least not many?

Back to the question. What does the economy mean to the electrical inspector? If indeed the economy is getting better, then that means that revenues for local and state governments should also improve. Ever hear of them cutting taxes or reducing fees for services? The inspector must take an active role in getting that budget item back for training and travel. Emphasis must be placed on the importance of inspections and qualified inspectors to maintain our safety systems.

What can IAEI do? While the International Office can’t and should not get involved in local politics, we can provide information and material to help the local chapters or divisions to get the message out on the importance of a quality inspection program and quality inspectors. We have produced informational brochures and we can provide other material for your use.

IAEI has an unequaled training and seminar program on many important subjects. We can co-op with local chapters, we can do on-site seminars, or we can provide training material—PowerPoint and books—for local chapters and divisions to use in their own training.

IAEI has two certification programs for electrical inspectors. IAEI issues a certificate to persons who have passed the National Certification Program for Construction Inspectors (NCPCCI) exam. We have a joint certification program with NFPA, with a practicum phase as well as an exam, that issues a certificate. Many jurisdictions require inspectors to be certified and our certificates are accepted by many of them. Continuing education is required by many jurisdictions and we can provide that also. We are an authorized provider of continuing education units (CEU) by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

What can you do? IAEI is a membership organization. Without members, members that are interested in furthering the goals our founders put forth over 75 years ago, we are nothing. It is imperative that we as members continue to solicit new members and, as important, encourage our existing members to stay active, remain members, and get involved. Get involved by attending workshops and seminars, by sharing their knowledge with others, by leading or following.

You can organize at the local level to be a voice for electrical safety. You can make your local leaders more aware of the importance of well-trained and qualified electrical inspectors. Inform them of the importance of having and enforcing electrical safety codes.

To help sections, chapters, divisions, and individual members the International Board of Directors has created a “Policy for Taking Public Positions.” This policy provides direction for members that want to have official IAEI support for taking a position on an issue. It would not be beneficial for an individual or group to advocate some position in the name of IAEI when that position may not be in the best interest of IAEI as a whole. Be aware of this policy. It is printed for your use on page 4 in this issue of the IAEI News.

This year, 2004, will be another busy year for IAEI. Updating of existing books and materials to the 2005 Code will be a priority. We also have new materials in the works. Seminars and training workshops are being scheduled. Joint projects with other organizations are being planned and implemented. Renewed emphasis on membership, new as well as existing, is a goal.

May this New Year bring renewed interest and dedication to the goals of IAEI. With all of your help we can make our world a safer place to be.

James W. Carpenter
Former IAEI CEO and Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief for the IAEI News, James Carpenter was previously the chief electrical engineer, state electrical inspector for the Engineering Division of the Office of State Fire Marshal, North Carolina Department of Insurance. He had been with the department for twenty years, with twenty years electrical experience prior to coming to the state. He was a member of CMP-2 from 1987 to 2002 and was chairman for the last three cycles. He has been a member of IAEI since 1972. He was also a member of NFPA and is serving as the TCC chair and on the Standards Council. He was on the UL Electrical Council.