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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fire protection engineering (also known as fire engineering or fire safety engineering) is the application of science and engineering principles to protect people and their environments from the destructive effects of fire and smoke.

The discipline of fire protection engineering includes, but is not exclusive to:

  • Active fire protection - fire suppression systems, and fire alarm.
  • Passive fire protection - fire and smoke barriers, space separation
  • Smoke control and management
  • Building design, layout, and space planning
  • Fire prevention programs
  • Fire dynamics and fire modeling
  • Human behavior during fire events
  • Risk analysis, including economic factors

In practice, fire protection engineers typically identify risks and design safeguards that aid in preventing, controlling, and mitigating the effects of fires. Fire protection engineers assist architects, building owners and developers in evaluating buildings' life safety and property protection goals. FPEs are also employed as fire investigators, including such very large-scale cases as the analysis of the collapse of the World Trade Centers. NASA uses fire protection engineers in its space program to help improve safety. In some countries, fire engineers are employed to provide 3rd party review for fire engineering solutions submitted in support of local building regulation applications.



Fire protection engineering (FPE) can lay a claim to roots dating as far back as Ancient Rome, when the Emperor Nero ordered the city to be rebuilt utilizing passive fire protection methods, such as space separation and non-combustible building materials, after a catastrophic fire[citation needed].The discipline of fire protection engineering emerged in the early 20th century as a distinct discipline, separate from civil, mechanical and chemical engineering, in response to new fire problems posed by the Industrial Revolution. Fire protection engineers of this era concerned themselves with devising methods to protect large factories, particularly spinning mills and other manufacturing properties[citation needed]. Another motivation to organize the discipline, define practices and conduct research to support innovations became clear in response to catastrophic conflagrations and mass urban fires that swept many major cities during the latter half of the 19th century (see City or area fires).

In 1903 the first degree program in fire protection engineering was initiated as the Armour Institute of Technology (later becoming part of the Illinois Institute of Technology)[citation needed].

As the 20th Century emerged, several catastrophic fires[citation needed]resulted in changes to buildings codes to better protect people and property from fire. It was only in the latter half of the 20th Century that fire protection engineering emerged as a unique engineering profession[citation needed]. The primary reason for this emergence was the development of the “body of knowledge,” specific to the profession that occurred after 1950[citation needed]. Other factors contributing to the growth of the profession include the start of the Institution of Fire Engineers in 1918 in the UK, and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in 1950 in the USA, the emergence of independent fire protection consulting engineers, and the promulgation of engineering standards for fire protection[citation needed].


Fire protection engineers, like their counterparts in other engineering and scientific disciplines, undertake a formal course of education and continuing professional development to acquire and maintain their competence. This education typically includes foundation studies in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and technical writing. Professional engineering studies focus students on acquiring proficiency in material science, statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, engineering economics, ethics, Systems in engineering, reliability, and environmental psychology. Studies in combustion, probabilistic risk assessment or risk management, the design of fire suppression systems, the application and interpretation of model building codes, and the measurement and simulation of fire phenomena complete most curricula[citation needed].

In the United States, the University of Maryland (UMD) offers the only ABET-accredited B.S. degree programs in Fire Protection Engineering, as well as graduate degrees and a distance M.Eng. program[1]. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) offers a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Fire Protection Engineering[2]. Oklahoma State University offers a ABET-accredited B.S. in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology (established in 1937) and is unique in its own right due to their hands on approach and combination of disciplines[citation needed]. As of 2009, the University of Houston–Downtown (UHD) became ABET-accredited for a B.S. in Fire Protection Engineering Technology, hoping to draw new students into the growing fire protection field. Other institutions, such as the University of Kansas, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, and Eastern Kentucky University have offered courses in Fire Protection Engineering or technology[citation needed]. The practice of fire sprinkler systems design, hydraulic calculation, and pipe connective strategies is commonly taught in-house at mechanical contracting firms throughout North America, and eventually prepares designers for certification by proof testing by associations such as NICET (National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies). NICET certification is commonly used as a proof of competency for securing a systems designer license and / or a mechanical license for installing fire protection systems.

In Europe, the University of Edinburgh has been among the first universities to offer a degree in Fire Engineering[3] and had its first research group in fire in the 1970s (these activities are now conducted at the new BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering). Other European Universities active in the fire engineering are Luleå tekniska universitet, Lund University, Stord/Haugesund University College, University of Central Lancashire, University of Manchester, University of Ulster, University of Leeds, University of Greenwich and London South Bank University[citation needed].

In Australia, Victoria University in Melbourne offers postgraduate courses in Building Fire Safety and Risk Engineering. The Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering (CESARE) is a research unit under the university and has facilities for research and testing of fire behaviour.

Professional registration

Suitably qualified and experienced fire protection engineers may qualify for registration as a professional engineer. The recognition of fire protection engineering as a separate discipline varies from state to state in the United States[citation needed]. Few countries outside the United States regulate the professional practice of fire protection engineering as a discipline[citation needed], although they may restrict the use of the title engineer in association with its practice.

The titles fire engineer and fire safety engineer tend to be preferred outside the United States, especially in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries influenced by the British fire service. Some proponents of the title fire safety engineer assert that the title fire protection engineer suggests a concern only with the design of active fire protection systems[citation needed], such as automatic fire sprinklers, fire detection, fire alarm systems, smoke management systems, gaseous fire suppression and other special hazard systems. The advocates of the title fire safety engineer suggest it more accurately indicates an interest in both preventive and protective measures[citation needed]. Those who prefer the title fire engineer suggest that it encompasses a broader range of professional activities associated with fire risk management, including the management of fire services. All titles are widely recognised. The Institution of Fire Engineers is one international organization that qualifies many aspects of the training and qualifications of fire engineers.[4]

See also



Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Fire protection is the prevention and reduction of the hazards associated with fires. It involves the study of the behavior, compartmentalization, suppression and investigation of fire and its related emergencies as well as the research and development, production, testing and application of mitigating systems. In structures, be they land-based, offshore or even ships, the owners and operators are responsible to maintain their facilities in accordance with a design-basis that is rooted in laws, including the local building code and fire code, which are enforced by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. Buildings must be constructed in accordance with the version of the building code that is in effect when an application for a building permit is made. Building inspectors check on compliance of a building under construction with the building code. Once construction is complete, a building must be maintained in accordance with the current fire code, which is enforced by the fire prevention officers of a local fire department. In the event of fire emergencies, Firefighters, fire investigators, and other fire prevention personnel called to mitigate, investigate and learn from the damage of a fire. Lessons learned from fires are applied to the authoring of both building codes and fire codes.

See also

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