Wow! Talk about living the dream. I am so very honored and appreciative at having been selected to serve our industry as the new president of AFSA. As anyone who knows me will attest, I have always been passionate about fire and life safety, and especially the benefits of fire sprinklers in the built environment. My career has literally taken me around the globe with opportunities to teach and preach the value of fire sprinklers; but now, more than ever, I get to do what I love doing. With over 40 years of experience in this industry, including having been a fitter, a designer, and an owner, I believe I bring a new and unique brand of leadership to our association. I understand what we do and how we do it—nuts and bolts. I believe that together we can and will make AFSA even better and more responsive to the needs of our members and associates. The staff is energized and ready for new direction and challenges.
It would be a gross understatement to say that 2020 has been an unusual year for us all in so many ways. I take some solace in the fact that the election cycle is finally over, and we can stop suffering through political ads for a few years. Regardless of the outcome of elections and the political climate, these are simply circumstances to be dealt with by us individually and collectively as an industry.
Speaking of circumstances, COVID-19 has been in the forefront of our lives since February, and we’ve all been affected by the changing world around us as we learn to live with this new virus and its impact on our business models. Hopefully, having been designated as an essential business has helped many of us maintain a healthy work and cash flow as we wait for the light at the end of this dark tunnel.
As many of you know by now, AFSA’s Board of Directors has elected to implement a 20 percent increase in dues effective January 1, 2021. While there was a single increase back in 2018 (10 percent), there had not been any increase in the dues structure in the prior 20 years, and I’m sure we can agree that the cost of everything has increased during this timeframe. In hindsight, it would certainly have been better to have increased the dues in smaller increments annually or periodically in anticipation of the increased expenses of association management, but your Board members were intent on keeping your membership costs to a minimum as long as possible—and nothing has changed that thought. So, why now and why 20 percent?
Your Board held prices firm for so long that we fell behind with some of the tools and technology of AFSA’s business and we need to leap forward to catch up. This one-time catch-up increase will get us where we need to be in terms of delivering updated and expanded services our membership depends upon in support of your business. The current and past members of the Board and staff of AFSA have been good stewards of your money, but inflation over the years has been exponential. Without your support, loyalty, and commitment, AFSA could not exist. So first and foremost, THANK YOU! We won’t let you down!
AFSA has expanded and enriched our technical services department dramatically this year. The addition of John August Denhardt, P.E., FSFPE; Kevin Hall, P.E., MSFPE; and John Johnson, CFPS ensures our members have the best-in-class technical support available. Our requests for informal interpretations have increased dramatically. The rewrite of AFSA’s Fire Sprinkler Fitter Apprentice Training program will enhance the training your future fitters and foremen receive while increasing productivity and reducing liabilities through a better and well-trained, front-line labor force. Our ITM Inspector Development program and the expansion of AFSA’s Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning School to locations outside of Dallas have all been parts and pieces of your AFSA Board and staff efforts to deliver on the mission and serve the needs of our membership. We have plans in the works for an Advanced Fire Sprinkler System Planning School as well as a mentoring program in the near future. These new and expanded programs all come with a cost, and this is the reason for this one-time dues increase.
I hope all of our members will see the value of these new and expanded resources and will continue to support AFSA’s mission with your renewal. We’re in this together! I want to encourage each of you to be a strong member and reach out to others in your respective communities to get a new member involved. Help us grow together.
As we move forward, I am committed to ensuring we are meeting the needs of our membership and delivering on the mission in support of merit shop fire sprinkler contracting. I look forward to visiting all 31 chapters and listening to members about how we can best serve you regionally. In the meantime, my email and my phone are always on, and I promise to be as available as possible to our members.
Lastly, as we head into the holiday season with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want to wish you and your family a safe, healthy, and happy day of family time with a prayer that 2021 will be a better year for us all. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Caputo, CFPS, is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.