Record-Breaking Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition
AFSA36: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition, held in Las Vegas, September 24-27, 2017, attracted a record number of registered attendees – 1,411 to be exact. Hosted by the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), fire sprinkler industry professionals from around the world convened at the Bellagio Las Vegas to collaborate on fire codes, specifications, and practices. Colleagues gathered for sessions, committee meetings, apprentice competitions, networking and social events, and annual awards.
“I am so proud to see that we broke records in every category this year from total attendance to the largest exhibitor participation,” says Marlene Garrett, CMP, vice president of meetings & operations. “You could feel the excitement and energy throughout the event. This reality makes me proud of our organization and industry as a whole to see how passionate our members are to take part in this training year after year.”
The week began Monday, September 25 with educational sessions, featuring a record-breaking 45 seminars on topics that promised to bring value to attendees’ operations. From learning how to optimize their business to a discussion on code updates, the over 1,400 participants were given the tools needed to further improve their fire sprinkler businesses.
As one attendee noted, “Every year we say it gets better and better, and 2017 was no exception.”
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 26, more than 400 attendees stood silently with their hands over their hearts as the convention kicked off with the National Anthem performed by Trina Heinrich of Bamford Fire Protection in Salina, Kansas, during the General Session, which was emceed by comedian Andy Martello from NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
During the General Session, AFSA President Frank Mortl III, CAE honored outgoing director Joe Heinrich of Bamford Fire Protection in Salinas, Kansas. AFSA Chairman of the Board Mike Meehan, VSC Fire & Security in Virginia Beach, Virginia, presented the association’s highest honor, the Henry S. Parmelee Award, to Bob Caputo, CFPS, CET, of Fire & Life Safety America in Richmond, Virginia, for a lifetime of service to the industry. Additionally, Randy Miller, deputy fire marshal in the Camas-Washougal Fire Marshal’s Office in Camas, Washington, was presented the Advocate of the Year Award by AFSA Legislative Committee Chair Ted Wills of Anchor Fire Protection in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. Tiffany Moore of Moore Fire Protection in Issaquah, Washington, was awarded the Young Professional of the Year Award by NextGen Initiative Chairwoman Meaghen Wills of Anchor Fire Protection in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. The seven finalists in the AFSA National Apprentice Competition were also recognized by Apprenticeship & Education Committee Co-Chairs Rod DiBona of Rapid Fire Protection in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Don Kaufman of Kaufman Fire Protection in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Following the opening session, attendees had the opportunity to explore the industry’s largest fire sprinkler exhibition, which hosted 165 booths sprawling over four ballrooms. As one exhibitor put it, “[AFSA36] gives us the best direct exposure to our core customer base. There is no better event to introduce new products, solicit customer input on potential new products, and to simply enjoy time together with colleagues, distribution partners, and customers.”
Technical and educational sessions provided attendees with the latest research, best practices, and the opportunity to earn CEUs/CPDs. After Wednesday’s educational opportunities, attendees were able to look on as the seven apprentice competition finalists built mini fire sprinkler systems in the heart of the exhibition hall.
In addition to the industry’s largest trade exhibition, AFSA hosted a number of networking events, such as the Rat Pack Awards Party where attendees and guests gathered on the Bellagio pool deck for an evening of networking, entertainment, and great food.
Wrapping up the Rat Pack Party was the announcement of the 2017 winners of AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition. Chance McCollister of Fire Tech Systems, Inc. of Shreveport, Louisiana, took home first place in the competition, followed by second-place finisher Joshua Allen of JG Tate Fire Protection Systems, Inc. of Poway, California, and third place finisher Jonathan Henderson with Eagle Automatic Fire Sprinkler of Houston, Texas. Honorable mentions were: Timo Broecker, Industrial Fire Sprinkler of San Diego, California; John Cowger, Rapid Fire Protection of Denver, Colorado; Heman Mills, American Fire Protection Group of Jackson, Tennessee; and Gregory Schneider, American Fire Protection Group of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Other highlights of AFSA36 were networking meals, NextGen Day, and the semi-annual Chapter Leadership Conference.
“As the highest attended fire sprinkler event in the history of the industry, AFSA36 provided elite levels of education, networking, and product innovation along with a forum to celebrate the association’s accomplishments,” states AFSA President Frank Mort III, CAE. “Another world-class event is expected for Washington, D.C. in 2018, which will be designed to professionally develop our regular convention attendees as well as many more new participants.”
AFSA37: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition in Washington, D.C., will take place at the Gaylord National, September 30 – October 3, 2018. Mark your calendars and plan to attend this gathering of industry leaders from around the world. More information will be available at firesprinkler.org in spring 2018.