When I was thinking about the topic for this issue’s column, I kept thinking about the great time I had in Boston in June at the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Annual Conference & Expo. This annual event returned after being canceled the last two years due to the pandemic. While any event can be improved, overall, I had a great experience.
The day before the conference started, I attended NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation sprinkler research planning meeting. In that meeting, AFSA President Bob Caputo, AFSA Senior Manager of Engineering & Technical Services Kevin Hall, AFSA’s Manager of Technical Services Josh McDonald, AFSA’s Manager of ITM Technical Training John Johnson, and I represented our membership in developing the topics for the foundation to pursue. The exchange of information and research needs was outstanding.
Afterwards, I attended a welcoming reception to network. As I talked to the attendees, I kept hearing the same general comment, “Wow, AFSA is all over the place strongly representing their members. What you are doing is incredible.” While that makes me feel good, it takes an entire team working together to succeed. Our AFSA staff takes our job seriously.
That evening, I was invited to represent AFSA at the NFPA “Stars at Night” Awards Dinner. This black-tie affair was well run and organized. Awards were presented to individuals in eight distinct award categories. Kerry Bell of UL Laboratories, one of our contributors to Sprinkler Age, AFSA seminars, and conventions, received the Standards Medal. The Standards Medal is the most distinguished award given by the NFPA Standards Council, recognizing and honoring outstanding contributions to fire safety. Kerry is very deserving of this award, and I wish him congratulations!
The following morning, technical training sessions started. The number and breadth of selections for the training sessions were enormous. The training sessions continued for the next few days. Most sessions were standing-room only. Our own Director of Engineering & Technical Services Victoria Valentine and Bob Caputo presented seminars. Both did a great job. There was something for all no matter what level or the interest the attendees had.
The expo also opened, and I spent hours walking through the convention hall looking, talking, and greeting all sprinkler-related vendors and exhibitors—and I mean hours. The expo portion was well attended, and the feel of most people was they were finally glad to be back in person and putting a face with a name. No matter how many Zoom, Teams, or Google meetings you attend, shaking hands with a human is much more satisfying. Old friendships were rekindled, and new friendships started. I was able to view new or revised products, ask technical questions on issues we have seen with certain products, discuss membership in AFSA with some exhibitors, and ask for support for our new AFSA training laboratory being designed. Our Membership Team had a booth and staffed it throughout the expo. Traffic at the AFSA booth was busy, and a special thank you goes to all of our members who stopped by to discuss a technical topic, ask a membership question, or just to say hi. Also, the Engineering & Technical Services Team answered several Technical Reviews right on the expo floor! On most evenings, various suppliers, vendors, college alumni associations, and others held social hours or get-togethers. The bonding never stopped, and the connections will last a lifetime.
The highlight for my department is the NFPA Technical Meeting. Bob and the entire technical staff participated in the first day. NFPA 25, 2023 edition was our main interest; however, we joined in on all discussions and votes that day. To see how the standard is finalized and sent to the NFPA Standards Council to be issued is a tech person’s dream. The details of the NFPA 25 actions are discussed in the Higher Standards column in this issue, but let me state that AFSA was very pleased with the outcome for our members. I am looking forward to the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo.