I am writing this column while attending the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo. It has been a great event! For those of you who have never attended, this is an opportunity to see what it offers and how AFSA represents its members with NFPA.
Sunday The Architects, Engineers, and Building Officials (AEBO) Board and Business meetings were held. I had the honor of presiding over both of these meetings. We discussed bylaw revisions; the annual Technical Committee meeting, including several Certified Amending Motions (CAMs); and several other topics.
The NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation’s Sprinkler Planning Council meeting also took place. This group is organized by NFPA with support from AFSA and NFSA. AFSA President Bob Caputo and I attended. Bob presented AFSA’s thoughts on sprinkler research priorities; then, the attendees were divided into groups to discuss the priorities. We then gathered to discuss our findings. The results were very interesting—all of the groups had the same priorities. They include sprinkler protection schemes for automated retrieval storage systems, vehicle storage (garages, car stackers, including internal combustion engines, hybrid, and electric vehicles), and a newer topic, the replacement of 50-plus-year-old standard response sprinklers with new quick response sprinklers. The replacement topic should be a no-brainer and could lead to changes in the 2028 edition of NFPA 13 and in the 2026 or 2029 edition of NFPA 25.
Sunday night closed with the NFPA’s Stars at Night Award Dinner. NFPA Standards Council member Victoria Valentine and I (NFPA Research Foundation Board of Trustee) represented AFSA. Numerous awards were given out, including the Distinguished Service Award to a close friend of mine, Dr. James Milke, who is retiring this year from the chair of Fire Protection Engineering position at the University of Maryland. Chief Ronald Jon Siarnicki received the James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. Last year, Chief Siarnicki received AFSA’s Advocate of the Year award. Chief Siarnicki is currently the executive director of the National Fallen Fighters Foundation and is retiring this year. Congratulations to these two individuals and the rest of the award recipients.
Monday The general session and numerous technical seminars and presentations occurred throughout the day, and there was a topic to suit every interest. I assisted NFPA by moderating a presentation given by David Stacy of Performance-Based Fire Protection, and Jack Poole of Poole Fire Protection titled “Life Safety and Fire Protection Systems at the Museum: A Case Study.” They both did a great job, and the discussions that followed were very informative.
The exposition opened for the first of three days, and it was huge. It takes hours to walk the entire floor. With over 300 exhibitors, every field of fire protection was covered. AFSA staff including Bob, Victoria, Eric Andresen, Kevin Hall, Meda Merritt, Dominic Kasmauskas, April Stives, and I worked the AFSA booth, meeting new people and visiting with many of our members. AFSA’s Region 4 Director and First Vice Chair Linda M. Biernacki, founder/president of Fire Tech Systems, Inc., also spent time with our members, discussing new products and answering questions about AFSA. Connecting with our members is the best part of any conference. During the evening, AFSA staff attended events sponsored by our associate members. These events give us a chance to further the relationships that keep our organization strong and relevant.
Tuesday Once again, numerous technical seminars and presentations occurred. I assisted NFPA by moderating a panel discussion led by Joe Bartholomew of NFPA. Panelists included Tracey Bellamy of Telgian Engineering and Consulting, Michael Crowley of Coffman Engineers, Christel Hunter of Hunter Technical Services, and Bob Caputo. The attendees enjoyed interacting with the panel. After the event, Bob had a line of people wanting to talk to him.
On Tuesday evening, Kevin and I attended the University of Maryland’s Fire Protection Engineering Alumni Dinner and Celebration. Dr. Milke provided an update on department activities, introduced the new chair of the Department, Dr. Arnaud Trove, and presented the distinguished alumni awards.
Wednesday Once again, numerous technical seminars and presentations were held. I assisted NFPA by moderating a presentation by Kyle Spenser of NFPA titled “Maximizing the Benefits of NFPA LiNK®.” He showed the attendees some useful shortcuts with the program, including teaching me some new tricks! Bob Caputo and I enjoyed the presentation so much that we asked him to present on this topic at AFSA42.
I also attended a presentation by Steve Leyton of Protection Design and Consulting, Terin Hopkins of NFSA, and Kevin Hall of AFSA on “NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems, 2023 Update.” The room was packed with attendees standing along the walls for the entire 60 minutes. Victoria presented on “Seismic and Water-Based Fire Protection Systems: Field Concerns and Solutions.” This presentation discussed upcoming changes to seismic requirements and the reasons driving these revisions.
Thursday The technical committee meeting was held. Numerous issues were discussed and debated. Eric, Bob, Kevin, Victoria, Josh McDonald and I were present. Kevin, Bob, and I represented our members and voted on the CAMs. For a complete report on the technical meeting, see Kevin’s column in this issue of Sprinkler Age.
Summary What a week! I was honored to represent AFSA at numerous events, enjoyed seeing existing members and meeting potential new members, and attended informative presentations for my own professional development. There’s nothing like connecting with people who share your interests. It has gotten me very excited for AFSA42 this September in Orlando. Hope to see you there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John August Denhardt, P.E., ET, FSFPE, CWBSP, is Vice President of Engineering and Technical Services for AFSA. He is a Professional Engineer (P.E.) registered in the District of Columbia and the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He is a NICET Level III in Automatic Sprinkler System Layout and Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems, and an NFPA Certified Water-Based Systems Professional (CWBSP). He is a member of the NFPA 13 Sprinkler Discharge Committee and is a Fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). Denhardt is a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Research Foundation trustee, sits on the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering’s Board of Visitors, and is a member of the SFPE Board of Directors. A native of Maryland, Denhardt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland in College Park.