Society of Fire Protection Engineers Are Saving Lives for a Living

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Fire Protection Engineers protect people and property from fire “behind the scenes”

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I really wanted to have a positive impact on society and so fire protection engineering drew me in.

Fire protection engineering is a unique profession that focuses on protecting people, property and the environment from the ravages of fire especially during the prominent summer fire season. But the Society of Fire Protection Engineers says almost all of it happens out of sight of the general public.

“The one thing that really pulled me into the field was the human element, knowing that the work that we do impacts the life safety of people in a building,” said Teresa Chung, fire protection engineer at Rolf Jensen and Associates, Inc. in Walnut Creek, Ca. “I really wanted to have a positive impact on society and so fire protection engineering drew me in.”

Using science and technology, fire protection engineers perform a wide range of roles that make the world safer from fire. Fire protection engineers:

  •     Evaluate buildings to pinpoint the risks of fires and the means to prevent them
  •     Design building systems that: detect fires, control the spread of fires, control the movement of smoke and provide a safe means for building occupants to exit a building
  •     Conduct fire safety research on consumer products and construction materials
  •     Investigate fires to discover how they spread, why protective measures failed and how those measures could have been designed more effectively

“Having so many career options available makes being a fire protection engineer an extremely exciting profession,” says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager with Bethesda, MD-based Society of Fire Protection Engineers. “Without a doubt, there is something for everyone.”

Most often, fire protection engineers find themselves working alongside architects and building owners, adding to a building’s design and recommending ways to meet the project stakeholder’s never-ending desire for “a safe building” at a cost efficient price.

“The best thing is when a client says thank you. To know that you’re appreciated for what you do, that they look to you for guidance—not only by clients, but internally by your peers. It’s fulfilling everyday,” added Chung.

Many careers in fire protection engineering provide opportunities for world travel, and offer the chance to work in a variety of environments.

Fire protection engineers are employed internationally by: private consulting firms, federal, state and local governmental agencies, large corporations, local fire departments, insurance firms, design firms and local building code officials.

“The most memorable part of my first job was going to China. Over two weeks, I worked on commissioning fire alarm and smoke control systems. I was able to see the sights, experience the culture, and get to know my co-workers better while working on the project,” said Tiffney Cates, fire protection engineer at Koffel Associates, Inc. in Elkridge, Md.

SFPE publishes The Guide to Careers in Fire Protection Engineering. This guide provides students the opportunity to explore college degree programs, specific career paths and different ways to enter and succeed in the field. A free copy of The Guide to Careers in Fire Protection Engineering can be obtained by contacting Chris Jelenewicz at chris(at)sfpe(dot)org.

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 use physics, chemistry and math to protect people and buildings from 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. While fire protection engineers are the lead professionals in the design of fire safe buildings and structures, fire protection engineers also work closely with other professionals, including engineers of other disciplines, architects, state and local building officials, and local fire departments.

About Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Organized in 1950, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is the professional organization that represents engineers engaged in fire protection worldwide. Through its membership of over 5,000 professionals and 65 international chapters, SFPE advances the science and practice of fire protection engineering while maintaining a high ethical standard. SFPE and its members serve to make the world a safer place by reducing the burden of unwanted fire through the application of science and technology.

For more information about a career in fire protection engineering, visit the SFPE Careers in Fire Protection Engineering Website at: http://careers.sfpe.org.

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