San Diego Hosts America’s Largest Fire Sprinkler Event
The American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) 38th annual AFSA38: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition was held October 1-4 in San Diego, California. The beautiful weather and relaxed atmosphere of the Golden State offered the perfect backdrop for the annual “education vacation.” Nearly 1,500 fire sprinkler professionals and officials gathered at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for unrivaled educational seminars, stellar networking opportunities, and exciting social events!
AFSA convention attendees packed in for an exciting general session. At the session, AFSA Immediate Past Chair Wayne Weisz, Cen-Cal Systems, Inc., Lodi, California, presented this year’s Henry S. Parmelee Award to Manning Strickland, Sr., Strickland Fire Protection, Inc., Forestville, Maryland. (See related article in September/October 2019 issue of Sprinkler Age). Legislative Committee Chair and incoming Chair of the Board Ted Wills, Anchor Fire Protection, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, presented the 2019 Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year Award to Amy Acton, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Grand Rapids, Michigan. While Acton could not be in attendance due to a conflict with the Phoenix Society’s annual World Burn Congress in Anaheim, California, she sent in a heartfelt thank you that was viewed at the general session. Finally, NextGen Initiative Chair Meaghan Wills also of Anchor Fire Protection presented the fourth annual Young Professional of the Year award to Stuart Weeks, American Fire Protection Inc., Greenville, South Carolina. (See related articles in the July/ August 2019 issue of Sprinkler Age). Additionally, AFSA was proud to donate $5,000 to two worthy charities, Homes For Our Troops and Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, on behalf of AFSA38 attendees. Representatives from these organizations came to thank AFSA members for their support as well as explain more about the important work they are doing.
Learn and Earn AFSA38 featured 39 seminars offering a total of 71 CEU credits offering subjects on five tracks including install/design, ITM, business management, supervisory training, and next generation. These seminars covered topics from field and supervisory training to updates to the technical codes and standards, and even strategies for growing your business.
In addition to these seminars, AFSA was proud to offer NextGen Day on Wednesday, October 3. A day packed full of seminars geared toward the under-40 members of the fire sprinkler industry, NextGen Day provided seminars and a panel to answer many questions under 40s find themselves facing in the workplace. The day of NextGen programming was capped off by a mentor mixer. The mixer, which was open to all AFSA38 attendees who RSVP’d for the event, provided an opportunity to learn more about the newly launched AFSA Mentor Program while networking with fellow attendees and signing up to join the program all while enjoying stunning views of the bay.
Exhibit Hall Excitement With 109 exhibiting companies, AFSA38’s exhibition hall was bustling on Thursday evening during its Grand Opening Reception. After the annual exhibitor appreciation hour, AFSA’s exhibitors networked with contractors as they began to explore the 2019 AFSA exhibit hall. Spirits were high as guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres while networking and enjoying displays of the newest industry products and services. On Friday, contractors, guests, and invited Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) explored the exhibit hall once more while also viewing the live National Apprentice Competition. Spectators looked on while AFSA’s top seven fire sprinkler apprentices vied for the title of champion during the installation portion of the competition featured in the exhibit hall.
For the 26th year in a row, AFSA also offered on Friday to local AHJs a free plan review seminar as well as an opportunity to enjoy the industry’s largest exhibition. Nearly 40 AHJs attended AFSA’s annual “AHJ Day” to learn and network with industry professionals. The AHJ-only seminars proved once again to be an invaluable experience for the AHJs in attendance.
National Apprentice Competition On the second day of exhibits onlookers packed into the exhibit hall to watch as AFSA’s seven top apprentices competed for the title of number one fire sprinkler fitter in the Nation during AFSA’s 26th Annual National Apprentice Competition. The competition not only provides a chance for the apprentices to show their skills live but for them to promote apprentice training and receive as apprentices who are actively participating in the AFSA Apprenticeship program.
SeaWorld Soiree AFSA38 ended with the annual Awards Party at SeaWorld San Diego. AFSA guests had exclusive access to the Wild Arctic Exhibit featuring belugas, sea lions, walruses, and penguins, as well as the Electric Eel, a multi-launch coaster with high energy twists and electrifying loops. But the most anticipated feature of the party was the announcement of the 36th annual National Apprentice Competition champion. Joe Headrick of Rapid Fire Protection, Inc., in Bismarck, North Dakota won first place as well as a cash prize of $5,000. Ricky Sutter of JPI Development Group, Inc., Murrieta, California, won second place and a $3,000 cash prize, while Federico Martinez, Jr. with
Western Fire Protection, Inc., Poway, California, took home third place along with a cash prize of $2,000. (Look for an in-depth feature on our 2019 National Apprentice Competition champion in the January/February 2020 issue of Sprinkler Age).
See You in Orlando Don’t miss the action! Mark your calendars for AFSA39: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition September 13-16, 2020 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida. For more information on this or next year’s conventions, visit firesprinkler.org/AFSA39. To view additional photos of the action, visit AFSA’s Flickr photo page at flickr.com/afsa.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Herring is the communications coordinator for the American Fire Sprinkler Association.