As we start the New Year, my thoughts turn to addressing one of our membership’s largest needs: representation on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committees. Our average contractor member typically does not have the time or resources to participate in the NFPA process actively. I know this firsthand. Working for Strickland Fire Protection was a blessing. The owners, Manning and Jay Strickland, allowed me to serve as a volunteer at AFSA, representing this association on the NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, Sprinkler Discharge Committee. I started to serve on this technical committee in 1998 and continue today. Working full time for the Stricklands, my “spare” time to work on technical committee assignments was precious. I would review my technical work, write articles, prepare for meetings, and answer as many questions as my time would allow. It was my way to give back to my industry. However, I felt guilty. I was not able to put in the time to do a full and complete job. I always wanted to do more research, review the other technical committee activities, and teach about what I had learned. (That is why I applied for this job—the dream job for me!)

So why is representation on NFPA technical committees so important to our members? To properly work in our industry, you must know the applicable standards. To know the standards, you must understand how and why they were developed. Once you understand how they were developed, you can assure your interests are being protected as the standard is revised for the future. As I write this column, the AFSA staff has 21 public inputs under development for the 2025 edition of NFPA 13. The 2022 edition will not be released until the fall of this year, and public inputs for the 2025 edition will be due by early summer 2022. The revision process does not stop. If you are like most members using the 2019 edition or earlier of NFPA 13, it is a task just to keep up with the changes to the next edition. To be working on changes to an edition that is not even published is an almost impossible assignment.

AFSA currently has 77 seats held by staff or volunteers on 35 different NFPA technical committees. We also have applied for additional seats where we saw a need. While this task is a large undertaking, it ensures the AFSA membership is well represented in the NFPA process and allows the members to have access to a technical department with resources to assist your company as needed. We have your back. Feel free to use our services such as informal interpretations, webinars, live in-person training, on-demand products, and Sprinkler Age articles. In addition, we have developed challenges for your staff and others to participate in. The designer challenge, fitter challenge, ITM challenge, and AHJ challenge are in every issue of Sprinkler Age. These challenges will assist in keeping our members “on their toes” with quick but challenging questions. These questions are developed based on members’ questions to us and discussions we have with the technical committees. Participate! Let AFSA do the heavy work for you as you have a full-time job. My department’s job is to assist you and your company in handling the behind-the-scenes work in the NFPA process. If a member has a suggestion to improve a standard, feel to reach out to us. We can walk you through the process and offer guidance on how to make your suggestion be accepted.

If a member in good standing would like to volunteer their time and expertise to assist my department, let me know. We are always looking for volunteers to represent AFSA on NFPA technical committees, and we now have the support in place to assist you in this role. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank the 28 volunteers and their member companies who represent AFSA on NFPA technical committees. Our staff can only do so much. The volunteers make what we do possible. I enjoy working with this group and look forward to an exciting New Year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Denhardt, P.E., FSFPE is vice president of engineering & 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. 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 the NFPA 13 Sprinkler Discharge Committee, NFPA, is an SFPE Fellow, and sits on the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering’s Board of Visitors.

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