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President’s Report: Assurance

Assurance. Having faith in a product or system that tends to inspire full confidence in the end user subscriber. Assurance, not the same as insurance, is what those of us in the association management field aim to provide voluntary member participants who take advantage of programs designed to enhance business practices. In the case of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), eight “Business Solutions” have been endorsed by elected merit shop fire sprinkler contractor representatives which include a 401(k) retirement plan, background screening, drug testing, freight service, fuel management, health insurance, and office product discounts. Additionally, our most seasoned Business Solution centers around experienced risk engineering, insurance claims specialists, and fire sprinkler construction safety resources. The AFSA Contractors Insurance Solution has been monitored very closely for nearly 30 years by the association’s Insurance & Safety Committee which meets regularly so that member contractors have the assurance necessary to access the program of choice for fire sprinkler contractors nationwide.

Administered by Blue River Underwriters, AFSA’s Contractors Insurance Solution was created in 1989 and primary operations include system design, fabrication, installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based systems. Other operations may be included as long as 51 percent of the operations are fire sprinkler installation, service, and repair. Also, the installation of CPVC jobs are not excluded within the program. The AFSA Insurance & Safety Committee meets as a group three to four times per year to discuss the virtues of the Contractors Insurance Solution, its recent effects on participating member contractors, areas for improvement, and to assess the overall performance of Blue River Underwriters. In short, our Insurance & Safety Committee provides assurance on insurance. Merit shop fire sprinkler contractors volunteering their time to deliver faith in a system which should inspire full confidence to fellow members of the association.

AFSA’s Insurance & Safety Committee has been chaired or co-chaired by six members of the Board of Directors charged with delivering oversight to the aforementioned Contractors Insurance Solution – Don Albares, Don Becker, Harold Black, Paul DeLorie, Gina Kanter, and 2018 Chair Mike Meehan. This year, Insurance & Safety Committee members include Don Becker, Dwight Bateman, Tommy Clements, Paul DeLorie, Rod DiBona, Joe Heinrich, Don Kaufman, Jeff Phifer, and Ted Wills. These committed volunteers review the critical issues important to member contractors such as commercial general liability insurance, available industry-specific coverages, as well as submission details including ACORD applications, loss runs, and what used to be known as the “AFSA Audit Trail.” Today, AFSA members underwritten by Blue River have the assurance of knowing they are automatically enrolled in a Claims Assistance Program – protecting their financial interests both during and after completion of any contractual work performed.

AFSA’s Claims Assistance Program features a coverage services support team, which includes state-of-the-art loss control, professional claims handling services, and a customized state-of-the-industry back rooms claims review by NFPA experts to support the needs of contractors enrolled in this Business Solution. Quite a nice strategic advantage to have the assurance of merit shop fire sprinkler contractor representatives overseeing an insurance feature that includes claims handling services with actual contractual backgrounds, a claims review process with real-world code-related experiences, an adjusting team which determines the strengths and weaknesses in defending or denying claims, in addition to an administrator whose goal is to identify the best outcome for the contractor. Bob Leonhart, senior vice president/program director for Blue River Underwriters, also serves as the insurance representative on AFSA’s Insurance & Safety Committee while representing top-rated carriers by way of expert underwriting leadership.

Assurances regarding safety have been a major point of emphasis for AFSA leadership in recent years as well. Launched in 2017, the AFSA online Safety Portal at afsasafetyportal.com is a customized safety platform built with the specific needs of merit shop fire sprinkler contractors in mind. With over 1,000 resources and references, AFSA’s Safety Portal provides assurance to members in the form of electrical safety, ladder safety, loss control, personal protection, and vehicle safety. Looking to supplement a company’s safety program by having a ready resource for researching and implementing best practices that ensure safe work environments, safety has been and continues to be a major point of focus for AFSA’s Insurance & Safety Committee. Merit shop contractors are encouraged to visit this free, members-only wealth of information which includes bulletins, employee handouts, employer programs, infographics, sample forms, and much more. In particular, the downloadable Tool Box Talks and ready links to various safety resources provide immediate positive impact to fire sprinkler professionals.

AFSA members interested in “maximizing their membership” need to look no further than the Business Solutions tab on firesprinkler.org. Developed by merit shop fire sprinkler contractors for the benefit of merit shop fire sprinkler contractors, these enhanced benefits and discounted products/services are available to members looking to gain a competitive edge. Multiple in-the-field business benefits coupled with education and training, technical resources, legal consultation, industry information, fire and life safety promotion, chapter participation, along with record-breaking industry attendance at our association’s events have resulted in over 1,200 merit shop contractor offices in 2018 finding value in retaining their AFSA membership. To many, strong leadership provided by our Insurance & Safety Committee resulting in a top-notch Contractors Insurance Solution and world-class online Safety Portal provides motivation to actively engage with AFSA along with a heightened level of assurance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank Mortl III, CAE is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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