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They work to save lives before fires occur. In the course of the day, a fire projection engineer may inspect building plans and structures to evaluate which fire detection, fire alarm, and fire-fighting equipment will keep occupants and property from catastrophic damage. One of the more direct paths in how to become a fire protection engineer begins with the study of fire science and engineering mechanical, physical and structural.
Industrial Fire Protection Engineering - Robert G. Zalosh (Wiley, 2003)
You may choose to focus on the engineering, design and installation of fire alarm and sprinkler systems, evacuation portals and stairwells. Fire protection engineering training focuses on the skill sets and field knowledge necessary to advance into an engineering role.
Coursework can include hydraulics, physics, mathematics, research principles and technology, risk analysis, economics, fire agency organization, smoke management, passive and active smoke and fire barriers. Your school research should dovetail with your ongoing field experience. For example, you may visit construction sites, fire scenes, fire equipment development organizations, or construction trades conferences.
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Students will also develop data systems for calculating occupancy standards based on square footage for residential, commercial, public and industrial structures. Students will also learn the chemistry of building materials and furnishings, the composition and interaction of suppression chemicals with fire. Since fire protection engineers often interact with public law enforcement and legal entities, students also learn protocols for reporting on findings, creating court documents or studies that inform construction administrators.
Anyone interested in becoming a fire protection engineer should reach out to schools with experience in the field. The University of Maryland , for instance, has a full academic department dedicated to fire protection engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Experience plus education equals opportunity. While most fire protection engineers hold at least a four-year degree in fire science or engineering, many get their start as a professional or volunteer firefighter.
Or, if you already have an engineering education and background, you can take fire science courses to apply your knowledge to the fire prevention field. Additionally, buildings designed to prescriptive codes and standards have a good history of performance in fires. However, they do not result in uniform levels of safety or cost-benefit. Consider, for example, stores classified as mercantile occupancies.
A store that sells greeting cards would fall under this occupancy classification, as would a store that sold liquor in bottles. Although the protection that would be required in these stores would be similar, the fire hazard presented by these stores would be different. When using performance-based designs, fire safety goals for a building are identified. These goals may include life safety, property protection, mission continuity, and environmental protection.
These goals are subsequently refined into quantitative measures of building performance through engineering analysis and consultation with building stakeholders, such as the building owner and code enforcement officials. Next, fire scenarios are established. Fire scenarios are descriptions of the types of fires from which the building is intended to provide protection. The next step is the selection of design strategies.
Fire Protection Engineering | Coffman Engineers
The types of fire protection strategies that are used in performance-based design are no different than those that are used when applying prescriptive codes, such as detection, suppression, egress, or fire endurance. After fire protection strategies are developed, they are evaluated using engineering tools and models to determine whether the fire safety goals are met for each of the fire scenarios. For most buildings, the entire building will not be designed on a performance basis.
Much of the building will be designed using prescriptive codes, and for relatively simple buildings, all of the building will likely be designed using prescriptive codes. However, performance-based design offers opportunities to achieve desired aesthetics or functionality in a building. It also ensures that the fire performance of the whole building will be considered as more than an agglomeration of single systems. Historically, performance-based design has been practiced by use of "equivalency" or "alternate methods and materials" clauses found in most prescriptive codes.
These clauses permit the use of strategies other than those specified in the code, provided that they provide an equivalent or greater level of safety. Within the last few years, performance-based codes and design guides have been published. See following section, Emerging Issues. Designing from a "whole building" approach does not require that design be on a performance-basis. It is necessary, however, that the design of fire protection-related systems be coordinated with each other and with other building systems and the overall building design.
Additionally, fire protection engineers frequently collaborate with other design professionals in the design of the following systems:. Designing a building from a 'whole building' approach requires a fire protection engineer to coordinate the different types of fire protection that are designed into buildings including:. Performance-based design has been practiced for decades through the use of "equivalency" clauses and "alternate methods and materials" clauses found in most prescriptive codes. In these cases, performance-based design was applied on an ad-hoc basis, with the approach used developed between the designer and code enforcement official.
Over the last decade, performance-based design has become more formalized. In the U. Performance-based design facilitates designing fire protection from a "whole building" perspective, as it requires that interactions between all fire protection systems with the building and its occupants be considered. This attention may result in changes in the way buildings are designed, or an affirmation of current approaches. Fire protection is impacted by a number of codes and standards.
The most frequently used codes and standards include:. ASTM publishes several fire protection related standards through its E-5 committee.
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