FSi has an FPE!

But what is an FPE? And what do they do, anyway?

FSi’s very own Ben Roush passed his fire protection engineering (FPE) exam and obtained licensure, joining an elite group of about 5000 licensed FPEs in the country.

We at FSi are excited to have an FPE in our midst, but it turns out many of us aren’t sure exactly what an FPE does. If we don’t know, we thought there may be some confusion in the rest of the industry and we’d like to clear it up (at least for folks reading this blog).

What is an FPE? And what does it take to become one?

FPEs come from a broad range of backgrounds. Most FPEs are from the building design and construction industry, civil service like fire chiefs and fire marshals, and the insurance industry. To pass the rigorous exam and practice as an FPE, you must demonstrate knowledge in these four areas:

Fire protection analysis and management—best thought of as hazard and risks analysis, this area addresses basically two questions:
“How bad would a fire be and what is the risk of that specific fire happening?” and “How do we manage the risk through protocol and inspection?”

Fire Dynamics—This section includes the chemistry of combustion, fire growth and behavior, materials, air/fire interactions, and heat transfer.

Active and Passive systems—Those of us in the building industry will recognize active systems like fire sprinkler, smoke control, and fire alarm systems, versus passive systems like fire and smoke barriers and fire resistive structural construction. This segment also includes special extinguishing systems like clean agent and CO2 systems, special situations for fire control like warehouses and high hazard occupancies, and explosion protection and prevention.

Egress and Human Behavior—Exactly as it says, egress is concerned with how many people can exit a building with a specific configuration in a specific time. Calculations are based on empirical measurements for both able-bodied and folks with a variety of disabilities. Human behavior includes the psychology of occupants in a fire as both individuals and groups, the toxicology of smoke and fire, and specific factors in human response.

As you can see, the FPE discipline pulls together fluid mechanics, physics, chemistry, psychology, materials science, and empirical measurements of performance all into a single focus on reducing the risk of fire and minimizing the effects on life and property when a fire occurs.

What do FPEs do?

Now the harder question: what do FPEs do?

There are only two accredited programs in the country for a bachelor’s degree in fire protection engineering and both are relatively new. As a result, almost all FPEs are from related industries and are not “natively trained” in fire protection engineering. The job possibilities are nearly endless across a wide range of industries.

The participants in Ben’s study course, for example, included product representatives for active fire suppression systems, many folks from the insurance underwriting industry, several fire marshals or fire chiefs, and electrical and mechanical design consultants.

More specifically, what is FSi going to do with our FPE? (Besides giving him a little extra respect and a parking space with his name on it.) The short answer: much of what we’ve been doing for the past 30+ years, with the added assurance to our clients that we understand the multidisciplinary nature of fire protection, and are taking this into account in our recommendations and design.

For 30 years, FSi has designed fire sprinkler, fire alarm, and clean agent systems for both “normal” situations, and also for the highly complex industrial facilities we work in. We combine our extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) airflow experience with smoke control and management principles to tackle complex smoke control situations. And we will continue to assist our architectural partners with passive fire protection and egress analysis in complex situations.

We can also help you meet the FPE requirements of the building owners, including large industrial clients, federal agencies, and universities, who require FPEs on their design projects. The FPE accreditation provides third-party verification that the engineer brings a multi-disciplinary understanding to the design of fire protection systems.

If you find yourself in need of an FPE, or just have a question about fire protection, give us a call!