Although better building methods and codes cannot stop determined terrorists, they can dramatically increase the number of lives saved in the event of an attack. The fifth anniversary of attacks on World Trade Center has marked the occasion to evaluate fire protection engineers’ contributions to building safety.
One group of professionals in particular has worked hard to advance building occupant safety through better construction methods and codes: fire protection engineers. These professionals analyze buildings from the standpoint of how fires start and grow, and how they affect people and property. They work closely with architects, state and local building officials, and local fire departments to ensure safer high rise buildings.
Since 9/11, fire protection engineers have increased their scrutiny of extreme events, seeking to improve the science & technology that is needed to make tall buildings safer. Last year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as part of the investigation into collapse of the World Trade Center, recommended including fire protection engineers in building design teams in order to prevent future devastation, especially on high rise buildings.
“We have seen our work sought more frequently among the general building community,” says Dr. Jim Milke, fire protection engineering professor at the University of Maryland.
NIST also recommended that engineers in other disciplines receive continuing education in fire protection engineering, so they too can know how buildings react under extreme conditions.
Even before NIST released its report, the Bethesda, MD-based Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) had undertaken initiatives to advance similar goals.
“We believe that we have a very important mission to serve our communities,” says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager for SFPE. “Our knowledge base can be tapped to help limit damage and loss of lives in an extreme emergency.”
SFPE recently collaborated with engineering departments at several colleges and universities to help develop courses that teach the principles of fire protection engineering to engineers of every discipline. The Society also developed distance learning programs to increase access to fire protection engineering education for students unable to travel or dedicate the time to attend full-time fire protection engineering courses.
A fire protection engineer applies science and engineering principles to protect people, homes, workplaces, the economy, and the environment from the devastating effects of fires. Fire protection engineers analyze how buildings are used, how fires start and grow, and how fires affect people and property. They use the latest technologies to design systems to control fires, alert people to danger, and provide means for escape. Fire protection engineers also work closely with other professionals, including engineers of other disciplines, architects, state and local building officials, and local fire departments to build fire safe communities.
Organized in 1950, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers is the professional society for engineers involved in the field of fire protection engineering. The purposes of SFPE are to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering, maintain a high ethical standing among its members and foster fire protection engineering education.