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!
Unless you're tuned in as an AHJ yourself, you've likely made a few "code calls" to a code authority and asked a litany of questions to make sure your project's design meets the local requirements.
I'm not even sure if the term "code call" is a common term, but I've heard it enough that I suspect you already know what I'm talking about regardless of where you call home.
I enjoy this process now, but I didn't always. Fresh out of school I'm pretty sure I was visibly shaking the time I first made a code call. I was sure that within seconds my cover would be blown and it would be all too obvious that I had no idea what I was talking about. Despite my awkwardness (I make a good engineer, right??) nothing went sour and since then I've slowly learned and repeated many many times.
There was even one of my favorite code calls that I made about an elementary school to coordinate local fire alarm requirements. It was only right after the call late on a Friday afternoon that I found out that the fire marshal I just spoke with was hired onto our team and was starting the following Monday. They say fire protection is a small world, right? He turned out to be one of the most knowledgeable people I know and one of my favorite people to work alongside.
The Joys & Pains of Code Calls
Code calls also come in many different flavors.
Sometimes I'm just shocked by how friendly and helpful code authorities are. I once made a call at 15 minutes till 5pm on a Friday to a small town in Arkansas, thinking I would just leave a voicemail. After my questions, I asked if the department conducted flow tests, and while he said they did, he apologized that because of a prior commitment he couldn't do it then but would be happy to do it first thing Monday morning. I almost fell out of my chair. Very helpful and caring people in this field.
On the contrary, sometimes the hardest part about a code call is just finding the right person to speak with who is actually responsible for plan review of fire protection systems and getting a few minutes of their time. Not to pick on New York City because I love the people there and speak with a handful of you regularly, but if you're trying to get a hold of someone to verify or coordinate a few particulars of your system... well... good luck! Maybe it's because they knew I can't stand the Yankees.
I also sometimes get AHJs who simply say all they do is 'per code' and they aren't interested in talking specifics. The whole point of the call is filling in the gaps where a code or standard does not direct but rather defers decisions to the AHJ.
Want a siamese fire department connection with national thread, or a Storz-type? Either way is code compliant. As an engineer I can make either way work.
Is a wall-mounted FDC permissible, or does it need to be freestanding? Either location is compliant, but NFPA 13 says the location needs to be coordinated with the AHJ.
What I've gathered and refined over hundreds of code calls is my cheatsheet I currently use today. Just like the design cheatsheet, if you're using the Toolkit you can quickly highlight categories for your record keeping.
What's even better about this tool, though, is that you can quickly fill in the content (while on the call) and then right after save as a PDF and email to the AHJ themselves. Want them to have a record of the call and a quick way to verify your notes? Great! You now have a logged code call and the AHJ has an opportunity to review your notes.
The process of calling, taking notes, and composing the email used to take close to an hour total. This tool alone brings that total time to about 15-20 minutes. That's three-quarters of an hour you could save on every job you make the call!
A Radical Big-Picture Concept
One of my longer big-picture ideas to help the industry is to beta test and, if successful, open up a larger code-call database. I envision this as a database that brings designers and code authorities together to make local requirements clear and help jurisdictions get installations that reflect their preferences and mandates.
Want to know what hydraulic safety factor is required for sprinkler systems in Springfield, Illinois? Great - a quick query in the database reveals that and a clean list of other local requirements.
Want to know what type and location for FDC's that Tucson, Arizona requires? Great, we'd have that too.
This would clearly have a huge value for designers and engineers - but what I'm really curious about is how to incentivize code authorities to take the survey or help us populate the database. If you're an AHJ, email me (email@example.com) or comment below about whether you'd be open to the idea of making your local requirements public in a database.
I would have to think that AHJ input would only help local authorities get installations that match their needs - but I also know that getting action out of anyone is only possible with mutual benefit and sometimes incentives.
Just like the Design Cheatsheet posted a couple weeks ago, this form is integrated into the updated version of the MeyerFire Toolkit ready for download today. Below is a blank and filled-in template.
If you're already a Toolkit user, you can download the code call cheatsheet today by logging in here. If you're not using the Toolkit, you might consider joining in on what's quickly becoming what some consider the best tool for fire sprinkler design under $200. See more about it here.
The Questions on My List
The current code call checklist I use today has had items added and scratched over years of finding out what's important and what questions always get the same answers.
That being said, there's no real one defined list that matches everyone's preferences. What questions do you ask that you feel are important to the design that's not explicit in code? Comment below.
Join the Cause
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If you've been following the blog for awhile, you might already know about the Toolkit that has really taken off lately. This past week I've incorporated some (great) user feedback and now have a new version to present:
I've revamped the organization and it's FAR easier to navigate and use now.
With a new main menu and crisp pages the Toolkit is FAR easier to navigate. Now you can get what you need, quickly.
If you're already a subscriber to the Toolkit, use the download link below to get the latest version right now. No need for any new access codes - it just updates the Toolkit right over your current version.
A clip of the latest version of the Sprinkler Obstruction Calculator on the MeyerFire Toolkit.
What is the Toolkit, and what does it include?
The MeyerFire Toolkit is a downloadable series of excel-based tools that allow fire protection designers, engineers and code authorities to quickly calculate a myriad of regular applications. With this tool you can save time with quick but powerful tools that you can save, PDF, or print.
The Toolkit contains all of the tools you see on this website - plus the popular Fire Sprinkler Database - which is a live collection of all fire sprinklers on the market where you can sort and filter to see what products exist for your application, and then specify or design the ones that best match your design goals.
A Free 30-Day Trial, Starting Today
If you've never seen the Toolkit, or have used a trial version before and are interested in testing the new look, download the toolkit with a trial code (good through late March) here:
There's a few new additions to the Toolkit I hope to debut in the next couple weeks based on suggestions from users just like you. If you're an expert in fire flow calculations or water storage tank design and are interested in early testing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know someone who might be interested in giving the Toolkit a try, email them about downloading it today. As always, you can subscribe to these weekly articles & resources here.
As promised I've been busy developing all of the tools available from this site into a downloadable software package, where you can quickly run calculations, save, and print your work. I'm calling it the MeyerFire Toolkit.
Here's the info page about the MeyerFire Toolkit.
The Toolkit is a downloadable software package with an assortment of basic tools for the fire protection professional.
I have the software to a point now that I'd love to gather feedback from you - if you're interested.
If you'd like to beta test the software (try it out and poke around for free), please just reply to this email or shoot me a quick email at email@example.com letting me know you're interested. I'll send a link for a trial version of the software.
While it would be great to get a gauge on where the software is now, I'm far more interested in where it can go in the coming months and couple years. I've been very encouraged by the interest and support to date and I think what these tools are now hardly scratches the surface of what could be developed to help fire protection professionals like you work faster and smarter.
If you'd like to give it a try, all I ask is that you let me know your thoughts about it - usefulness, ways it can be improved, your level of interest - anything that might help build a better resource going forward.
See more about it all here: MeyerFire Toolkit. Thank you!
We are very excited to announce that we are launching new platform for Daily Discussion!
Starting Monday of next week, we will anonymously post open ended-questions that you submit. The technical questions will be distributed to our active community just as the PE Problems are now, and anyone willing to share their expertise will be invited to partake in the discussion. Our hope is that over time we provide opportunities for experts around the country and around the world to weigh in on and learn from the active discussions surrounding the daily questions.
We've kicked around various forms of the concept ever since we debuted the daily PE Problems a few years ago, but the interest and feedback gathered since we started has encouraged us to find ways to bring new content and better engage with the sharp, engaging audience that we hear from regularly.
Ready to submit a question? They can be anything in fire protection, from fire alarm to sprinkler, life safety to passive fire protection, theory to application. All questions are published anonymously:
Do you follow our Blog, but not the daily questions? You can update your subscription to include both our Weekly Blog posts as well as our Daily Questions here:
Know a colleague who might benefit or be interested in this? Recommend us to a friend.
As we pass the halfway point of 2017, we stop to take a look at major fire events of 2017 that have captured headlines and impacted ongoing discussions of fire protection and life safety around the world.
1. Chile Wildfires
January 20, 2017 | Central and Southern Chile
Major fires in Chile destroyed roughly 385,000 acres in central and southern Chile where strong winds, hot temperatures and a lack of rain prolonged a firefight that lasted over two weeks . The blaze has claimed over 1,000 homes, 11 lives, and has led to a state of emergency with some international firefighting aid . President Michelle Bachelet: "We have never seen anything on this scale, never in the history of Chile" .
More Reading: Al Jazeera, CNN, The Telegraph
5. Portuguese Wildfires
June 18, 2017 | Central Portugal
An apparent lighting strike is believed to have started a blaze that has reportedly killed as many as 70 people in Portugal . Many of the victims were found fleeing the fires in vehicles as a result of 'dry thunderstorms', where water evaporates before reaching the ground due to high temperatures . Although wildfires are not necessarily unusual, the death toll and spread of the fire was unique and likely aided by high temperatures and lack of precipitation in the area .
More Reading: BBC, CNN, Independent, NBC
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.