The Chimney Safety Institute of America board of directors recently reaffirmed our involvement with ESCHFOE, the European Federation of Chimney Sweeps. There are 22 members, and the United States is a guest member. We believe that interaction with our overseas brothers and sisters in soot isn’t just a tradition, but a necessity. In fact, in 2011, CSIA and the National Chimney Sweep Guild co-hosted the first ESCHFOE meeting held outside of Europe. It was held in Plainfield, Indiana.
CSIA asked our Past President John Pilger his thoughts on our partnership.
Why ESCHFOE? As a guest member, we have most of the rights as a regular member, except voting on leadership and meeting motions. I am often asked, “Why are we members?” My reply to that is, ‘Who better to learn from?’ These countries have hundreds of years of experience which we can tap information from, plus most are heavily supported by their governments.
How does the government being involved make a difference? Not only does their government count on them to keep homes safe from fire, but they also count on them for combustion (energy) efficiency and for pollution control. Every year in Germany, approximately 7,800 German chimney sweeps collect more them 180 million bits of data. Many of these bits of data contain defects in heating appliances, air supplies, CO measurements on gas- fired and oil fired appliances, as well, as pollution measurements of wood-heating appliances. The government takes this collected data and reports back to the European Union (EU) in Brussels on the state of pollution and energy usage in their countries.
Why does CSIA attend these meetings? That’s the biggest question I’m asked. That answer is real easy: Technical information. Just ask any of our Past presidents, especially Vic Imgarten, Jerry Isenhour, Steve Pietila, and CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge, or myself. The Europeans are on the cutting edge of technology and any new technology that we can get and pass on to our CSIA Certified Sweeps and National Chimney Sweep Guild members is well worth the cost of sending our representatives. Don’t get me wrong, we contribute our fair share of technology, but where we shine is providing them with business knowledge. Many countries in Europe had a monopoly — in other words, they had their own districts where another sweep could not work. With the new EU rules in place, this ended the chimney sweep monopoly in many countries. Now chimney sweeps can go into another sweep’s area and get new customers; they have now entered the free market. Now chimney companies must start to market their services. For instance, in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, they are now allowed to repair chimneys. Before the new EU rules, they were only allowed to sweep. This is where America shines, MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE. I am constantly schooling my European friends on how we provide customer service and market our services. The way we soak up their technical advances is the way they soak up our marketing skills. This in my opinion is the best of both worlds. This is a big reason why it is extremely important to belong to ESCHFOE.
Did CSIA attend ESCHFOE in 2014? We had scheduling conflicts, but NCSG/CSIA sent in a report to be read at the meeting. [Click here to review that report.]
What was the experience like in 2013? I attended the last technical meeting in England, with CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge, NCSG President Diane Pilger and Past President Randy Brooks. We attended the ESCHFOE official meeting in the UK training center, which is 100% operated by biomass. Each country delegates reported about energy savings in their home countries. Pricing for chimney sweeping was also discussed. In some countries the government sets the price for chimney sweeping. The delegates were asked what is the price of chimney sweeping in their country? We explain how the market is different in every region of our country, so prices vary. It was very interesting to hear about some of the rules and regulations that are going on in the other countries.
Learn more about chimney sweeps in Europe.
How do our links with ESCHFOE help the public? Attending the ESCHFOE conference is very beneficial to the chimney sweeps in America. We gain all the technical benefits for very little cost. That, in turn, makes our companies and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep technicians the best in the business. So when the public is looking for a knowledgable sweep, you know they can turn to one of 1,500 CSIA pros from coast to coast. Use our free zip-code locator at csia.org/search.