By TIM ROWDEN
A first-of-its-kind 53-foot sprinkler fire-suppression training trailer, created and built here in St. Louis by skilled members of Sprinkler Fitters Locals 268 and 669 was unveiled last week at Local 268’s Training Center on S. 3rd Street.
The trailer has 12 portable training stations, allowing training to be conducted both on and off the converted tractor-trailer rig.
More importantly, the portability of the trailer – the first of its kind for the sprinkler industry – allows training to be brought to union sprinkler fitters (and fire fighters) who need it, but whose locals might not have the equipment or training facilities they need.
Local 268 Training Director Ken Schneider was the lead person in the design of the trailer, contacted the manufacturers and suppliers to get all of the needed equipment, and coordinated with Pioneer Pipe and Sprinkler Fitters Local 669 – the “Road Local” – to make sure the mobile facility would meet the needs of the members who will be using it.
NO REPLACEMENT FOR HANDS-ON
“There is no replacement for hands-on training,” Schneider said. “You can do virtual training all you want, but until you have the chance to touch it and work on the valves, it’s not the same.”
Schneider is particularly proud of the training trailer, which allows instructors to take apart and “screw-up” the valves so trainees will have the real experience of determining what’s wrong and fixing it.
“They’re real, working valves, so when it shows up at the site, all you have to do is plug it in and add water.”
TAPPED BY THE INTERNATIONAL
The Sprinkler Fitters Division of the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters International Union asked Local 268 to lead the effort to design and build out the mobile training center after visiting Local 268’s state-of-the art training center in St. Louis.
Local 268 Business Manager Mike Mahler said the quality of the training center, featuring a variety of different working valves and configurations that sprinkler fitters and fire fighters will encounter on the job, is a testament to the dedication of Local 268’s members, who voted to increase their individual training contribution to build a world class facility in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the economy was going strong and Local 268 had outgrown its old training facility.
“The fact that we did that is really why that trailer was built here,” Mahler said.
“We’ve always preached that we can compete with anyone if other people have to do it right as well,” Mahler said. “We’ve always kept our standards high and our training high to do that.”
The SF-1 UA Trailer is a versatile, state-of-the-art training tool, consisting of 12 self-contained, fully operational training modules.
The trailer is equipped with a generator that powers outlets for each module, and a fire pump fed by a 500-gallon water tank.
The modules can be used inside the trailer or rolled out and piped together in different configurations.
Each module has an alarm panel with horn/strobe, smoke detector and an air compressor with built-in tank.
The trailer is also climate controlled and equipped with a Victaulic Vortex Fire Suppression System, which protects the trailer during use and serves as another training tool.
A tank mounted under the trailer catches drain water from the valves, which is pumped back into the water supply tank.
Finally, the trailer includes three roll-around workstations, which hold tools, data books and training manuals, and a built-in media center for use by instructors.
“A lot of thought and planning went into this,” Schneider said.
HISTORY OF LEADERSHIP
Local 268 has a history of leading the way.
St. Louis Sprinkler Fitters and their Helpers were granted a charter and became the first United Association Sprinkler Fitters Local Union – chartered as Local 268 – in 1901
Local 268 was the first Sprinkler Fitters local with a building and the first to establish its own training center.
Now Local 268 is the first to build a UA Fire Protection mobile training facility.
Local 268 & 669 instructors will staff the mobile unit.