Members Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries
The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) is recognizing members who are celebrating milestone membership anniversaries. The member companies featured here have belonged to AFSA for 15 or more years of continuous membership.
“I’m honored to assist and advocate for our members, who are some of the best fire protection professionals I have ever met,” comments AFSA Regional Director of Membership & Chapter Support Dominick Kasmauskas, CFPS. “Keep doing what you do, and we’ll keep doing what we do to support you.”
Several members are celebrating milestone anniversaries in May and June 2021. Sprinkler Age asked those members some questions about their time in the fire sprinkler industry and with AFSA. Daniel Laird, CEO of Commonwealth Fire Protection Company (CFPC), and Linda Biernacki, president/owner of Fire Tech Systems, Inc., shared some of their favorite AFSA memories and things they’ve learned through the years.
How did you get Involved in the fire sprinkler industry?
Laird: “I was working as a draftsman for an engineering firm, and a friend who worked as an estimator for a local sprinkler contractor called me to see if I wanted to take a look at sprinkler design. I had just gotten married, and a $2 an hour raise in 1986 was a big deal! So I became a sprinkler designer.”
Biernacki: “I always liked to draw, but kept thinking of the old saying ‘starving artist,’ so I enrolled in a local VoTech for mechanical drafting, thinking about a career drawing process piping for the petrochemical industry. Fortunately for me, that did not work out. An ad in the newspaper for a fire sprinkler designer (how we found jobs back then) caught my eye, and I thought, ‘Hmmm, same premise,’ so I applied and was hired on the spot.”
How did you get involved with AFSA?
Laird: “My first involvement was to attend the three-week sprinkler design class in Dallas in 1987 while I was working for a union sprinkler contractor, COMASI.”
Biernacki: “When I started my business in 1990 as an open-shop contractor, AFSA was known for the best apprenticeship training program in our industry. One year later, in 1991, I was financially able to join AFSA and took advantage of every tool in AFSA’s toolbox to keep my employees trained and educated.”
What is your favorite or most used AFSA benefit?
Laird: “AFSA training, mainly the AFSA apprenticeship program and design programs.”
Biernacki: “Training and education, especially apprentice training. We have used AFSA’s program to train our fitters, staff participate in technical webinars, and I always bring a big group to attend convention seminars and enjoy the networking.”
What is your favorite AFSA convention memory?
Laird: “Attending the 2016 AFSA convention in Nashville, Tennessee, when we had a finalist in the National Apprenticeship Competition. Jon Offord went on to be crowned the winner of that year’s competition. It was awesome being there to witness the competition and to see many of our vendors, suppliers, and even competing contractors cheering for Jon! Being able to spend time with Jon and his wife, Natasha, on a personal level was very special. Jon continues to be an outstanding employee, and I can see a very bright future for Jon at CFPC.”
Biernacki: “We have been honored to have had several apprentices compete in AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition. I love seeing our fitters compete: Jared Jurek in 2003; Ross Low, who won third place in 2004; Chance McCollister, who won first place in 2017; and Jareth Hillard in 2018.”
What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry?
Laird: “Technology! The changes that have occurred to the ‘simple’ sprinkler head are amazing. Thirty years ago, as a designer, we had a handful of sprinklers to choose from, and now the list is multiple pages long.”
Biernacki: “The advances in AutoCAD for computer-generated shop drawings. Everything was hand-drawn when I started as a designer, and pipes were sized by hand calculations until HASS revolutionized calculations. Hallelujah!”
What’s the key ingredient to your success?
Laird: “Planning, specifically succession planning. If our company did not have a succession plan in place in 2014 and again in 2017, I do not think we would still be in business, or at the very least, we would be owned by someone else. I am proud to say our company became 100-percent employee owned at the beginning of 2020!”
Biernacki: “Take good care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers. Don’t take your eye off the simplest of things, like answering and returning phone calls, following through a timely manner, and don’t procrastinate when it comes to your customers’ needs.”
Celebrating AFSA Members
AFSA looks forward to celebrating with more members this year and is excited to be rolling out new membership programs. For more information, contact Membership & Chapter Relations Manager Meda Merritt at email@example.com or (214) 349-5965 ext. 133. Membership details are also available online at visit firesprinkler.org/trial.
Recognition for milestone membership anniversaries in Sprinkler Age will be done in five-year anniversary increments and is available to all membership types. Congratulations to these members!