Tony Kocurek employs a versatile group of testing and balancing (TAB) technicians at Energy Balance Integration LLC, a testing and balancing firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although only two of his employees are dedicated to fire life safety systems, his entire team is Fire and Smoke Damper (formerly Fire Life Safety Level 1 Technician) and Smoke Control Systems (formerly Fire Life Safety Level 2 Technician) certified for good reason.

Many times, TAB technicians will investigate an airflow problem that leads back to faulty fire life safety systems. Because Kocurek’s team is certified to do that work as well, they can make or coordinate repairs on site without the need to call in another team.

“We started running into areas, especially in older buildings, where they were losing airflow, and when we investigated, we found faulty fire and smoke dampers,” says Kocurek, who serves as vice president of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association. “Nobody was looking at these devices to figure out how to keep them working. We started looking at the way fire life safety systems were being inspected.”

Kocurek’s advocacy for fire life safety was instrumental in passing the “Fire Safe Standards” (SB143) in New Mexico, requiring International Certification Board/Testing Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (ICB-TABB) certified American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited workers into building specs. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham in March.

“As a sheet metal worker, I know a lot of guys don’t think much about fire and smoke dampers. It was something they just threw into a wall. I thought that needed to be brought to light. That’s our industry. That’s what we do,” says Kocurek. “If you’re not going to inspect it, why have it at all? Because people’s lives matter. And if it matters, it should be done correctly.”

For more information on emerging market opportunities in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, contact the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) at or call 703-299-5646. This story originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of SNIPS magazine.