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President’s Report: Awareness

Awareness. Prior to being hired as AFSA’s executive vice president in late 2014, I had been employed as the executive director of the Michigan Lupus Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. We operated knowing that groups focused on socioeconomic or medically based causes often rely on awareness as a driving force of their mission. Upon my start date with AFSA, you can imagine how pleased I was to learn that our association has an invested pool of volunteers serving on our Fire Sprinkler Public Education & Awareness Committee. As I used to say to the lupus patients and family members in Michigan who looked to our Foundation for service and clinical trial achievements, fundraising is obviously critical, but awareness is just as important (if not more so) in the grand scheme of creating groundswells of support for your overall goals.

Led by Committee Chair Jeff Phifer of Crawford Sprinkler Co. of South Carolina and Immediate Past Committee Chair Jack Medovich of Fire & Life Safety America, AFSA’s Fire Sprinkler Public Education & Awareness Committee (PE&A Committee) has taken on a number of ambitious projects this year. In addition to coordinating side-by-side burn demonstrations, rewarding individuals for exemplary service to the industry, developing the most impactful social media platforms for contractors, performing grassroots efforts to develop our vocational workforce, and supporting AFSA NextGen Initiative activities, the PE&A Committee broke its own record in April with 70,742 entries into their “High School Scholarship Contest.”

In addition to highlighting the importance of residential fire sprinklers to so many future homebuyers, our PE&A Committee also manages a “Second Chance Scholarship” which awards multiple winners currently enrolled in a two- or four-year college, university, technical, career, or online school based in the United States. Nearly 40,000 entries were collected last year for this other scholarship program, setting a new record.

With major coverage in Teen Vogue and the Penny Hoarder, TV coverage on the CW network, and internet coverage with the Krazy Coupon Lady blog and the Strategic Scholar podcast, we had a banner year for the scholarship program. Both contests totaled over 110,000 direct opportunities within the last 12 months aimed to heighten fire protection awareness. Phenomenal.

As a founding member and proud supporter/contributor to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), AFSA has had the pleasure of assigning members of our PE&A Committee to coordinate with HFSC on multiple side-by-side burn demonstrations. Take it from someone who had only watched online burn demos prior to a couple of years ago, there is nothing like experiencing first-hand the moment of flashover – the instance of a fire spreading very rapidly across a gap because of intense heat. For the schoolchildren, parents and members of the lay public who have attended AFSA side-by-sides in recent years, the education prior to and throughout the demonstration as well as the subsequent invaluable awareness witnessed by the devastating effect of a home fire is immeasurable. Kudos to AFSA’s PE&A Committee for spearheading these efforts and look for more burn demonstrations at local AFSA chapter meetings and future Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition gatherings.

If you’re not already “following” AFSA on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, please consider doing so at your earliest convenience. There is an absolute wealth of quality information shared, every day, on each of those social media platforms. Whether you subscribe to any or all of the available outreach and awareness vehicles, even performing a quick search for recent posts on the “four majors” that AFSA populates many times each day will result in learning about industry-related stories geared to help contractors succeed. Additionally, the ever-popular printed edition of Sprinkler Age magazine has a supplemental online blog to further the PE&A Committee’s education and awareness benchmarks. SprinklerAge.com/ is another valuable resource to find the latest impactful fire sprinkler information in today’s digital world.

AFSA leadership is so very proud of our Fire Sprinkler Public Education & Awareness Committee and their many awareness-driven initiatives that have and continue to be faithfully executed. Working to promote the fire sprinkler concept, organizing public outreach events, promoting favorable state and local legislation, and creating awareness programming for chapters is a daunting task. Fortunately, AFSA has the generosity, benevolence and brilliance of 16 dedicated volunteers laser focused to raise the level of educational advancement for members and promote the use of automatic fire sprinkler systems through synchronized awareness.

Frank Mortl, III CAE is President of the American Fire Sprinkler Association

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