It has been almost a year since I accepted a position with AFSA, and what a ride it has been! From the beginning, I could not have asked for better support from my bosses, the AFSA’s Board of Directors. This group of sprinkler contractors is diverse with lots of experience, knowledge, and, most important to me, guidance. As a group, these individuals have offered kind words, encouragement, or just a quick note, letting me know what they think. My long-time bosses, Manning and Jay Strickland, have also been right there with support.
Within a few months of my starting my position, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. AFSA and the technical department had to adjust. There was no magic book or manual to follow. My staff and coworkers thought I was nuts when I decided to offer two technical webinars a week for three months to meet our members’ needs when the pandemic’s impact was felt. I remember a staff member asked me, “Who will present this material, as we have no one lined up?” I just laughed and said, “We will figure it out. If necessary, my staff would handle it.” I guess that is my contractor’s attitude. What happened next just made me realize why I love this industry. AFSA’s technical friends reached out to me and asked how they could help. Bob Caputo; James Gollinveaux; Ray Fremont, Jr.; Russ Leavitt; Steve Scandaliato; and many others were there to assist. Looking back, I was nuts, but our members appreciated our efforts. Our attendance numbers were off the chart.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic halted our in-person training, we retooled and conducted some classes virtually. We found a safe way to restart our in-person training. We decided to take our training to our members, and the members have responded positively to these decisions. We have hosted our training in Exton, Pennsylvania, and will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Tampa Bay, Florida; Sacramento, California; and San Diego, California; over the next six months. More locations will be forthcoming. The need for in-person training has not decreased. The requests for our Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning Schools have been strong. We are actively working on updating the beginning school to the 2019 editions of NFPA 13 and have started preparations for other higher-level schools. Hopefully, we will release more news on these projects in 2021.
In our magazine, Sprinkler Age, the technical department started the Designer’s and ITM Challenge. These challenges are designed to keep experienced technicians’ skills sharp and, for the beginner technicians, help them learn the standards. This will assist in certification preparations.
The NFPA standard update process has been moving quickly this year despite the pandemic. NFPA 13, 13D, 13R, 20, and 25 have been in cycle. NFPA 14 was delayed a year but is starting as I type this. The amount of public inputs and comments processed this year has been an enormous undertaking. Every public submission was reviewed, analyzed, and acted on by our technical services staff. We are making sure our members’ interests are represented while ensuring the quality of fire protection systems.
The big news this year for AFSA was the hiring of Bob Caputo, as our president. Bob is a well-known figure in our industry with a great personality. He has performed almost every role available in a sprinkler contracting company. His hiring has received a glowing response from the industry. While I now get to call Bob my boss, he has been and will continue to be my friend, confidant, and a person in whom I have the utmost confidence. Having Bob on the AFSA team will significantly enhance our ability to serve our members. While he will not be directly working on technical issues, his knowledge and ability in the technical areas will be a welcome impact.
So, what is ahead for 2021? AFSA’s Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning School will be updated to the 2019 edition of NFPA 13. We have revised the course to include modern teaching techniques and, where possible, include some hands-on equipment demonstrations. We will continue to take this class on the road. If an AFSA chapter or a member wants to see if we can bring our school to your area, contact AFSA’s Vice President of Program Operations & Educational Services Marlene Garrett, CMP via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the requirements needed to accomplish this. We are working on a next-level Intermediate Fire Sprinkler System Planning School with plans to develop an Advanced Fire Sprinkler System Planning School. Our ITM Inspector Development Program is being updated to the 2017 edition of NFPA 25, and we will continue to update the class to the 2020 edition. So, when NICET updates its program, we will be ready! Our ITM classes have been very popular. At the request of our members, we are working on obtaining the capability to offer ASSE 15010 Water-Based Fire Protection Certification classes, schools, and testing. This certification is starting to be required or accepted in several areas. We also have plans to develop a Fitter Challenge, additional AHJ training, and a more significant presence on technical committees with NFPA, UL, ISO, and other organizations.
AFSA’s SprinklerFORUM, Informal Interpretations, Sprinkler Age technical articles, Designer’s Challenge, ITM Challenge, webinars, and other items will continue to be offered. Our technical team is strong and is here to serve you. Feel free to use our services as we are an extension of your company’s technical team. I’m looking forward to a bright 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John August Denhardt, P.E., FSFPE is AFSA’s Vice President of Engineering & Technical Services. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.