BY LARRY DEKLINSKI

SHAMOKIN - Gerald Bogetti told a room of local residential contractors and electricians Thursday evening that many homes in the area have substandard wiring and are at the risk of catching fire.

As organizer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 607, Bogetti said the root cause of this "horrible" electrical work is non-electricians who pass themselves off to customers as experts.

To weed out these "decal-slappers," the Electrical Technology Academy, a subsidiary of IBEW Training Program, has formed a Board of Accreditation. The program will operate out of the union's newly renovated headquarters at 23 S. Fifth St., Shamokin.

The goal of the accreditation program is to protect the public from unsafe electrical installations by forming a nucleus of employers who are assessed on a regular basis to ensure they are competent and capable of meeting technical codes and safety standards.

An outreach program designed to educate the public on the importance of hiring a qualified electrician and the dangers of improper wiring is targeted between September and March of 2014. The exact date is dependent on when employers jump aboard the program, Bogetti said.

Information would reach the public though media, academy staff and through TV channels, such as the Home and Garden channel.

"We want to force out people who are slapping together electrical wiring and calling themselves electricians," Bogetti said. "(Their work) it's not safe."

For an employer to be accredited several requirements would have to be met, including providing a residential work history that includes all work locations from the previous year and establishing a place of business in the community for customers to go to, and requiring all employees to undergo state certified electrical training.

Employers would have an opportunity to enlist an employee in a 5-year apprenticeship program at the academy. Students who complete the program become journeyman wireman and earn 120 credits towards an associate's degree.

Scott Heitzman, business manager for IBEW, said students complete a minimum of 180 hours of training a year, in and out of the classroom.

While training they proceed through a number of classes established by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), he said.

"Without accreditation we will always be facing unfair competition," Bogetti told those in attendance. "Accreditation will help stabilize the market and help it grow."

Bogetti said many of the homes built in Shamokin are old and have substandard wiring, including a knob and tube system that was first used more than 100 years ago.