Fire is a danger that can affect entire communities. For example, each year in the U.S., more than 3,000 people die as a result of fire. To combat its destructive force, fire protection engineers use their acquired skills and the latest technology.
Fire Protection Engineer Tony Caro studied industrial engineering at New Mexico State University before switching to an education in fire protection engineering. “I realized I wasn’t as interested in industrial engineering as I was in the fire service. I also knew that I wanted to do more than just fight fires while still providing a service to society,” he says. “Fire protection engineering was the right fit.” Caro now works for the City of Denver’s Fire Prevention Bureau and Investigation Division.
Using science and technology, fire protection engineers perform a wide range of roles that include:
- Evaluating buildings to pinpoint the risks of fires and the means to prevent them;
- Reviewing building design documents for fire departments, fire marshal offices, and/or code enforcement agencies to assure compliance with the applicable building and fire regulations;
- Designing building systems that: detect fires, control the spread of fires, control the movement of smoke, alert people to danger, and provide a safe means for building occupants to exit a building;
- Conducting fire safety research on consumer products and construction materials;
- Investigating fires to discover how they spread, why protective measures failed, and how those measures could have been designed more effectively.
“Fire protection engineers are in high demand and short supply,” said Chris Jelenewicz, a fire protection engineer with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). In a recent SFPE survey of the largest employers of fire protection engineers, an overwhelming majority currently has difficulty recruiting enough qualified engineers. “Those surveyed believe this imbalance in demand will continue at least five years into the future,” said Jelenewicz.
These employers cover a wide range of industries, including private consulting firms, large corporations, fire departments, local building code officials, insurance firms, federal, state and local government agencies, and architectural and design firms. Frequently, fire protection engineers assist architects, builders, and fire departments in the design and construction of new facilities.
A fire protection engineer uses 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.
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