Since 9/11 World Trade Center Attack, Fire Protection Engineers Boost Building Safety

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The fifth anniversary of 9/11 and the collapse of World Trade Center towers in New York City marks an occasion to evaluate fire protection engineers’ contributions to building safety. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommended including fire protection engineers in building design teams. The SFPE has worked with colleges and universities to develop fire protection coursework, and has created distance learning programs for those unable to attend in-person courses.

We believe that we have a very important mission to serve our communities

Although better building methods and codes can not stop determined terrorists, they can dramatically increase the number of lives saved in the event of an incident like the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.

One group of professionals in particular has worked hard to advance building occupants’ safety through better construction methods and codes: fire protection engineers.

Fire protection engineers analyze buildings from the standpoint of how fires start and grow, and how they affect people and property. They work closely with other professionals, including 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 the collapse of the World Trade Center, recommended including fire protection engineers in building design teams in order to prevent future devastation, especially in 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.

What is a fire protection engineer?

According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, 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.    

About Society of Fire Protection Engineers

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. SFPE’s worldwide members include engineers in private practice, in industry, and in local, regional and national government. Chapters are located in Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

More information can be found at http://www.sfpe.org.

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