Of all the roles the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) has, one of the least appreciated is our role in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards process. The process that NFPA uses is designed to be very egalitarian and to give all the stakeholders in the fire protection community a voice and a vote. On the larger and high-profile committees you will find representatives from Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), owners, insurance, FM Global, Underwriters Laboratory, manufacturers, consulting engineers and fire sprinkler contractors. In theory, all are technical experts in their respective fields.
In general, this process works well and the standards are maintained and improved for the benefit of the public, but there are times when the process can get contentious and not all voting parties see the situation the same way. An AHJ may look at an unprotected combustible concealed space in a very different light than an owner or developer would. A manufacturer may look at a new technology very differently than a manufacturer of an older technology would. The labs that give us our “listing” may have a very different view of new products and how they interact with older products. An installing contractor may see a spacing or location issue in a very different way than an AHJ.
We at AFSA pride ourselves on our role in maintaining the standard and making sure the contractor’s voice is heard. To that end, we have excellent contractor and technical representation on all of the most important committees. All the NFPA standards are important documents but the day-to-day impact of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems; NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes; NFPA 13R, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies; NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems; NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection; NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems; and NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars; are huge and directly impact our livelihood. Roland Huggins, P.E., vice president of Engineering & Technical Services, and his staff at AFSA oversee this critical endeavor.
To all of the AFSA volunteer contractor representatives who give their time and their company’s time we are grateful for your expertise and your efforts to improve and maintain the standards that impact us all. The cost of this effort is substantial and can only be realistically accomplished by an association that is willing and capable of the task. AFSA is up to the job.
Michael Meehan is the AFSA Chairman of the Board. He is the senior vice president and a co-owner of VSC Fire & Security, Virginia Beach, Virginia.