I am sitting in California in early February as I write this column. The AFSA Board of Directors is meeting, and I have the opportunity to present the status of work in progress and answer questions regarding the Engineering & Technical Services Department. To prepare for this discussion, my department generates a report on our activities and what services our members are utilizing.

Last year was a busy one for my department. Our Technical Review service gives our members access to our engineering staff to ask questions on specific technical issues. Depending on the question, we provide answers by email, letter, or phone. In 2022, we addressed approximately 650 Technical Reviews, with an average response time of less than one business day. About 65 percent of the questions were related to NFPA 13, with the remainder divided between NFPA 14, 20, 22, and 25. A few questions referenced other miscellaneous standards and publications by other organizations. While most geographical areas our members are operating in are governed by previous editions of the referenced standards, most responses are based on the latest edition of the standard. Where requested, we do review previous editions of the standards and provide documentation of any changes as well as the rationale behind changes in the standard over the years.

The number of reviews is heavily based on the size of the requesting company. Our smaller category members (Categories 1 to 5) have asked almost 50 percent of the questions, while our designer category asked nearly 20 percent of the questions. This service occupies approximately 1,000 hours of staff time each year. If your company is not utilizing the Technical Review service, try us out.

AFSA is well represented on the NFPA Technical Committees. We have 118 seats on 55 different technical committees. Our volunteers and staff cover 44 codes and standards. We are also involved in 12 different UL standard technical panels. These panels set the standards that equipment must meet to be Listed by UL. We bring a contractor’s perspective to this process.

With a new year, changes do occur. I am disappointed to announce John Johnson has left AFSA for another opportunity that does not require travel. His employment with AFSA was very beneficial to our members. John’s ability to reach and interact with our students in the ITM programs we offer was outstanding, and we wish him the best. Who knows, he might assist us in the future by giving selected presentations. Josh McDonald, MSET, CFPS, CWBSP, WBITM, manager of technical services, will assume John’s role. We will not miss a step as Josh is a natural with ITM.

I am also very proud to announce the addition of Veronica Westfall to our staff as a technical development specialist. In her previous position, she authored all four levels of the new AFSA Sprinkler Fitting curricula, so she is very familiar with our program and the needs of our trainees. With all the training programs we create, having her on our team will make us much more efficient. Welcome aboard, Veronica!

My goals for this year can be summarized by the following three points:

• Ensure our training for AFSA members is the best it can be. We will be updating and modernizing our current offerings to ensure we are instructing to the latest developments in the standards and current industry practices while presenting the material in a manner that today’s students expect. We will expand our offerings based on members’ needs and desires. We all require a qualified workforce, and AFSA is here to serve that need as the leader in training for the sprinkler industry.

• Ensure our membership and chapters get to know the AFSA Engineering & Technical Services staff. We will be out visiting the chapters and our members. We will be presenting in person where we physically can. There is nothing better than the direct interactions we have with our members. Look for us, introduce yourselves, and ask us questions. My entire staff enjoys this type of interaction.

• Build a state-of-the-art classroom and lab in our new Dallas office to better serve our members by offering the very best hands-on training on a variety of fire protection systems. Our new lab is being designed and constructed early this year. Several manufacturers and suppliers have generously offered their assistance. We will also need fitters to help with the installation. If you would like to participate, contact Josh McDonald at jmcdonald@firesprinkler.org. Stay tuned for more information as it takes shape!

I have been involved with AFSA since 1994 as a volunteer and for the last three years as an employee. What a fantastic ride it has been. I appreciate all the AFSA Board of Directors does for the association and in allowing me the honor of representing them as the vice president of the Engineering & Technical Services Department. Thank you!

John Denhardt, P.E., FSFPE is the vice president of engineering & technical services at AFSA. Denhardt provides a "flashpoint" for January/February of 2023, and addresses members' worries.ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John August Denhardt, P.E., ET, CWBSP, FSFPE, is the vice president of engineering and technical services for the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA). He is responsible for strengthening AFSA’s engineering and technical approaches to meeting member, industry, and operational priorities, with an emphasis on service, quality, and integrity. Denhardt is a registered professional engineer (P.E.) in the District of Columbia and the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He is NICET Level III certified in water-based systems layout, NICET Level III certified in inspection and testing of water-based systems, and a certified water-based system professional through NFPA. Denhardt is a member of the NFPA 13 technical committee on sprinkler system discharge criteria, a fellow in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), a member of the SFPE Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Trustees for NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation and sits on the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering’s Board of Visitors. A native of Maryland, Denhardt holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland College Park in fire protection engineering. Prior to this role, Denhardt was employed by Strickland Fire Protection in Forestville, Maryland, since 1994, overseeing large-scale projects and assisting with design and installation technical issues.

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