If you can't bring the fire protection student to the classroom, you bring the classroom to the student.

When it comes to product awareness and training, the direct approach is usually the best approach. This philosophy has not been wasted on Tyco Fire & Building Products, as most recently seen in what is perhaps their most direct training (and selling) tool, which they have come to regard as the VDU, or mobile Valve Demonstration Unit.

Housed inside a 32-foot-long stock car trailer, the VDU is a fully-functioning demonstration facility designed to better educate local contractors, consulting engineers, local authorities, and building owners on the functions and operations of fire protection system valves, and the most recent developments in Tyco's fire protection valve systems, as well as how they factor into the current codes and standards. Basically, the VDU is a fire protection education tool, conceptualized under one of the core principles in marketing: if the consumer does not know about the product, how can they buy it? (And, in this case, also specify and/or install it.)

However, the VDU was not born of a simple marketing "

The concept for the VDU has existed in some form or another for the last five years. The brainchild of Tyco Fire & Building Products Business Development Manager Larry Parsons, the VDU came from a basic need to make actual valves available to fire protection professionals across the country with a hands-on capacity.

"I had been talking about the need for about five years. My first request was for just a mobile display that later evolved into a fully working unit," says Parsons.

The VDU features Tyco Fire & Building Products' complete line of fire protection valves in a full array of working applications. The VDU supplies attendees with a comprehensive look at both staple and new valve designs and how they factor into the contractor or engineer's particular fire protection needs. Just as important, the VDU also provides an opportunity to demonstrate how the Tyco valve line plays into the complete fire protection system, for which Tyco manufactures and/or supplies all the necessary components.

The VDU's most prominent features are Tyco's main workhorses from the preaction, deluge and dry system valve lines. With 11 total operational risers, the VDU is Tyco's most comprehensive, working collection of valve systems in a training capacity outside of Tyco Fire & Building Products' training facility at its R&D center in Cranston, RI. Simulated with air and water flows, the risers re-recreate actual valve operations for all systems, including alarms.

Increasing the effectiveness of the VDU is the built in support system offered by Tyco Fire & Building Products' local and regional sales staff, which attends each VDU demonstration in order to help answer any questions and to ensure that attendees come away with a complete source of information for Tyco products.

With an ever-growing schedule that will soon encompass the entire contiguous United States and Canada, the VDU has already proven that the need for hands-on fire protection is a growing one. One of the VDU's next big stops will be on the floor of the NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition May 23-25. For more on Tyco Fire & Building Products' fire protection valves, visit www.tyco-fire.com.