Summertime is always a busy time for everyone. The days are longer, so we tend to try to accomplish more to take advantage of those extra daylight hours. Summertime is also family vacation time and time to just get stuff done around the yard and maybe clean out the garage.
Personally, one of my favorite summertime activities is attending the annual NFPA Conference & Expo®, which was held in Las Vegas this past June 19-23. I have always seen NFPA as the granddaddy of our industry, where all the parts and people associated with fire and life safety come together for our common cause. Your AFSA staff was very well represented, with our booth crewed by the membership team of Meda Merritt, Dominick Kasmauskas, and April Stives. Our entire technical services team was present for the technical sessions. Kevin Hall presented an educational session program on the updated NFPA 14, along with Committee Chair Steve Leyton and NFSA’s Terin Hopkins. John Denhardt and I participated in the NFPA Research Foundation planning session, and John presided over the Architects, Engineers, and Building Officials (AEBO) board and business meetings. I also had the privilege of serving as a panelist promoting why members should consider being an instructor for NFPA, which reminded me that we (AFSA) also have a call for instructors associated with our apprenticeship virtual instruction program (VIP) program as well as our other training program development committees. CAFSA (California American Fire Sprinkler Association) is also recruiting trainers in support of its apprenticeship training program.
In addition to the opportunity to see friends and acquaintances, one of my favorite parts of this year’s NFPA program was the general session speech delivered by NFPA Chair of the Board and long-time AFSA member Russ Leavitt, who reminded the membership that “we are all the NFPA.” His impassioned plea for each member to recruit one new member resonated with me at a deep level because here at AFSA, we beat the same drum with the same message. We had a recruiting effort in 2021 called “Be a Member – Get a Member.” Currently, we are offering new, prospective contractor members a three-month trial membership so they can see firsthand the benefits of membership in AFSA. We have extended the opportunity for AHJ membership at no cost, resulting in almost 800 AHJ members (up from 75). Offering these free memberships has been instrumental in developing relationships with AHJs and helping them to understand the perspective of our members. Regardless, Russ delivered a great message about the importance of membership and involvement with NFPA, and we encourage all our members to be members of NFPA as well.
As I travel the country visiting chapters and members, I often hear the term “AFSA National” used, and I have to say that I really hate that term because it sets up a “them and us” connotation. We here in Dallas are employees of AFSA. We are not AFSA; YOU ARE. The members of this association are the association, and we need to shine a bright spotlight on that reality. The staff is guided by the Board of Directors and the membership, who tell us what the needs are in terms of what programs and training materials are needed to support our industry and those of you who work hard every day to support this association with your dues. It is an honor and a privilege to serve this industry and the membership of AFSA and one that I personally cherish each and every day.
I want to continue to encourage every member to do exactly what Russ Leavitt suggested of NFPA members: each member should endeavor to recruit one member this year. Let’s work together to make your regional chapters stronger and your local meetings more valuable by letting us know what you need and how we can help you at the local level. It’s no secret that we’re stronger together. We all know our competitors and the reasons we want them to be knowledgeable and good competitors. Common problems deserve common solutions, so let’s make this happen!
I am happy to report that the first official meeting at the new AFSA offices kicked off in late June when seven representatives of CAFSA visited our new facility. CAFSA provides state- and federally-approved apprenticeship training programs to develop apprentices into trained and skilled journey workers for California’s fire sprinkler industry. Our meetings with the CAFSA board of directors and staff members were both educational and productive, providing a better understanding of the challenges unique to California and how our two related organizations can work together. Except for our HVAC system not being balanced and our conference room feeling more like a cold storage room than a meeting space, it was a great two days.
We staff members need to be more connected to our chapters and members, so please reach out and let us know how we might accomplish that goal with you. Thank you for your membership!
Have you registered yet for AFSA42 in Orlando? All members of our industry will benefit from attending. Visit www.firesprinkler.org/AFSA42 for all the details. We hope to see you there
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Caputo, CFPS, is president of AFSA. He has been an important part of the fire sprinkler industry for over 41 years and is a long-time member of AFSA and promoter of merit shop contracting. He has chaired and served on many NFPA committees. Caputo has written and presented seminars throughout the world on fire protection and life-safety systems and is a regular speaker at AFSA and NFPA conventions. He has developed AFSA education and training materials, and chaired two chapters of AFSA—Arizona and Southern California. Caputo is the recipient of numerous awards, including Fire Protection Contractor magazine’s “Industry person of the Year,” San Diego County Fire Chief’s Association’s “Fire Prevention Officer of the Year,” and AFSA’s highest honor, the Henry S. Parmelee Award.