Not too many things scare me.

With Halloween having recently passed, I recall as a child going to a haunted house at our town’s American Legion hall. While other children were screaming, I looked at the costumed American Legion worker holding a fake chainsaw and gave him a “come on, now” look as I shook my head and walked away.

One of the rare times I’ve been scared occurred at age 10 when my cousins, my next-door neighbor and I found a dead body in the woods near our local grocery store. The young man had committed suicide by overdosing on aspirin about a week earlier my father later learned at the coroner’s inquest he attended with the next-door neighbor kid. I still get plenty of “yeah, right” reactions when I tell the story.

Other than one weather-related incident about a decade ago, a good dose of fear hadn’t visited me until I was on Capitol Hill last month observing ASA members visiting their members of Congress. At the same time, a shooting incident occurred between local police and a woman near the Hart Senate Office Building. The shooting triggered a Capitol lockdown.

At the time, I was with ASA Executive Director Chris Murin waiting outside the office of Rep. Daniel Maffei of New York. While in the hallway of the Cannon House Office Building, an odd garbled and nearly inaudible message came over the intercom followed by a series of heavy doors slamming — almost as if a giant row of dominoes were falling. It was at that point I mentioned to Chris what we heard probably wasn’t normal.

Sure enough we were whisked into Maffei’s office by members of his staff and briefed about the shooting. With CNN on a nearby office TV, we quickly learned where the incident had taken place. We were told to stay in the middle of the office and away from windows. A staff member also brought out several duffle-like bags, one of which contained gas masks. You can only imagine the thoughts that were running through my mind.

Luckily it was an isolated incident and the lockdown lasted about an hour. Maffei’s staff did a tremendous job keeping us informed and calm. Needless to say, ASA members had plenty to talk about at the evening receptions that night.

Despite the hectic situation, ASA members still were able to make the majority of their congressional meetings and hold important discussions on topics such as tax reform, energy production, marketplace fairness and metal theft. Before all you-know-what broke loose, I sat in on a meeting folks from APR Supply and Bradford White had with a member of Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania’s staff.

This is the second time I’ve observed plumbing industry-related Capitol Hill visits and each time I’ve come away with the same opinion. Meetings such as these are invaluable. Even if you only have 10 minutes to bend the ear of your member of Congress, that’s 10 minutes where you have the ability to lay out the facts and let your feelings be known on issues that have a direct impact on the business you run. If you’ve never participated in one of these outings, I encourage you to make time to do so in the future.

Hill visits weren’t the only positive to come out of NetworkASA 2013. The conference was loaded with educational opportunities whether in the form of seminars or by listening to the messages delivered by another star-studded cast of keynote speakers.

While the docket was definitely loaded with headline talent in the form of Bill O’Reilly, George Will and the husband-wife duo of James Carville and Mary Matalin, each keynote speaker had easy-to- implement advice for ASA members in attendance.

At the Weldbend IPD breakfast, O’Reilly said the big challenge is to get customers and employees to feel their lives are better off by dealing with you. Will said political change is certainly possible and Carville had perhaps the best business advice of the conference, telling the audience you can have the greatest strategy, but if you aren’t executing it, you aren’t winning.

Speaking of winning, NetworkASA 2013 falls into that category. The scuttlebutt at the conference was nothing but positive in terms of how the show ran and the programs that were offered. If you’re an ASA member who didn’t attend this year, take a serious look at attending next year’s offering in Las Vegas and see for yourself.