This week’s 2019 NFPA Conference and Expo in San Antonio is the first professional conference I have attended. I couldn’t have imagined how positive and productive just three days here would be.
A special shout-out and thank you to Engineered Corrosion Solutions (ECS) for offering to host me in booth 460 and for all the encouragement and support along the way. Last year they offered to carve out a space in their both for me to set up shop, and I greatly appreciate that opportunity!
As a complete rookie to the conference experience, here are my top takeaways from attending my first one:
1. I'm Fortunate to be in the PE Space
In the first two days alone I’ve met a good handful of people that stopped by to talk about their PE experience and share feedback from buying the prep guide or online prep series questions. All of the interactions were overwhelmingly positive.
I genuinely relish these experiences – it’s one thing to know fundamentally that the prep guide and online resources are helpful, but it’s a humbling experience to shake hands with people who’ve tried 4 times to pass and didn’t until they went all in with the prep material I’ve helped curate.
Those that pass can attest passing is all about time and intentional focus, and it's all in the individual taking the test. There's no material that can pass a test for someone, but I'm so thrilled every time to hear from those that have succeeded and am happy to help however I can.
It’s hard to say how much I appreciate those of you that I’ve met this week that stopped in to share your experience. I really do enjoy celebrating your success and accomplishment.
So great to discuss ideas with those who are passionate about the industry. This is the ECS booth at the Expo.
2. It's a Great Opportunity to See Former Colleagues
Conferences like these are great ways to pull together people from all over the country (and world). Catching up with former friends as well as my former boss is time well spent re-connecting.
3. Alumni networks are alive and well
Speaking of reconnecting – for those who studied fire protection at Oklahoma State, WPI, or Maryland – the conference is a great meeting ground to connect with other major players in the industry. I attended the University of Maryland’s top-secret and exclusive dinner for the first time and met some fun, fascinating and really outstanding people. I’m not allowed to talk about the sacrificed animals or secret handshake to get into the dinner, but if you ever get a chance to attend one of your alumni meetups I’d very much encourage you to do so.
Dr. James Milke speaking at the University of Maryland Alumni Dinner.
4. The Fire Protection Ecosystem
The main theme of the conference has been the improvement of fire protection and life safety through the ecosystem – essentially each person within industry plays to different roles and certainly has different strengths.
“The more connected we are, the more effective we’ll be at protecting the world together.” - Keith Williams, UL President and CEO and Trustee, NFPA Board of Directors.
The emphasis is that the better connected we are and the better we understand our strengths and our roles – the better we’ll be able to move the industry forward as a whole. While a fairly high-level concept, I’ve thought about this a lot and the website and emphasis on access and sharing of knowledge is exactly where I feel I can help support this effort.
Main theme and entry to the conference hall in San Antonio.
5. Developing Platforms for the Right Knowledge at the Right Time
One of the fundamental questions about the Ecosystem is how do we create the platforms that foster getting the right knowledge at the right time, in the right environment. In the NFPA-lens I’m sure that discussion is about availability of standards and how that’s developed, marketed, and distributed.
In a similar sense that’s exactly what I’ve concerned myself with over the past few years. We know that the generation who’s grown up with google (and didn’t have to wait for Jeeves to answer everything) desire and are often better at grabbing information instantaneously. What are those platforms that can help foster quality information in real time? It’s an open-ended question but it’s something that I’ve heard through many organizations that are looking to help transition information for the new way the industry works.
6. Chris Logan is One Cool Dude
As a parent of young kids we read these books on “Pete the Cat”. If you’ve ever read them you’ve probably wondered like me what 7th grader is now a millionaire by writing and illustrating these books about a savvy and all around groovy cat named Pete. I don’t understand how they’re popular, but my 2-year old and 4-year old love them and of course Pete is one top cat in a world of dogs.
Back to the topic at hand – I think of Chris Logan as a real life version of Pete the Cat. If you don’t know, Chris created the Fire Sprinkler Podcast out of Ontario less than a year ago and it has really become a major success. I was very fortunate to grab drinks with him at the conference and he described exactly my feelings about the industry our impact – we’re not the expert but we are happy to bring together quality people in the industry to at least start the conversation.
If you haven’t tuned in to some of his podcasts, you might consider it. I see Chris’ trajectory with his podcast project as becoming a very big deal (even more-so than it already is) in the coming years.
Had the pleasure to get to know Chris Logan with the Fire Sprinkler Podcast -
a very sharp and passionate voice for the industry.
7. Lots of Great Things Coming
Without being too shady, there are a lot of projects I’m excited to work on with the website and in collaboration with some organizations that could happen in the very near future.
While some of these concepts we discussed for just the first time, I’m optimistic that there are very good things in store that can have a relevant and positive impact for you and I. Thanks for reading and taking part in the journey!
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.