IFSJ Influencer: Russell B. Leavitt, CFPS, SET, Executive Chairman, Telgian Holdings, Inc.

Russ Leavitt, NFPA Chair of the Board

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Executive Chairman of Telgian Holdings Inc., Russell B. Leavitt, CFPS, SET, shares his views and predictions for the fire and safety industry for the year ahead

There are definite “headwinds” as we look at the global fire and life safety industry over the next 12 months. It is almost certain that we face a global economic recession. The questions to which we can only speculate include how deep it will go and how long it will last. When added to the global geo-political issues, that are especially severe at the present time, it is easy to draw a pessimistic view of the prospects for our industry for the coming year.

However, even with the economic challenges we are facing, the fire and life safety industry will continue to grow, albeit more slowly than it has over the past decade. One area where we are seeing increased investment is in the transition from traditional storage methods to Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS). This is a move that is rapidly evolving and is taking place worldwide. There is little in the way of prescriptive protection methods. As a result, performance-based protection scenarios are the norm due to the uniqueness of these systems. My firm is involved with a number of full-scale fire tests for the diverse types of ASRS systems to determine appropriate protection methods. The conversion to these automatic storage systems will continue for the next 12 months and beyond.

Another significant challenge and opportunity for the industry is associated with the effects of climate change on the urban wildland interface. It has become painfully obvious over the past 20 years that wildfires are growing in frequency and intensity. We are experiencing wildfires in parts of the globe where their occurrence was historically extremely low and even non-existent. The impact on the urban interface has created a demand for more education on how to protect residential and business occupancies. In my role as the chair of NFPA, I have witnessed firsthand the increased demand for resources to fight wildland fires and for information on how communities and individuals can keep the risk of fire loss to a minimum.

A major challenge for our industry is the lack of skilled engineers and technicians needed to design, install, and maintain fire and life safety systems. We are losing a considerable number trained and experienced individuals each year as they “age out” of the workforce. We are not replacing these individuals, much less adding trained professionals to an expanding market. As a result, we are faced with a potential degradation of the skills needed to ensure that our built systems will provide the needed protection when called upon. This is especially concerning in an industry where we save lives and protect property.

The good news is that fire and life safety is an essential piece of our world, and the demand continues to expand. The not-so-good news is that we are challenged to keep up with the demand and to prepare for future needs. In the end, we are fortunate to earn a living doing something that really matters, and I am confident we will rise up to meet the challenges ahead.

About the influencer

Russell Leavitt is the Executive Chairman of Telgian Corporation, an international fire protection and life safety services organization. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, holds a Level IV certification from NICET in Fire Sprinkler Layout, and is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist. He is a licensed contractor with 33 years of experience in the design, installation, and testing of fire protection systems and is a Chair of the board of directors for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

This article was originally published in the November edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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