A New Year brings resolutions. This year, why don’t you consider investing in yourself. Over the years, I have known many great layout technicians and engineers who are getting old. I do not mean old with respect to age. I mean old and outdated with regard to their training and staying current with technical changes in their field of expertise. In our busy careers, it is easy to put off training. However, training is a necessity if you want to do your best. Let me explain by giving an example. 

A good friend of mine, Alex, is 49 years old. He started in the sprinkler field at the age of 17 as a helper. He worked his way up the ladder: apprentice, fitter, layout assistant, and now a senior NICET Level 4 layout technician. He was a student in AFSA’s apprenticeship training series program, competed in the 1995 National Apprentice Competition, and won second place. He is one of the best technicians I know. His real field experience makes his layouts work. However, Alex is getting old. He is constantly producing work using the 2013 or 2016 editions of the NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems; NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes; and NFPA 13R; Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies, standards. The 2019 edition is not in his sight. The 2022 edition is out, but it will be years before he even reads it. The 2025 edition is being worked on as I write this. Due to time restraints, Alex struggles to meet his continuing education requirements for his NICET certification, but he always finds a way so that he complies with its requirements.

For Alex to keep excelling and not get old, he and his employer need to make sure he has the time and resources to stay young. Taking classes or seminars, attending a convention, participating in the NFPA process, assisting NICET in updating their programs, obtaining additional certifications, or participating in other types of activities will do wonders for his career. Look at the example of Alex, and then look at yourself. Are you getting old, or is your career in great shape? Do you need to do a little more to stay in shape? 

If you need help staying young, AFSA’s Engineering & Technical Services & Education Services departments can assist. We have plenty of courses, seminars, webinars, an annual convention, our magazine Sprinkler Age, and other items. AFSA is out in the field presenting live in-person events. These programs allow attendees to keep their careers young. Participating in the NFPA process is another option. AFSA is active in approximately 48 different NFPA technical committees. My team knows the process well, and we can walk a member through it. Do you have a suggestion to change a standard? Why not start by submitting a public input to the NFPA 13, 2025 edition. Once you do one public input, number two is easy. You will see how the “sausage” is made. It might not be pretty, but in the end, it works. And because you are involved in the process, it forces you to stay young. The 2025 edition of NFPA 13 is currently open for public inputs. The closing date is June 1, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

I also want to take a moment to discuss our Technical Review services. For 2021, we processed approximately 700 reviews. That averages to about three every workday. The growth of this service to our members has been tremendous. We are clearly becoming a more significant resource for our members’ staff. Some of these reviews are relatively easy, some require research, and others just do not have a good answer. The questions without good answers usually become public inputs to the applicable standard. Feel free to use this service. I feel humbled stating this, but numerous individuals have told me the AFSA technical team is at the top of the field. Well, I know my staff is good, but we will always strive to be the best we can be. Our members deserve nothing less. 

Happy New Year, and make a resolution to stay young! AFSA will assist you, but you need to be an active participant.

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 as well as 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 in 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.

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