The topic of this month’s column is one I wanted to write about for a while, but other things kept taking center stage. I want to tell you about what I have seen and heard over the last six months or so traveling the country. I have traveled to Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. I have visited some of these states five times so far this year alone!

Our members are unbelievable. While the accents may change, the issues, challenges, and struggles are all the same. The determination and spirit of the owners, managers, designers, and field employees are what makes us strong. 

The classes and seminars I have taught have been fun and enriching for me. For example, one class was scheduled for 10 hours of training on a Friday. Most of the attendees were fitters, superintendents, a few apprentices, two designers, one estimator, and the owner. I thought to myself, “What fitter is going to sit still for 10 hours, especially on a Friday?” Well, the class was a joy. The attendees listened and asked questions, and the learning never stopped. I adjusted my presentation to allow them to tell me what they needed. The estimator and designer found out they cost their company money because they were installing a piece of equipment in every wet sprinkler zone when, in fact, it was not required by the installation standard. 

Our chapter meetings have been great. It does not matter if I am stopping by to attend the meeting and give a 30-minute update or if I am presenting a full seminar. The chapter executive directors and chapter leaders welcome me with open arms. The attendees actively participate in the meeting, and when I speak on a topic that may be confrontational, they challenge me. The discussions and feelings are real and hit home. I am a contractor at heart, so I have seen your issues out in the field and, hopefully, I can present some real solutions for your issues.

Our Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning School and our Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) Inspector Development program have been exciting. The faces change, but the “young student” desiring to build a career does not. The students are excited to learn while worried about passing their tests, so they don’t disappoint their loved ones or bosses. The students’ questions show their desire to learn.

As I write this column, the NFPA Annual Technical Meeting voting process is open. I just voted. The AFSA call for action for this year has been well received. While the debate on each issue was strong, I believe our positions will prevail. I want to personally thank each NFPA member who voted. On most issues, we can represent you, but when we need your voices, only you can make the difference. I will provide my analysis of the results in the next issue of Sprinkler Age.

I want to welcome our newest member of the Engineering and Technical Services team, Joshua MacDonald, M.S., CFPS, technical programs specialist. Joshua is a great addition and compliments our group well. He has jumped in with both feet. This last year, John Johnson, CFPS, manager of ITM technical training; Kevin Hall, M.Eng, P.E., ET, CWBSP, PMSFPE, coordinator, engineering and technical services; and now Joshua have joined our department. We do have the resources you desire and need.

One thing I tell all attendees I speak to is the AFSA’s Engineering and Technical Services team is here for you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We do check our emails, phone messages, texts—or whichever way you can get a hold of us. If we can, we will respond to your questions within 24 hours. Some topics do require research or calls to others. These answers could be slower due to the effort needed. Many of these topics generate public inputs for the next edition of the applicable standard. 

I look forward to meeting you in person. My team and numerous other speakers are preparing our presentations for AFSA40: Convention, Exhibition, and Apprentice Competition to be held this September at the JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa in Texas. This event will be an unbelievable convention with great technical presentations. I encourage you to view the schedule and register online at www.firesprinkler.org/AFSA40. I hope to see you there!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Denhardt, P.E., FSFPE is vice president of engineering & technical services for the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA). He is a Professional Engineer (P.E.) registered in the District of Columbia as well as the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In addition to his P.E., he is a NICET Level III in Automatic Sprinkler System Layout and Inspection & Testing of Water-Based Systems as well as NFPA Certified Water-Based Systems Professional (CWBSP). Denhardt has a Bachelor of Science degree in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland. He is a member of NFPA 13 AUT-AAC, NFPA 13 AUT-SSD, and NFPA 14 technical committees and is an SFPE fellow. Denhardt can be reached via email at jdenhardt@firesprinkler.org.

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