Summertime is a fun time for us all. Longer daylight hours mean we can get more done each day, both on the job and at home. Actually, June 21 is always a sad day for me because it marks the summer solstice which means every day that follows will have fewer daylight hours. Dallas has been a bit on the warmer side of late, but we will try to remember the heat in about six months.
Your AFSA staff members are excited about our new offices and lab build out. The new location is about 10 minutes north of the existing office space for those of you who have had the opportunity to visit here over the past 10-plus years. The lease space is in a two-story multi-tenant building with our offices and training center in adjoining spaces on the ground level.
We expect to occupy the new facility in early November 2022, with the lab fully operational around January 3. We are in the process of planning and building a state-of-the-art training facility with classrooms and a full-service lab for hands-on training opportunities and tactile learning experiences. The equipment is anticipated to include 18 functional sprinkler risers, including new and old valves from every manufacturer. With a modular approach, we will be able to change out equipment to accommodate specific training programs for sponsored events. We will have two fire hydrants—one to read and one to fully flow for flow test training. We often hear from designers, technicians, installers, and inspectors that they have never seen a sprinkler flow water. In AFSA’s lab, they will have an opportunity to see a variety of sprinklers do just that! Our wet lab area will have a glass wall with up lighting so attendees can see a variety of sprinklers flowing water and demonstrating spray patterns.
AFSA will offer in-house fire pump training with the ability to perform annual pump tests, simulate standpipe flow testing, and live sprinkler pull training, so it happens in our lab and not on your jobsite. Our training center will feature larger classrooms to accommodate the needs of our industry and our members. This investment in the future is a bit like the movie “Field of Dreams.” If we build it, they will come, fulfilling our mission and promise to educate and train the industry. Whether visiting AFSA for sprinkler design courses, ITM training, or fire sprinkler installation, we intend to expose everyone to the lab experience. We will deliver magical educational experiences for everyone who visits our training facility.
As we continue to see more return to pre-COVID-19 norms, there are still cases. The daily average in the U.S. is less than 1,000, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see spikes or new variants. Clearly, we are all tired of the COVID experience, but know that AFSA is prepared to continue educating our industry and fulfilling our mission.
On the negative side, the higher cost of everything from fuel to steel and groceries has had a negative impact on our business and personal lives. Being the optimist that I am, I know that nothing good lasts forever and neither does anything bad. Politics aside, this economic downturn will not last forever, and I encourage everyone to stay focused on what is actually happening in your lives and in your businesses. Do not fall into the trap of seeing and hearing what’s going on in the media and reacting to it. Every good project starts with a good estimate, followed by using that estimate for setting project goals and milestones. Stay focused on what you know and deliver. A positive attitude is 80 percent of the job.
Speaking of the positives, we have (finally) settled our discussions with the Department of Labor (DOL) over which type of apprenticeship program we should adopt. Since AFSA is not the employer, the DOL guidance is for us to seek approval on the National Guideline Standard. After months of discussion, AFSA has agreed to accept this option. This means AFSA will have an approved draft for members to use in applying for individual programs with the DOL and the individual company employing the apprentice(s) will be responsible to report on-the-job-training (OJT) hours and progress. AFSA’s main role will be to provide the classroom part of the training, which will be delivered virtually. Classroom sessions will be recorded; however, apprentices will be strongly encouraged to participate in live sessions where they can actively participate in Q&A with instructors.
Pricing structures and application procedures will be announced soon with three levels of service offered to our members. The first level will be providing books and online proctored testing. The second level of service will add the virtual classroom opportunity, and level three will include AFSA’s administrative offerings for registered programs.
We have a few creases to iron out before we launch. We want to ensure the various software programs get it right with enrollment, assessments (electronically proctored testing), reporting, and record keeping. We are planning to complete beta testing with a few members in the fourth quarter of 2022, with a full-scale launch in the first quarter of 2023. We know this will be a very active program for our members and we are looking forward to this new program.
Lastly, a reminder that AFSA41 scheduled for October 16–19 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas is going to be one of the best-ever conventions and exhibitions we’ve ever served up. You will not want to miss this event! Visit our website, firesprinkler.org, to register for AFSA41 and reserve your hotel room at the AFSA-guaranteed rate before they sell out. We’re excited to see you there!