This year’s Fire Suppression Systems Association (FSSA) 2016 Annual Forum was held in Fajardo, Puerto Rico at the Waldorf-Astoria El Conquistador Resort on Feb. 20-23, 2016. The Forum, which was packed full of fun networking opportunities and Caribbean-themed events, like the FSSA Welcome Reception & Dinner, which was an “All White” attire celebration, also played host to countless educational and special hazard fire protection industry-specific presentations designed to excite and strengthen attendees’ passion and knowledge for fire suppression.
On Sunday, the keynote presentation was delivered by Dr. Alan Beaulieu, one of the country’s leading economists and a principal of ITR Economics, where he serves as president. Since 1990, he has been consulting with companies throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia on how to forecast, plan and increase their profits based on business cycle trend analysis. Beaulieu is also the senior economic advisor to NAW, contributing editor for Industry Week and the chief economist for HARDI. He is the co-author, along with his brother, Brian, of the book Make Your Move and has written numerous articles on economic analysis. His keynotes and seminars have helped thousands of business owners and executives capitalize on emerging trends. Prior to joining ITR Economics, he was a principal in a steel fabrication company and also in a software development firm. Beaulieu offered Forum attendees insights related to the economy on a host of topics. He also provided analyses that examined business markets, consumer behaviors and both short- and long-term market predictions. Those who attended the keynote session said that he provided thoughtful – yet critical – analyses designed to help them plan the future financial outlook for their companies and, in many ways, for their own personal finances.
Dan Finnegan, Siemens; and Rodger Reiswig, Tyco also spoke to the group on Sunday and presented NFPA 3 & 4 Update: Integrated Systems Testing and how it impacts fire suppression systems professionals. Finnegan, the manager of industry affairs for Siemens Building Technologies, has a long and celebrated career in the professions of fire protection and life-safety. He began working in the “world of fire” when he served as a paramedic and the director of the fire prevention bureau for Chicago’s suburbs for 10 years. For the last 30 years, he has served in various roles with Siemens Fire (Pyrotronics-Cerberus Pyrotronics). Meanwhile, Reiswig is the director of industry relations for Tyco Fire Protection Products and possesses nearly 30 years of experience in the fire protection and life-safety industry, as well. He serves on more than 12 NFPA technical committees and as a principal member of the NFPA 72’s Correlating Committee. The two provided attendees with their knowledgeable and informed insights on how NFPA 3 & 4 updates will continue to influence the industry.
After their presentation, guests were treated to the first of several educational sessions offered as part of this year’s Forum; the first session provided insightful musings from Paul Endress, an internationally recognized communication authority and the inventor of the Communication Styles 2.0 model, which gives people an easy-to-use way to understand themselves and those around them. Speaking on several topics, Endress highlighted techniques that attendees could use to stop the revolving door of talent, particularly among Millennials – a key demographic of the U.S. business environment who often bounce from one role to another in a shorter amount of time than preceding generations. Attendees indicated that Endress was an inspiring speaker who provided new techniques for helping business executives approach their problems through implementable objectives.
Following Endress’ presentation, Brad Stilwell, of Fike Corporation, provided another education session, this time focusing upon “Clean Agent Performance on 480V.” Stilwell, the director of special projects for Fike Corporation, has worked at Fike for 24 years and holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri. He is a committee member for NFPA 12, 12A, 2001 and 750 and holds 12 U.S. patents for fire suppression and pressure relief products. During his presentation, his passion for fire suppression was evident, and he offered insightful perspectives on how industry professionals can implement solutions for real world challenges.
The last presentation of the day was provided by Mac Fulfer, who is an attorney and celebrated facial reading expert who initially became interested in face reading for the purpose of jury selection. After years of practice and study, he authored “Amazing Face Reading,” a guide to reading faces. He shared with attendees how his use of face reading has provided amazing breakthroughs in communication. A presenter at more than 1,500 talks on face reading to Fortune 500 companies, the American Bar Association, meeting planners, doctors, psychologists and countless other professional groups, he shared key insights with FSSA members and even selected a few volunteers to help attendees better understand how his techniques reveal people’s nature and struggles.
On Monday, the Forum hosted its first-ever two-tier track of educational and informational presentations. Attendees were able to choose between either business or technical tracks and learn from presenters on a multitude of topics. For those who followed the technical track, they heard from presenters on topics such as wireless technology and fire suppression, which was presented by Dick Bauer, the vice president of sales for NOTIFIER; AFFA report fires in mission critical facilities, presented by Sue Sadler, who possesses more than 28 years of experience in the fire alarm industry, most recently as Xtralis’ vice president and general manager, Americas region; and, lastly, air containment aisle FP strategies by Steve Joseph, a 26-year fire protection professional who holds the position of director of market development for Xtralis, Inc., and a knowledgeable expert on the use of deployment of fire detection technologies in critical infrastructures.
Those who participated in the business track received advice and insights from a host of other thought-leaders and professionals, including another presentation by Endress, who presented the day prior on attrition and employment behaviors, who spoke on the second day about “Who Are These People Anyways,” a presentation aimed at understanding the people with whom we interact, work and learn from in our daily interactions; Randy Stutzman, of FMI Capital Partners, who shared his vast knowledge on transition planning with attendees in an industry that is quickly aging and focusing upon career shifts and employment challenges; and, lastly, from Glen Welch, who, as co-founder of Charter Partners, works with business leaders to build successful independent businesses through creative and innovative paths of shared knowledge and collaboration.
In addition to the educational sessions and business and technical track breakout groups, attendees also heard FSSA representatives on a host of issues that impact the industry. These updates were provided by the FSSA Technical Committee; the FSSA Marketing Committee; the FSSA Educational Foundation Committee; the FSSA Programming Committee and other key committees within the association. The last day of the Forum provided attendees the opportunities to participate in a breakfast meeting with their particular division – either Installers or Manufacturers – to discuss challenges the industry is experiencing and how the FSSA can best serve each niche. Finally, the FSSA held its closing session and all parties returned to one final meeting before adjourning.
All in all, the FSSA held nearly 18 hours of educational and informational sessions during its 2016 Annual Forum. Members’ insights and feedback from the previous year were consulted in order to develop the content and materials for this year’s Forum; most in attendance indicated that it was one of the best Annual Forum events that the FSSA has ever held. Considering that the FSSA is conducting similar member feedback for next year’s event, there is no question that the 35th Annual Forum will be even more exciting!