20 years ago today, on 6 December 2002, I received confirmation of the company registration of the European Fire Sprinkler Network. I could then make all the other arrangements for the EFSN to start operating on 1 February 2003 – like King Charles III, the EFSN has two birthdays!
It has been a stimulating and rewarding 20 years for me and I would like to thank all those who have helped me over the past two decades, in particular my former chairman, Michel Walhof, who stepped up at a difficult time, and my current chairman, Volker Bechtloff. The European sprinkler market is now two and a half times larger in numbers of sprinklers installed, and employs many more people than before. Today I regularly see vans with “Sprinkler Systems” on them on the road in London – that was not the case 20 years ago.
When I started I did everything myself, because the company could not afford to pay anyone else (and could barely pay me). Today Toni does the accounts, Wendy looks after our conferences and Francois, John, Youcef, Alfredo and Piotr coordinate campaigns in Belgium, Netherlands, France, Spain and Poland respectively. The EFSN also contributes to the funding of Danny in Scotland and Ritchie in Wales, works with Joerg and Marco in Germany, and supports efforts by our members in other countries. Just last week we secured agreement to look for someone in Italy. By working with local people on a broad front we can maximise our impact, making the case for sprinklers in the local language and using material from one country as evidence in another.
That does not mean that I have stopped travelling. As I write this I am in Cologne for the VdS annual conference tomorrow. While online meetings saved many organisations, including the EFSN, during COVID there is no substitute for face to face meetings for more difficult discussions, and conferences such as this also allow us to make new contacts and meet people we had not planned on meeting.
We currently have numerous initiatives that could create new markets for sprinklers, as well as others that will help to strengthen quality of the systems installed and ensure fair market competition. Together we can double the market again. I look forward to continuing to work with you all, if not for another 20 years, certainly for some time yet.
Executive Director, EFSN