Celebrating our third-place win in the AFSA40 Golf Tournament with my teammates, AFSA40 Chair Linda Biernacki and Golf Chair Buck Buchanan.

President’s Report

I wake up most mornings thinking about how lucky I am to serve this industry as AFSA’s president. Our recent annual convention was an absolute grand slam home run on every level. I cannot say thank you enough to the more than 1,050 of you who attended AFSA40 live and in person. All events were well attended and clearly enjoyed by everyone. The formula for success this year was obviously one part COVID-19 exhaustion, one part great music and food, one part great location, and one part hard work by your AFSA staff! Both of our live bands were great, and the ranch party was amazing, with food as good as any restaurant I’ve ever been to. It was great to see so many of you up and dancing, enjoying the hand-rolled cigars and the company of friends. AFSA41 is planned for the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will certainly have a different feel, but I recommend marking your calendar for October 14-19, 2022, because you won’t want to miss what comes next! 

Please join me in welcoming the latest addition to AFSA’s technical services staff, Victoria Valentine, P.E. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Master of Science degree in Fire Protection Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) with a minor in Spanish. Valentine brings her 20-plus years of industry experience and technical committee work to strengthen AFSA’s all-star line-up and expand our member services exponentially. She is active in the industry through the American Society of Civil Engineers, International Code Council, National Fire Protection Association, National Institute of Building Sciences, and Society of Fire Protection Engineers. She can be reached at valentine@firesprinkler.org. Victoria is married to Dan De Dominic, a sales representative with Reliable Automatic Sprinkler, so we’re talking about a great sprinkler family through and through! Welcome aboard, Victoria!

Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of our nation, said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Education lessens the challenges we face in life and business. The more knowledge we gain, the more opportunities we have, individually and collectively. If COVID-19 had a positive side, it would be the enlightenment of the many ways we can deliver education and training here in the 21st century. Ways we would have never considered prior to being locked down for more than a year! Perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to deliver training in smaller bits and bytes and without the need for expensive travel and work interruption in many cases. 

AFSA’s founding principles and mission are centered on training and education for open shop fire sprinkler contractors, providing personal and professional growth for our members, and increasing growth opportunities for our member companies. The AFSA staff and leadership are constantly searching for ways to improve our programs to meet the needs of this ever-growing industry. 

With this simple goal in mind, we will be launching several programs we’ve been planning and discussing for many months. First is our three-day hydraulic calculations course with basic hydraulics by hand with a TI 30 hand-held calculator. This course will walk candidates through sprinkler calculations, balancing flows, standpipe calculations, and more. The learning objectives for this course include creating a broader hydraulic thought process for layout technicians, estimators, and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) by understanding the hydraulic and the cost impact of sprinkler types and spacing options, changing K factors and pipe types to reduce friction losses, and a host of concepts to help create well rounded, thoughtful, and more mature designers and plan reviewers.

Second, and perhaps most exciting, is AFSA’s three-day, hands-on Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) program. This is not a replacement for our existing 20-month ITM training program, but rather is designed for new and legacy inspectors, insurance adjusters, facility managers, AHJs, and anyone responsible for water-based fire protection system ITM. This program will combine classroom and lab time to cover the requirements of NFPA 25 along with tactile experience with a wide variety of valves and fire pumps for hands on inspection and testing. Attendees can see, hear, and touch equipment while conducting hands-on trip tests and flow tests. Let’s break it in the lab and not at your location! Information can be found in this edition of Sprinkler Age and on our website, www.firesprinkler.org. 

We’re also ushering in our two new apprenticeship training opportunities. The first is our virtual classroom for the book portion of apprenticeship at every level. Starting with Book 1, these virtual classes will be scheduled for alternate Thursdays. They will be available as live training or as recorded content to provide the greatest reach and opportunity for those apprentices whose geography or schedules don’t allow live classroom interaction. Participants can be enrolled in AFSA’s apprenticeship program or any other program with no prerequisite requirements. This training will be open to all registrants with minimal monthly fees to cover all costs, including proctored testing and instructor fees.

AFSA’s apprenticeship program will be available for registrants in Q1 of 2022. It will provide an all-encompassing cradle-to-grave nationwide apprenticeship program for those members who have not developed their own federally registered fire sprinkler fitter training program. This program is not intended to compete with existing programs but, rather, provide interested members with an alternative by providing a centralized, managed program based on AFSA’s existing curriculum, which is the basis for all existing open shop sprinkler fitter apprenticeship programs. 

AFSA’s Intermediate Level Fire Sprinkler Layout Technician course will be available in 2022 as well. The first three days of this two-week program will include an introduction to CAD and REVIT, presented with our training partners, Hydratec Software. This introductory course will be conducted with gaming-level laptop computers provided. Of course, participants are welcome to bring their own laptop and software, but we will be training on importing and converting files as well as creating and working with fire sprinkler system layouts in these formats. The remaining time will be spent getting deeper into NFPA 13, with a strong focus on storage occupancy design strategies. Class sizes will be limited, so early registration will be encouraged.

If you’ve gotten this far into my column, you might be wondering why I‘m always talking about and pushing new training programs, while I’m always wondering how it’s possible that we struggle to fill our classes and seminars. Members constantly tell us they don’t have enough qualified people for the workload and backlog they have. Yet, we offer industry-leading training options to help fill the gaps that very few members take advantage of. AFSA exists to meet the needs of our members, increase political influence, and create networking opportunities. The feedback we receive from members and chapter leaders drives our decisions to invest in the creation of training programs and which ones we keep or drop over time. Please reach out and tell us if these programs are on target or if we’re missing the mark. We need your feedback and, more so, we need your support to fill the pipeline with participants in these structured training offerings. 

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in person at a future local chapter meeting.

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

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