Welcome to AFSA40, held at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

President’s Report

Here we grow again! In addition to expanding our technical services group, we will soon be introducing a number of great new programs, starting with our Intermediate Fire Systems Layout Course, featuring three days of introduction to BIM and REVIT with the help of our training partner, Hydratech. Additional programs in our lineup include a three-day hydraulics course, which will consist of two days of hand calcs and a day of computer hydraulics to get designers to think hydraulically while laying out systems. We also want them to consider K-factors and other advantages to reduce starting pressures and make their systems more economical hydraulically and financially. In addition, we will be launching our bi-monthly (twice per month) virtual apprenticeship training classes for those who cannot attend classes at a physical location. Our apprenticeship program will be available to indenture and help manage new enrollees around the new year.  

Welcome everyone, and thank you for attending AFSA40: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition and helping AFSA celebrate 40 years as the voice of the merit shop fire sprinkler contractor. This convention will be epic and remembered for many years to come, not to mention being very hard to top in the future.

This convention brings a dichotomy of emotions for me since it will be my first as a member of staff. I usually get to see things from the guest speaker and attendee perspective, so it’s exciting, with a slice of concern, to oversee the many moving pieces and details necessary to put together a convention of this size. Our staff does an amazing job, and led by Marlene Garrett, they (along with Convention Chair Linda Biernacki) deserve a lot of credit and appreciation for long months of hard work and planning to bring us all together.

Our annual convention is also a time for the changing of the guard, in terms of new members for the Board of Directors and a changing leadership structure. While no one could be happier than I to have Jack Medovich, P.E. (Fire & Life Safety America, Richmond, Virginia), taking the reins as the incoming Chair, I will miss the humorous banter and challenges I’ve experience working with outgoing Chair Ted Wills (Anchor Fire Protection Co., Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania). As outgoing Chair, Ted has seen AFSA through a few interesting years and helped manage change and transitional leadership while running his own company (and spending as much time offshore fishing as possible). I know I speak for the entire industry in thanking Ted for his service to AFSA, and we hope he has enjoyed the time as much as we’ve benefited from his leadership.

Your association will be in great hands with Jack at the helm. He is president of Fire & Life Safety America, a former firefighter, a former fire official, and a graduate of the University of Maryland. A family man with four adult children, Jack is an avid golfer, my former boss, and one of the most influential and encouraging people in my life. 

We’re also saying farewell to longtime AFSA member of the Board Dwight Bateman (Southeast Fire Protection, Houston, Texas), who will be retiring at the end of this year. Dwight has served as Region 4 director for almost 20 years and is a past Chair of the Board. Like so many AFSA volunteer Board members, Dwight has donated his time and attention for the greater good of our industry and the mission of AFSA. Dwight always puts the interests of our members first and leads with character and grace. I hope you will wish Dwight and Ted well when you see them around the convention! 

This year’s Henry S. Parmelee Award recipient is George DiMatteo of Ferguson Fire & Fabrication. Those of us who know George and have the privilege of working with him directly or indirectly know the words humble, hardworking, dedicated, and honorable all come to mind when you see or hear his name. George always steps up to support AFSA and the fire sprinkler industry with donations of time, equipment, materials, and encouragement. George is a well-deserving recipient of our industry’s highest honor!

Our 2021 Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year, Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, was a unanimous decision and an easy choice to make. I have known Chief Browning for many years, and I can attest that our industry has no better friend in any state fire marshal’s office than Butch Browning. His passion for life safety and his belief in the need to include sprinklers in all construction occupancies are unsurpassed. Chief Browning knows fire fighting begins at the plan check table, not when the bell rings, and he is proud to share his belief in our shared mission. I am always so very proud to stand next to this man and especially grateful to have our association acknowledge his contributions and honor him in this way. Congratulations, Chief Browning, and thank you! 

I also want to take a moment to mention how heartwarming it is to see Scott Cox honored as AFSA’s Young Professional of the Year. Scott is a second-generation sprinkler man, and I have had the privilege of knowing Ron and Linda Cox for many years. This is a great sprinkler family with a rich history of supporting the industry and AFSA in Florida and beyond. With a brother, three of our four “kids,” plus a soon-to-be son-in-law in this business, I can relate to being a part of a sprinkler family. I know how proud the Cox family is of Scott, and it’s great to see our industry celebrate such a fine young man. 

As we move ahead into a new year, just around the corner, I hope to assure you that the staff and your Board of Directors are focused on the needs of our members. We’re here to help you and this industry in every way possible. We are developing new training programs in response to the feedback we receive from members and chapter meetings. Please keep up the communication, so we’re not guessing about the issues that matter to you. Please stop by the AFSA booth and say hello. We’re looking forward to seeing you

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Caputo, CFPS, is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA).

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