Services. Providing or supplying activities utilized by members or the public as a process of supportive assistance. The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) offers many helpful services to contractor members, manufacturers and suppliers, as well as the general public. One AFSA service in particular, that directly impacts all members and elements of society, is managed by three gentlemen within our Technical Services Department who each bring a unique, heavily experienced, and highly talented component to what is now the preeminent collection of professional staff focusing on engineering and standards within the entire fire sprinkler industry.
Led by AFSA’s Senior Vice President of Engineering & Technical Services Roland Huggins, P.E., AFSA’s Technical Services Department brings well over 100 years of combined experience to industry issues ranging from contracting, enforcement, consulting and user application. Roland has been on the AFSA staff since 1996 and is considered among the most respected voices on the NFPA Standards Council. Additionally, he has and continues to serve on many NFPA technical committees including NFPA 13 Technical Correlating Committee; NFPA 13 Discharge Criteria; NFPA 5000 Building Code Correlating Committee; and NFPA 101 Technical Committee on Industrial, Storage, and Miscellaneous Occupancies. Having a trusted AFSA voice provide substantial influence to industry committees that are critical to the every day job conditions of contractors is a responsibility Roland does not take lightly.
Roland oversees all aspects of AFSA’s technical resources including informal interpretations, NFPA standards related to fire sprinklers, recall information, our Reference Guide to Automatic Sprinklers, and the ever-popular SprinklerForum email chat list. In total, Roland’s team serves on 17 NFPA technical committees which is augmented by an additional 31 AFSA-member representatives, allowing for 27 NFPA technical committees to receive AFSA’s authority regarding the intent of crucial installation standards that drive our industry.
Tom Wellen, P.E., has been AFSA’s manager of fire protection engineering since 2006 and is our lead expert pertaining to either written or verbal informal interpretations. Drawing on resources from the vast AFSA library, NFPA standards, building codes, as well as dependable volunteer contractor members willing to lend their skilled perspective to an issue, Tom Wellen efficiently provides “informal interps” on any subject related to automatic fire sprinklers at no cost to members. This is a complimentary member service available as often as members require these services, in whatever format is most effective for the given situation.
In addition to informal interpretations, Tom Wellen also plays a major role for AFSA on NFPA technical committees, writes useful articles for our digital and print platforms, performs fire modeling, and teaches AFSA’s Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning School. If you’re fortunate, you will have an opportunity to witness an in-person seminar or online webinar delivered by our manager of fire protection engineering. Tom Wellen has generated quite a following over the years and has become “must-see” viewing at numerous AFSA chapter events as well as during his multiple AFSA convention presentations.
The newest member of AFSA’s Technical Services Department joined our team in 2016, bringing a wealth of real-world contracting experience to the fold in the role of technical programs specialist. Tom Noble, E.T., has gotten off to a tremendous start within the AFSA family particularly as the primary instructor for our ever-popular Beginning Fire Sprinkler System Planning School, aka Beginning Design Course. By presenting a comprehensive, practical approach to preparing fire sprinkler system drawings, students learn by actually planning and drawing sprinkler systems while studying and applying NFPA 13 (2016 edition). The school sold out all seven classes in 2016 and in response to popular demand, AFSA has increased the class size this year from 15 to 18, while continuing to offer seven classes. Good thing Tom Noble has a tenacious desire to deliver exceptional services or we would run the risk of burning the poor guy out within his first year on staff!
Tom Noble is already adept at answering member questions regarding apprentice books, managing AFSA’s renowned National Apprentice Competition, drafting technical articles, providing support for informal interpretations, serving on NFPA technical committees, and developing our Sprinkler Reference Guide. It greatly impressed me last year when during his final interview, Tom Noble repeatedly mentioned the term “service” as a primary goal for his professional future. For anyone who’s had the pleasure of interacting with Tom Noble, you quickly realize he totally fits within the exceptional culture of service providers pervasive among the entire AFSA staff.
AFSA leadership is extremely proud of the unrivaled professional excellence that the staff of our Technical Services Department brings to members. At this point in our 36-year history, the American Fire Sprinkler Association has earned the privilege of being internationally known and almost universally recognized as the preeminent resource on technical issues for the fire sprinkler industry. Our mission was founded on service, and we encourage all industry personnel to reach out to AFSA when seeking the highest quality of technical services.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank Mortl III, CAE is President of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.