Fire Protection Podcast

Fire Protection Influencer Matthew Bass

Episode Summary

In this episode, our host is joined by a prominent figure in the fire protection industry, Matt Bass. Matt is a respected influencer who’s been deeply involved in various fire protection communities, particularly on platforms like Facebook. He’s an admin for several fire protection groups, making him a valuable source of information and insights. In this discussion, we’ll dive into Matt’s journey within the fire protection sector, how he got started, and his perspective on the industry’s trajectory. The conversation will cover a wide range of topics, including exchanging knowledge and expertise between field technicians, office personnel, designers, and engineers.

Episode Notes

 0:02 - Intro
1:25 - Looking Up Everywhere You Go
3:40 - Who is Matt Bass?
3:57  - A Great Mentor
8:26 -  The Importance of Giving Back
9:51 -  My Trusty NFPA 25 Handbook
10:45 -  YouTube Videos
12:28 -  NFPA 25 Inspectors Group
14:57 - Open Feedback
15:42 -  Hey, There’s Bob Caputo!
16:23 -  Not to Name Drop but Tracy Demy, Ralph Bliss, Tom Parish
17:15 - “Just When I Thought I Was Out…”
17:49 - Need a Job in Antarctica?
20:22 - A Love of Helping People 
21:50 - Make a Group Anywhere
23:36 - It’s Global
24:44 -  Need Photos of a Specific Sprinkler Head Deficiency?
25:58 - Sarcasm & Snark: We Love to Roast Each Other
26:46 - Our Industry Works Hard and Plays Hard
28:24-  Lots of Consolidation in Fire Protection
31:19 - The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders Trying to be one Team
32:06 - People Starting Their Small Businesses
33:33 - The Age Gap: Younger People Need to Step Up
35:09 - The Experienced People Need to Teach the Next Gen the Details
36:13 - Learn Everything You Possibly Can
37:36 - Quick Response Round!
37:50  - Coolest  New Product in Fire Protection
38:06 - Flex Heads!
39:48 - Favorite “Star Wars” Movie?
40:30 - “Return of the Jedi”
40:57 - A Bar? Nope, A Toy Store
41:44- Favorite Dry Pipe Valve?
42:06 - Don’t Over-Engineer Every
44:17 - Wrapping Up
45:07 - Where to Find Matt, aka. Maddie
47:45 - Money isn’t Everything
48:36 - Helping Someone is Worth More Than Dollars
48:59 - Until Next Time

Episode Transcription

Drew Slocum: (00:00):

This is episode 52 of the Fire Protection Podcast, powered by Inspect Point. Today, my guest is Matt Bass. Matt is a fire protection influencer in the fire protection industry. I met him probably through some of the Facebook groups a few years back, and he's a big influencer, admin, and a bunch of the groups out there. A lot of information is passed around the industry, from technicians in the field to the office, people to design, and engineers. So it was cool to have Matt talk about the industry, get into where he started, and where the industry's going. So yeah, make sure to subscribe to the podcast. There is a lot more to come; we’re putting a little more content out this fall. Inspect Point's. We have many new features that we're rolling out this fall, so reach out to me or just request a demo. There's some really cool stuff that we're doing within the inspection and service side of fire protection. So, onto the episode. Take care. Right! All right. We're live here with Matthew Bass. Matt Bass. I like your profile down there from the Zoom bar. Welcome to the Fire Protection Podcast.

Matt Bass: (01:25):

Thanks, Drew. Thanks for having me.

Drew Slocum: (01:27):

Yeah, I've been meaning to get you on here for, I don't know, probably a couple of years. I remember talking to you a couple of years ago, and it is funny that you're heavily involved in many different social groups; I'm going to call you a fire protection influencer, even though you might not think so. But yeah, it's good to get you on one of these podcasts finally.

Matt Bass: (01:54):

Yeah, like I said, I'm glad to be here. I love talking Fire-shop, so whenever I can do it, I'm sure my wife hates it. I'm sure all of our wives hate to go out in public, and they're like, just tell me what's wrong. I already see you looking up; I am looking around.

Drew Slocum: (02:08):

It's the looking-up thing, right? As soon as you do this, you're like, I got the dirty, I got a dirty look.

Matt Bass: (02:18):

She really hates it when we go to restaurants, and they have the enunciate right at the entrance. You walk in on Applebee's, and you have the little keypad. She's just like, don't even look. I see it's yellow, don't look. It's like, I got to look. I know what,

Drew Slocum: (02:30):

You have to see what you're in for just in case something happens.

Matt Bass: (02:34):

Yeah, yeah. It's all safety.

Drew Slocum: (02:38):

I went into a Broadway, like a theater, I don't know, in the last year or something in New York, and especially in those theater settings, it's just kind of, I don't know, it gets you as a fire protection professional. You're in this group of people like, how do I get out of here if anything goes wrong? Those old theaters are, there's usually a deluge system on the stage, but it's really, there's no sprinklers, so it's just fire alarm. So how do we get out? And they have a good method. Obviously, emergency exits in some of the bigger ones, but it's kind of funny what goes through your mind in some of those public settings.

Matt Bass: (03:22):

Exactly. Yeah. For her, she doesn't understand. You just can't turn it off.

Drew Slocum: (03:26):

No, I know who's going to do it.

Drew Slocum: (03:29):

So I guess, tell the listeners about you. They might need to find out who Matthew Bass or Matt is. Do you go by Matthew or Matt? Either?

Matt Bass: (03:38):

Probably Matt, probably the best. Alright.

Drew Slocum: (03:40):

Alright, Matt, I guess I know people involved in the industry know who you are, but whoever's listening that doesn't know who you are, I think give who you are, where you came from, how you got into the industry.

Matt Bass: (03:57):

Oh yeah. It's always a good quick question. Yeah, I've been doing it for 25 years now, which is kind of crazy to think when you start doing the math, you start doing the subtraction of when you started to where it is now. And I started when I was 19 years old got into fire protection. Most of us didn't even know it existed. I had a girlfriend that knew I didn't like what I was doing, and I told her I wanted to do a job Monday through Friday, but I didn't want to be in an office, which was down quite a bit. She had a cousin who did fire protection, and the funny thing was I didn't know anything about fire protection, but I knew they probably needed information about me. So I went for a green helper position, which is usually like you can just show up, and if you're breathing, you'll get hired. I showed up with a resume for a $ 7.25-an-hour job,

And I think the company owner looked at me, and he didn't look at it, and I was so taken aback, and I was like, oh my God, I spent so much time on that, and he didn't even look at it. And he literally asked me four questions. He's like, can you show up on time? Yes. Have you worked in construction? No. Do you have a reliable car? Yes. And he said, do you have any tools? No. And then he is like, all right, you can start Monday. And I was like, okay. I started doing a sprinkler install, which I think was great. It gave a good foundation for what I have experienced to see the systems from just blank pipes on the ground to hanging them and commissioning them. It was a small company, my first one, so we didn't have a service team, so the installers were also the service technicians. So at night, we would run service calls, and I was very ambitious, so I took them all, which was also very helpful because if you take all the calls and then the one time the boss is very nice to you because you've taken the last 30 calls in a row.


So I got a lot of service experience, which was by myself at night at two o'clock the morning. And so you almost have to learn it because you're there by yourself. We didn't have Google and Facebook and other things that we could look up, then got into, went to VSC Fire and Security, they were looking for inspectors, and I didn't know anything about inspections, and that's really kind of how I got into inspections. That's really my bread and butter has been since that point. And then, I was very blessed in my career to have outstanding positive mentors, like managers and leaders around me. And my first real positive manager, his name was Kurt Dubach at VSC Fire and Security. He was the first one who got me to know about NICET, and that really propelled my career because he gave me a task of a $500 bonus for passing each level. And I was 24 young with a girlfriend that wanted Outback every Friday, and I was like, $500 bonus, give me all of them how I got started and got obsessed with NICET. So I thank him for pushing that button. Once he pushed it, it hasn't stopped since.

Drew Slocum: (06:49):

Yeah, no, that's great. What NICET certifications are you?

Matt Bass: (06:54):

I have NICET level three and water-based inspections. I have level two for special hazards. I have level three for fire alarm and level two for ITM fire alarm, so Wow. I have quite a few of them. So people reach out to me quite a bit for advice because I've been doing it for, it seems like, a long time.

Drew Slocum: (07:14):

That's great, from randomly getting into the industry to being a high-level SSAT and obviously for tech questions a lot of times. So weirdly enough, those questions you got as a helper, those four questions, because of the lack of technicians in the industry, it probably is similar to a question set. Can you show up on time? Do you have a reliable car? Okay, we need you. Right?

Matt Bass: (07:52):

I mean, that's kind of what we're looking for anyway. I mean, just can you show up, be there, and be willing to learn? And that's why I joke because I still think back, and I was like, I did a resume. I was like, oh my God.

Drew Slocum: (08:05):

I know. I know. But now I've seen you on social media, Facebook, and other places you offer to. I've seen you post stuff out there. Hey, I'll take a quick shot at your resume. I'll help you out. I think I've noticed that at one point, right?

Matt Bass: (08:26):

Yeah. I've done it quite a few times because I think with some of the groups I've always tried to, I think again, I was very blessed in my career. I had excellent managers and mentors around me, and I always told myself these people took me under their wing. They didn't really have to if they wanted to, but they taught me a lot, and I've always wanted to give that back to other people to be a positive leader and to share what I know. Because I think too often people can get, there are some jobs scared patching your information, and I truly would pass on everything if you could pass me. I think the ultimate compliment to us is that, Hey, can someone I trained eventually come back and tell me that they're making more money than me? I'm not going to be sad.


I'm going to be proud of you. I'm going to be like, heck yeah. So I think showing people that you can offer more than just expertise on how to fix a dry system or fire pump, because right now there's a lot of companies that are looking for resumes, and some of these people have just never built a resume before. They don't even know where to start. And just things like that, I try to help people so they don't get into a situation where they feel uncomfortable. They don't want to make a change or make a decision because they just don't know how to do it. And so I think offering people more helpful information besides, again, just backup experience or for helpful on ITM, but like, Hey, look, even for your NICET, your work history, I had a gentleman just last night reach out to me that I've talked to for off on about five years, and this was our first time talking a person.


And, of course, the first phone call was like, that's what you sound like, pretty cool. But he had a nice set work history question, and he said, I'll send you over my information, and could you review it? And I'm like, yeah, of course. And so I think offering other things to people beyond just, again, the help on experience, but NICET history, the recertification process, just different questions to have that resource available to people, I think is great for the people. Again, I can tell people like it because I get asked questions. I just got asked a question about two hours ago; I have my 25 handbook right here open because the question that almost kind of even stumped me a little bit. I had to go back to the main book and get some more information, but I'm going to call him after about two o'clock to give him the answer.

Drew Slocum: (10:38):

Oh, that's great. What was the question?

Matt Bass: (10:41):

On five-year flow standpipe testing.

Drew Slocum: (10:43):


Matt Bass: (10:45):

Because there's some of the wording, I joke; I said I'm a picture person, and that's why I love YouTube and videos. You can stop and play it, but these books are amazing. I wish they would have more demonstration videos. I think that would help people to say, okay, that's what they mean there because words can be black and white. Still, sometimes I think that's why YouTube is so popular with the video is because you can see so many informational things and you can stop it and replay it, stop, rewind it fast forward. But you can also have that aha moment and go, oh, that's what they're talking about. So I will try to help them with the question, but that's what I try to do. I try to be positive where I can. And, of course, some people know that you will get a little side of smart ass or sarcasm here and there, but that comes with it too.

Drew Slocum: (11:35):

It's part of the industry, right? You got to have fun with it too.

Matt Bass: (11:39):

Oh yeah.

Drew Slocum: (11:41):

So yeah, it'd be interesting if NFPA, I think NFPA will never get into videos. I know they do some training, but it would be nice to throw videos out there of real life. We could even do it with our platform on just the basics of this requirement per 25 or whatever you're doing. And there's always a gray area. There will always be instances where it will not be black and white. So, social media-wise, I think we talked about this on “Dope and Tape” last week when I was on; there are like 10 to 20,000 members on some of these Facebook groups, right?

Matt Bass: (12:28):

Yeah. The main one that I help with is the NFPA 25 inspectors forum. I think there are almost 8,000 members across the, and it's not just the United States; it's Canada. There are other countries that are represented, the one that's called NYSE Fire Alarm online. I think they have 11,000, almost 12,000 members in there. And there are other ones for special hazards, and they have other groups as well. There's even one for NFPA, for 10 for extinguishers. That's how I enjoyed those groups, knowing that I can talk to people and see or hear that whatever I'm experiencing or going through is almost similar to someone in Seattle, Washington, somewhere so far away from us. I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina. And to hear that someone is experiencing the same thing or having the same problem with a valve or a system or a panel, I think that was just cool to know that there are others out there experiencing what we're experiencing, that we're not alone. I believe that one of the biggest draws I had is that you could post something and be like, oh, okay, so I'm not the only one experiencing this issue with whatever.

Drew Slocum: (13:33):

Right. Yeah. I didn't even know about the NYSE fire alarm online. That's wild by the way. I just put in my application to be a member.

Matt Bass: (13:45):

The main guy, Kyle, runs that; I think his name is Schumer, and I'm going to slaughter his last name, but Kyle's the main guy, and he has a lot of good content. He even has some helpful stuff for NICET. They do quite a bit. But one of the things I love about the groups is that most of the people need to understand how much is actually in the group itself. But in our NFPA 25 group, we have a whole media section with pictures from people who have posted stuff in the group from when it was first started. So you can scroll through and see all this cool stuff, actual examples of things out there, deficiencies, or people find. But there's also a file section where people like myself, if you go into the NFPA 25 group and look under files, many of the ones that have been uploaded are ones by me, and a few others where you can upload it. Helpful. People always ask, " Hey, which of these heads are on a recall list? And we've put all those files in the file group, and the groups are more than just going and talking. And even in the NFPA 25 group, if you go on there, there's a video I made a few years ago explaining the whole gambit of what's available for each of those groups just to make sure people understand just how much value these could have for you.

Drew Slocum: (14:57):

Yeah, they've been super valuable for even us on the software because often you don't get the feedback, and those are open feedback where you can learn about different products, just different instances in the field and what people are running into. And then what happens is they comment, comment, comment, and again, we essentially take a lot of that feedback and hey, this would be a cool new feature to add, or this would be a new feature to add, or Hey, let me reach out to this person to get more details on that. But it's a great community to be a part of. And I know there's a bunch of them, just not NFPA 25; there's extinguisher ones, suppression ones, and fire alarm ones.

Matt Bass: (15:42):

There are even ones for sprinkler head collecting, which is a big thing for people who post pictures of all the heads they're collecting over the in. And there's some people, like there's a guy named Danny who's from Canada. He and I are pretty close, and I'm always roasting him occasionally because I said, how do you have time to find all these heads and do work at the same time? He knows. That's funny, but even some people will ask about the groups, and they're saying, oh, but it's Facebook. And I said you can go into each of these groups and look, once you get into them, you can actually go in and see all the members, and you'll be surprised how many high-level people from our industry are in there. There's the Bob Caputo's, the Tracy Bellamy, the Tom's.


And I tell people, if these didn't have legit helpful information, I think those industry titans would be out of these groups. And you see Tom, and the thing I do enjoy too is that those people, like a Bob Caputo, he'll chime in every once in a while. Oh yeah, it's great to see that. To see the president of AFSA or like Tom Parish, if you go on the alarm, fire alarm one, Tom is always commenting. Again, I think it helps show people that even people of their level who formed our businesses that we have are willing to step in and help out people with questions. And I think that solidifies those groups. If those groups didn't have value, you wouldn't see Tracy Demy, Ralph Bliss, Tom Par, or Bob Caputo in those groups. That to me is also why I enjoy MZ because you have that kind of level in there willing also to offer their guidance to the masses.

Drew Slocum: (17:15):

I was off Facebook for a while, but the groups brought me back in. It's one of the best things that Facebook did is bring in these groups, and it's just like these channels of people on whatever, and it's tremendously helped out to just different niches in life. So obviously, if you're listening, join up. There are some credentials you have to put in just that you won't spam them or put up advertisements.

Matt Bass: (17:49):

Even in some of the groups, I've posted things like I'll see a posting for a supervisor position or a manager position, and I'll post it and just say, Hey, look, I'm trying to make this more widespread so people can see it, more visibility to it. So if you desire to do that, and even one of the guys in the 25 group I posted a position for, it was a manager position for down in Antarctica to run the property down there. And to this day, he always thanks me and says, Man, because of you, I knew that job was out there, and I got it. And he always just says Thanks for even posting it. So I even knew that it was available to me. And so now he's the director down there, and he's always, oh,

Drew Slocum: (18:29):

That's awesome.

Matt Bass: (18:30):

So the groups are not just for chatting, but I've posted job postings to help people to get, again, say if you want to move into that role. And that's also things I've also offered to say, look, if you're looking to go from a tech field position into a supervisor manager, they're like, if you need help with that transition, I'll be willing to help you. I had to do that myself. And so I think the groups offer just so much more, and people will post. One of the reasons I first got into the group was because of the networking availability through the groups for a while; there were people at one of my companies asking me because other offices were using recruiters to find workers, and they came to my office and said, what are you doing differently because your recruiting balance is zero.


You haven't used it at all. And I said I'm not. I'm recruiting through other means. And they're like, well, what are you doing? And I showed them. As soon as I mentioned Facebook, they all laughed at me, and I'm like, no, but I'm finding people, I'm posting stuff like, Hey, we're looking. If you do it the right way, you can post actual positions. And even one of the groups is for job positions for fire protection. And you can post positions there. And through the networks, I've met people and said, Hey, where do you live? And they're like, oh, I live in this state. And I'm like, well, I have an opening in that state. Would you be willing just to entertain it? And so I think there's a lot of value to it and beyond just the stereotype of it's Facebook, and it's just not useful. But to me, I've found it so helpful that I use it daily. Of course, my wife sometimes gets a little angry when she's like, who are you helping now? And I'm like,

Drew Slocum: (20:04):

You got to get your consulting hat business going next.

Matt Bass: (20:11):

There's always that thought of monetizing it. But honestly, I love it because I think, too, it falls on my history. My parents were both educators.


I grew up in a house of just everything you should learn; you should teach to other people. I just have a passion for it. I do it to this day. As I said, I usually get about two messages every day from one of the groups of someone asking for advice and guidance, which, again, I love because if I know I can help somebody, they don't have another avenue. Also, what makes it best for me to feel good is that I'm a total to these people, and they still feel the need for me to help them out or point them in the right direction. So to know that these people reached out to me, they don't know me from the next-door neighbor or whoever, and they feel confident that maybe I can help them, that makes me feel good that I don't even know most of these people, but they still reach out.

Drew Slocum: (21:06):

No, that's great. It's something for you too because it is empowering and it's a good feeling, obviously, going back to your education with your parents. No, that's awesome. So I was talking to the guys on the show the other day about the Facebook stuff that came up, and they're on Discord and some other ones. And I think there's a ripe opportunity to go to other platforms. It's nothing really set up for groups, and everybody's on Facebook. I think eventually something may happen, but again, most people are on Facebook, and that's a tough way,

Matt Bass: (21:50):

That's The way it's going. Plus, I think it's so easy because if you or I just wanted to make a group on something about fire protection, you can go and make a group right now. It takes about five minutes to make a group, and then you can share it with your friends and other people. And so I think the ease of it and the fact that you can, so many of us use Facebook, whether it's for personal or for business or for both myself, I can friend people. I can probably do a group today and probably have 500 people in the chat, or at least within probably a week time, just like, Hey, come here. And so I think it's easier to set it up, plus so many of us like to entertain this knowledge. And so when you go into these groups, you can see who are your friends in the group.


And you'll notice that most of us are probably in four or five groups. We're usually in more than just one. There's a lot of us that are covering a lot of groups. And then there are even groups for down to specific panels if you want to join a panel group on for Honeywell or that kind of stuff to meet people that if you have a question specific to a brand, there are groups down to that level. And I just think there's so much value that you can get from that because you're talking to people in all parts of the country. But again, I think it is helpful for me to deal with the issue you're dealing with and the volume that you can reach people. I can talk to someone. I mean, literally today, I had a call from Alberta, Canada. I posted a question about something. I was looking for an answer, and the gentleman messaged me, and I said, Hey, you mind calling me? And he called me this morning, and we chatted, and he's a fire official up in Alberta, Canada. So those are the things I just couldn't get through. Maybe a Discord or


I can reach so many people through Facebook because this is not just the United States; it's Canada. I've talked to people in other countries, Great Britain, etc. So, to me, it's a huge value because I can get to so many people quickly.

Drew Slocum: (23:51):

Oh yeah. It's the information age where everybody's connected. You can Google or put in GPT now that you have the social networks to get that knowledge out there. Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, I look forward to it; I got to explore a few more now that you're mentioning all these different groups. I just saw there's a Honeywell one that has 20,000 members. It's like, oh, wow, all right. I will never get hyper into there, but I look at the industry's problems, and that's what we're trying to solve. So you get the issues through there, the pros and the cons. People are kind of real on there, and they tell you how it is in the field.

Matt Bass: (24:37):

Oh yeah. And I think that's what I mean—even the industry people like Vince Powers from NFSA.

Drew Slocum: (24:43):

Yeah. Yeah. NFSA, yeah.

Matt Bass: (24:44):

Jumps in, and he'll say, Hey, can you all send me pictures of your sprinkler head deficiencies where the bulb is leaked out or something? And people will just start pumping all these pictures, and it's like there's not a platform. I think you can get that, get that kind of response response. There are ones for sprinkler fitters for union; there are ones for non-union. There are so many out there that if you have a desire, and again when you see 20,000 people in a group, I mean there has to be some value for those people to want to join that and be in that group for that long. So I think there's some excellent value that people just took a chance, looked at it, and just chimed in. And you probably will see that you'll get some sarcasm and some one-offs here and there. And it's even funny because, in the NFPA 25 group, people know me now that they'll private message me and say, Hey, Matt, before I post this and you roast me like crazy, can you let me know if there's a good question? I give them the blessing and say, yep, go with it. I won't roast you too bad.

Drew Slocum: (25:48):

Then you give people, I don't know, being snarky about it, and it's like it's got to be open because not everybody's at the same level.

Matt Bass: (25:57):

Even the gentleman who called me yesterday had a question about his work history. I told him, " look, if most people could see me when I'm typing the words, I'm probably laughing 90% of the time. I'm almost people. My wife always says you joke about everything. It is like, I usually love laughing, I love joking, I love having fun. So there's not much seriousness behind anything. If I ever said anything or hurt someone's feelings, you have almost to know that behind that, I was laughing. I was having a good time. I wasn't, again, trying to; I'm more about helping the people. And again, that's often if a person has a question, I said, look, if you just call me once you hear my voice, you'll understand. I'm here to help. I'm just a big jokester. And again, unfortunately, being in construction at an early age, my foreman taught me how to be a smart ass. 

Drew Slocum: (26:46):

That's what I liked about the trades. That's what I like about the industry. It can't be all serious. You must have fun with it, even in the niche.

Matt Bass: (26:56):

Because even when people may hear some curse words, I always tell them – listen to the curse word. I'm not saying it to you. I'm describing something. I'm using it as an adjective. It's different how you think.

Drew Slocum: (27:09):

Right. So, obviously great career, you have NICET certifications from various large companies in the Mid-Atlantic Southeast. So, what are you up to now? I know you're working at Amazon. I guess what's different about that than what you were doing before?

Matt Bass: (27:30):

Yeah, it's a different opportunity because before, I was working for contractors, always looking out for work, always having to get the next job or inspections. And so there was always a constant, you can never sit back and try to help a lot. You were constantly trying to chase the work. Most of the companies are trying to run some kind of a profit, so you have to continually watch numbers, and manpower; after doing it for 23 years, it started to weigh on me a little bit because sometimes there was deciding where the profits lie versus doing it the right way sometimes, which is unfortunate, trying to make sure that we're doing it the right way. And especially with many companies that are getting gobbled up, there are not as many just outlying family-owned companies.


There's probably still some more, but there's a lot of consolidation with companies right now. And it's more about, I think to me, it's just a personal opinion. It's more about profits, and I think there's some of the other stuff's taking a backseat. I just thought there was another way, and this opportunity fell in my lap; I realized that I could work for just one company and be on the other side where I'm more of a consultant helping out and going in the right direction, actually being able to use the knowledge I have because in my prior positions as managers, and most of my job was just to bottom line was to produce profit for the company, take care of the customers and produce profit. And this is a little different. I can use my knowledge and expertise to help and guide people in the right direction. So it's just an other side of it and not having to chase the work all the time. It is nice. It's a breath of fresh air to say I can actually help people, and I can use the 25 years I've gained of install service and inspections to help and guide people in the right direction.

Drew Slocum: (29:35):

There is a lot of consolidation in the market, and I think it will continue. The private equity world, which cares about profit, has kind of taken over the industry. There are pros and cons to it, and obviously, the con is always looking at profit and maybe not fire protection all the time, but I think there's some good to that, too. It's just, I guess, where do you see it going? I have some opinions on it. I'd be interested to see what your thoughts are on, I think pros and cons of that consolidation and where that goes from here.

Matt Bass: (30:24):

Yeah, that's a good question, Drew. And it's one I think a lot of us have looked at and talked about because sometimes you can go on LinkedIn, and some companies are getting bought, and it seems like almost every week now, it kind of spiked the last five or six years. There were many years before this that you have yet to hear about this many acquisitions so quickly. It's a little different pace than many of us used to. And seeing that uptick kind of had me only worried just because you're taking so many of these individual unique companies and putting them all under one umbrella. And just because I've experienced that, I was with a company that acquired three other companies at the same time, and it was more of a battle than it was a coming together because who was going to be the dominant company, who was going to be the dominant team?


And it was not a path I wanted to go down because it seemed like it was more of a battle than it was; hey, we're one team. Because one of the companies put two companies, they did the same thing. It was having the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders and saying, Hey, we're going to be one team. It's like, that's not going to work. I don't care how you do that. It will be impossible to put that together and not have some issues. With that kind of consolidation; I just don't see how you're going to benefit the business by bringing all these companies with different personalities and backgrounds and then taking care of the customers and doing the right job. I don't see how those two can play.

Drew Slocum: (32:06):

Yeah, I feel like we're in that, and I don't think it will stop anytime soon. I believe it, it's a good bad part of the industry, but what'll happen, and this has happened before in the industry 20, 30 years ago when Simplex Grinnell acquired, they were Tyco back in the day I started my career with, they were just acquiring everybody, and then they ended up the managers and technicians and the field techs there, they go out and start their own company. So it's almost like this cycle where because there's such a need for knowledge and labor within the space, they could go out and start their own thing, and they'll have to grow it, and they have those growing pains. And I think there are better tools for an owner-operator, a small company, to make a business these days. It's just making that jump. How do you make that jump? And then there's also a generational age gap where you and I are in that middle where there's a gap of a lot of fire protection professionals that are retirement age or are getting pushed out, so who fills that void? We're kind of that next generation, but there's also who's behind us. 

Matt Bass: (33:33):

Yeah, that to me, actually, is probably the more significant issue than anything else is that I'm sure most of us have seen it. I've posted it in the groups before, and it's like, how many of you have gone to training recently or to an AFSA meeting or some of these other different meetings and there's just not a good range of ages in there. There seems to be a significantly higher age group, and that's a good thing, the ones that probably helped build our industry to what it is today, but it also means they're going to be retiring in the next ten years probably and who's going to fill that, like you said, who's going to fill that gap? Because even at NFPA, one of the training sessions was they're looking for new instructors to come on for NFPA to teach the classes.


It's because, honestly, some of the BACA, PDOs, and God bless, I mean, they built our industry. Still, I'm sure they probably want to play with their grandkids or something, enjoy and have some time. They need us now, our generation to step in and start taking those leadership roles in either these companies or these organizations to provide the next level and begin now us being those people in those leadership roles. So I think there will be a little bit of a gap. Also, I think just how the industry has changed too, because people like myself, when I first came up, we started as installers, then we went to service, then you went to inspections. A lot of these companies now are just taking people right from green to inspectors, and they're almost expecting that they're going to give the same value of work versus the person who has experience.


And it's like; I think there's a gap there because I've dealt with that personally, and I've seen too much where they say, well, how come so-and-so write up these deficiencies better and document everything we need to know of how to make a proposal? And I say, well, that person doesn't know what's above the ceiling or behind the wall, or they've never done that, so how will you expect them to know all the components or all the what-ifs that could be used to make a proposal? Because that piece we're losing because there are people like myself, when I wrote up my deficiencies for my inspections, most of the salespeople were like, oh my gosh, I can just put a number to this and send it out. I gave them labor, all the details. I gave them material list; I gave them everything we need to do to get this work completed. I think we're losing that. And it's not a bad thing. I mean, we want people to have opportunities. Still, I think that informational background experience of installing and servicing, I think we're slowly losing that from this new generation of people that are in our business.

Drew Slocum: (36:13):

And I think getting in the industry is important and trying to experience is big. I always gravitated toward the associations and tried to learn as much as possible. I mean, raise your hand, attend training, and attend these conferences. You learn a lot. The more exposure you are with, and if you get involved in the associations, they'll take anybody on. You go to these, if it's local, go to these chapter meetings. They're in the evening. I know it's tough with everybody's time and families and all that, but you could do one every other month, get out, and meet people. I think the number is like 30% or fewer people or contractors in the market are part of an association, which has definitely dropped. And there's consolidation going on, too, so it's going to drop even more.

Matt Bass: (37:09):

Oh yeah.

Drew Slocum: (37:13):

All right. Shifting over. I could talk to you for hours about different things.

Matt Bass: (37:23):

I'm the same way. Like I said, my wife sometimes goes, can we have one conversation without you being interrupted on your phone by a text or a Facebook or a phone call? She's like, can I just have my husband for an hour this afternoon?

Drew Slocum: (37:36):

Yeah, right. Well, I got you. A few quick responses. I call it the quick response round with some quick response questions. And the first one doesn't have to be fast, what's the coolest new product in fire protection? It doesn't have to be a sprinkler; it can be whatever. What is the kind of product out there that you think could change the industry?

Matt Bass: (38:06):

It is going to sound kind of funny. Still, flex heads, oh my God, I know that they've been around for a little while, but for someone like me who came through the industry and had a nipple actually in ‘90 over the pipe and put a hanger on there and get it the center of the tile, I can't tell you how many times with my first foreman, he would come behind us, and he was very particular. He said if they're calling for the center of the tile on the sprinkler head, it needs to be 12 by 12. And he would take out his stick ruler and measure it. And if it was 11 by 13, you were redoing it had to be 12 by two. And seeing these flex heads where you can just get centered the first time, and you're done, I'm so jealous of the guys who can do that because we didn't have that when we used to  install. We used to have competitions on who could pipe this many heads in, and he would just do that. But then again, my foreman would come behind us and measure each one and be like, he said, I should be able to look down that row of heads and be if they're all 12 by 12, I should only see one head. If I see any other head popping out, you will fix it. And it's like, come on, Richard. And I'm just so jealous of that technology for the flex test. I'm just jealous. I wish I had it when I was doing it.

Drew Slocum: (39:16):

That's funny. That's funny. Yeah, they've come a long way. I remember being involved in the New York City market probably five to 10 years ago. They wouldn't even allow them. We were really enough for, I think they're finally allowed there, but it's just that it's an easy technology and solves a potential problem. It just makes it quicker.

Matt Bass: (39:40):

I'm just joking. I never got to be able to use them because I just got out of install when they started coming on the market, and I was like, oh my God, do you know how fast I could have been installing those?

Drew Slocum: (39:48):

Right, right. All right, next question. Favorite Star Wars movie or series?

Matt Bass: (39:59):

Yeah, I just watched; I'm as big on Star Wars as most people. It's actually funny because, in the groups, people know I'm a Star Wars fan.


People will actually message me. Bill Hayes he's one of the guys in the group. He sent me something just about four months ago. It was a tin can for candy and cookies, but it had the Star Wars on there, and he sent it to me. And so I get stuff quite a bit from fans who know I'm big into it. The best series, I think, is, I mean, I'm going to go with the original. I'm an eighties kid, so one of my best memories was going with my dad to see “Return of The Jedi.” I think I was five years old, but that memory with my dad, I think, was the best part, was just being with him. But then it was with Star Wars, and it's never left me; that's another thing, my wife laughs most people that know me; I'm big on collecting and that kind of stuff. And so I think when Toys R Us closed, I actually had tears in my eyes. That was


When I was an inspector, you got to go around to all the facilities. And when the GSS first came out, my first boss said, Hey, Matt, I need to call you into the office. I have some questions about your travel paths. We are concerned that maybe you're going to other places with your company vehicle. And so they pulled it up, and they had all these different locations, and he said, can you please explain? Because, of course, they're thinking maybe like a bar or something. And he said, please explain all these stops you're making after these jobs? And I said those are toys and Russes and KB 

Toys. And he was like, KB Toys? Wow. Yeah,

Matt Bass: (41:30):

He looked at me, of course; I think they were thinking it was like a bar or something. And when I said KB or Toys or Us, he said, oh my God.

Drew Slocum: (41:40):

Yeah, that must've been a fun laugh in the room.

Matt Bass: (41:43):


Drew Slocum: (41:44):

That's great. All right. This is my favorite; what is your favorite dry pipe valve?

Matt Bass: (41:53):

Viking by far.

Drew Slocum: (41:55):

What model?

Matt Bass: (41:58):

Just the one that you can put the handlebar in there and just pop a clapper down. Yep. F one. That's the one I've always used. And it's just.

Drew Slocum: (42:05):

Have two.

Matt Bass: (42:06):

Something about that: it's so reliable. I don't have many issues with it. And I think sometimes we try to over-specialize the system, the valve, which makes it more complicated. I just did a training on that very thing because sometimes these new dry valves have the water priming line, which is great, but it's the number one issue when someone says, Hey, I got everything shut down, but I still hear water running. And I'm like, you didn't close the priming line. And they're like, oh, that's what that was. And I'm like, yep. And it's like, so I think you can over-engineer some of these, and a Viking valve to me is just so simple. It's just pop in, popper down, and you keep going.

Drew Slocum: (42:48):

I think manufacturers get on the installation side; that's where they make their money to install. They only sometimes consider service, inspection, and maintenance; hopefully, that changes. I think it's maybe starting to, but just the materials of the valve. When I worked for Viking, I think we had to replace some clappers from the 1940s somewhere in New York City. I forgot where it was. It might've been an airport or something. It was from the 1940s. They still worked. They just needed a gasket replacement, and it was like, wow. That's crazy.

Matt Bass: (43:26):

Yeah, because even some of the newer drive valves, I feel bad. I had a friend send me a video of one of them how to set it up, and I responded to them. I was just like, oh my gosh. I wrote down 15 steps. Some of them were almost the number of steps you must remember for all the different valves and actuators and things you must work on. It's just you're engineering a device you're going to; it's so easy. You're going to miss something or need to remember something. And some of the older dry valves were simple, clapper down water on top of it. And I guess that's probably my mentality. Maybe people say I'm old school, but I like simple. I used to do those service calls at two o'clock in the morning, and we couldn't watch a video on how to reset stuff. And so a Viking valve to me was just so simple. Just clapper down, pop it, lock it, and go.

Drew Slocum: (44:17):

Well, with the Viking, I think you could head to the QR code and get a video of it now. Or at least I started my career manufacturing the Tyco dry valve. I've probably brought that up too many times. That's a great valve as well. I remember going to Viking; I'm like, oh man, this thing, it's a tank, but it's not going anywhere. And that's going to be there 20 years down the line. Easy. Yep. Yep. Well, cool. Thanks, Matt, for joining the podcast today. I know it was a little bit of everything and discussing how you influence the fire protection community. I guess tell everybody where we can find you on social media and any contact info,

Matt Bass: (45:07):

Facebook and LinkedIn, you just look on there, and if you go into those groups. The other thing with a lot of the groups is they're private groups, so whatever you talk in there or chat there will not be seen on your regular feed, so no one will be seeing what's going on. So just get onto Facebook or LinkedIn, and you'll see me pop up. I get a lot of comments, and I get a lot of questions. And again, I love it because, again, I try to help out people, and probably one of the biggest questions I get, and it's just a cool quick story to end the taping, is on LinkedIn. My nickname is Maddie, and people ask me where that came from; it was at one of my companies, FLSA, Jack, where I was the inspections manager. I had 40 people under me.


We were in the warehouse and had everybody going through a training session. I was the manager up on the front, talking to all my technicians and helping out. And you're trying to put off that bravado of like, Hey, I'm not only the big chief, but hey, I'm here to help you guys. I'm the boss, whatever. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Jack goes, Hey, good job, Maddie. And it was one of those nicknames I didn't know he would call me that. And all of a sudden, all my guys go, Maddie. And I was like, my face got blood red. I was like, where did that come from? Because most of us were trying to have that strong bravado-type outside exterior. And when he dropped that Maddie, it was just like everybody in the group was looking at me and laughing. And I was like, I don't know where that came from. That's funny. And, of course, that just kind of stuck. And then people started calling me, Hey, what's up, Maddie? I'm

Drew Slocum: (46:57):

Like, that's good, though. Obviously, you were known through those channels before, so it's good to be known, and I think social media is a great way to do that. It's kind of a personal brand behind it, too.

Matt Bass: (47:14):

Oh yeah. Yeah. I enjoy it. Like I said, just knowing that if I can help change someone's direction or help them, put them in the right direction or give them some guidance that will help. If they're looking for a new role or a new position, I mean, that's why I do it, because again, I'm trying to showcase that there are positive leaders out there that will help you out. And again, that's why I get asked so many questions daily. It is wild, and if I can ever monetize it, I'll be okay, but right now, I just enjoy knowing that I'm helping people.

Drew Slocum: (47:45):

Yeah, money's not always everything. Sometimes, you have to feel good about what you're doing, right? I think that's a big part of life.

Matt Bass: (47:50):

Yeah, I think probably the biggest callback I enjoy is when someone reaches out to me after a year or two and says, " Hey, man, thank you so much for your feedback. It helped me so much. And it means a lot to know that people didn't have to reach back out after I gave the advice or gave him the input. And it is actually how I got to where I am today. I helped a gentleman with some stuff, and people just always will reach out and say, thank you so much for what you did for me; I helped guys, people get their CFPS, the Certified Fire Protection Specialist and people will reach out two years later and be like, because of what you did, give me the advice and going for it. I'm either making really good money now or in a really good position. And that makes you feel good. It makes you feel good at the end of the day.

Drew Slocum: (48:36):

Yeah, yeah. No, it's important, and it's worth more than dollars. It's just that good feeling if you're doing something good for somebody or the community.

Matt Bass: (48:47):


Drew Slocum: (48:48):

Well, thanks, Matt, for stopping on now. I'll get this all prepped up and look forward to chatting more and being involved in some of these Facebook groups.

Matt Bass: (48:58):

Awesome, drew. Thanks, sir.

Drew Slocum: (48:59):

Yeah, no worries. Take care. This was episode 52 of the Fire Protection Podcast, powered by Inspect Point. I want to thank Matt Bass again for coming on talking Star Wars, all the fun, and fire protection stuff, so I appreciate him. We'll have him on. Again, he's a friendly neutral, independent source within the fire protection industry. So yeah, hopefully you enjoyed it and see you here again soon. Thanks.