FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT:  D’Arcy Montalvo

September 3, 2003                                                                              (214) 349-5965 ext. 115


Jack Viola Receives 2003 Parmelee Award

One of AFSA’s Founding Fathers Honored


            Dallas, TX — The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) announces John F. (Jack) Viola, HFP Corporation, Westfield, Mass., as the recipient of its 2003 Henry S. Parmelee Award. AFSA Chairman Robert Rees will present the award to Viola during the general session of AFSA’s 22nd Annual Convention & Exhibition, September 10-14 in Boca Raton, Fla.

AFSA instituted the Parmelee Award in 1983 to recognize an outstanding individual who has dedicated him or herself to the professional advancement of the automatic fire sprinkler industry and to the goal of fire safety through automatic sprinklers. It is named for Henry S. Parmelee, who is recognized as the inventor of the first commercially successful closed sprinkler head.

The efforts of this year’s honoree have helped add thousands of trained installers to the industry workforce and had a positive impact on the way many fire sprinkler contractors do business. Until 1981, fire sprinkler contractors were forced to either hire union labor or operate without an approved apprentice training program. When a group of contractors came together that year to establish the Independent Apprentice Training Committee (IATC), Jack Viola played a major role in developing a Merit Shop apprentice training program and obtaining its approval by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The IATC became the AFSA, and with approval from the Canadian Ministry of Education, Viola worked with a small committee to totally revise and Americanize the Canadian Apprentice program for use in the United States. Then, he participated in meetings with the Federal Coordinator for U.S. Apprentice Training Programs to prove the new program deserved approval.

“Obtaining this approval was a huge endeavor because the union had significant influence over apprenticeship program approval,” recollects Viola.

In the late 1980s, Viola chaired a committee that took on the monumental task of rewriting the four-year apprentice training program to keep abreast of our industry’s rapidly changing technology.  And in the mid 1990s, he worked countless hours with the committee that transitioned AFSA’s program into the Wheels of Learning Sprinkler Fitter training program, which is jointly owned by AFSA and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This program is widely accepted as the standard for sprinkler fitter training.

Viola’s efforts on the non-union apprentice program have helped merit shop companies across the country to compete more successfully in the fire sprinkler industry since 1982.



Throughout the past three decades, Viola has also represented open shop fire sprinkler contractors’ interests nationally by serving on several codes and standards committees of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and locally as a member of several boards and committees, including the Massachusetts Sprinkler Fitters Licensing Board and Massachusetts Building Code Committee. He is also a member of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).

Interestingly, what began as a job to carry him over until he found employment in his field of study became a lifelong career. After graduating from college in 1970 with a degree in psychology and a secondary in education, Viola spent some time in the Army National Guard. When he returned home, he found that jobs were hard to attain. Ed Smith, owner of Smith Automatic Sprinkler Company, a union shop sprinkler contractor, offered him a job. Viola enrolled in the union apprentice program.

            “As an apprentice… There were layoffs, and the work rules seemed very restrictive. It started to become clear to me that the union way was not the best way,” states Viola.

            A few years later Viola joined Ed Smith’s open shop company, HFP Corporation, and found “the merit shop way suited my beliefs and worth ethic.”

            During his 33-year career, Viola has worked as a fitter, designer, estimator, job superintendent, project manager, salesman, vice president of construction, and in 1981 he became president of the company.  He holds numerous certificates and licenses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

            AFSA Chairman Bob Rees, Sunland Fire Protection, Jamestown, N.C. states: “Diligence, perseverance, and dedication would be the first thoughts that come to mind with regard to Jack’s participation at AFSA.

“Jack has been here since the beginning and worked every step of the way as our organization moved to address challenges to the well-being of the fire sprinkler contractor and the industry. Even today, he continues to support the initiatives, challenges, potential opportunities being considered by the board, and assists by providing thoughtful and wise counsel to us all. We are grateful for his continued support of our industry and AFSA.”

AFSA President Steve Muncy notes Viola’s dedication to AFSA and the industry.

“Jack Viola has dedicated his life to the fire sprinkler industry, and devoted thousands of hours to advance training and education in this industry. Not only has he chaired the AFSA Apprenticeship & Education Committee, but he has put his words into action by promoting the fire sprinkler industry and training in his region and nationally. The fire sprinkler industry has advanced because of Jack Viola’s involvement.”

 Viola is grateful for the support of his family. He and his wife, Donna, recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. They have two children, Brad and Katie, and a daughter-in-law, Kellie.


Established in 1981, the American Fire Sprinkler Association is an international association representing the open shop fire sprinkler contractor. AFSA is dedicated to the educational and professional advancement of the automatic fire sprinkler industry.