Fire protection engineers use their knowledge of chemistry, physics and engineering principles to prevent and manage fires. Their job is to analyze buildings, transportation systems and materials for potential fire hazards, design fire prevention systems and train people in how to use them.
FPEs design fire sprinklers, fire alarms and other mechanical, electrical, architectural or structural fire protection systems that are coordinated into a comprehensive, fire and life safety strategy.
Fire protection engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to protect people and the environment, built and natural, from the hazards of fire. This includes hazard analysis, mitigation of fire damage through design and construction of buildings, examination of building uses and industrial processes, and design, installation and maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems.
In addition, fire protection engineers may be involved in designing alternative means and methods to meet code intent without following prescriptive codes. This allows architects and builders to meet their clients’ vision for a structure while maintaining the safety of those inside.
Fire protection engineers also design active protection systems like fire sprinkler systems that ensure a building will have adequate water to extinguish the fire. They also work on smoke control systems, which help to displace the spread of smoke in the event of a fire.
Fire protection engineers protect lives and property by designing methods to detect, extinguish and control fires. They work with architects and construction managers to design buildings that meet safety standards and minimize the risk of fires. They also help foresters and park rangers in rural areas identify safe ways to manage wildfires.
They also design passive protection systems, which compartmentalize the spread of fire and provide a certain amount of time for occupants to escape. These include fire rated walls that resist a specific type of fire and exit corridors that keep people out of the most dangerous parts of the building.
Fire protection engineers use engineering principles to analyze and mitigate fire hazards, examine building uses and industrial processes and design, install and maintain fire detection and suppression systems. Post-fire investigation and analysis fit within their domain as well.
Education and Training Requirements
To become a fire protection engineer, you'll need to get a bachelor’s degree in engineering or fire science. The degree must be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
After completing your bachelor’s degree, you can work for fire protection equipment manufacturers or as an independent consultant. You can also pursue a master's or doctorate in fire protection engineering to improve your career and advance your knowledge.
While education is important, the real value of becoming a fire protection engineer comes from experience and professional development. Continuing education is essential to stay up-to-date with new technologies and materials that could affect your future job.
Fire protection engineers use science and technology to protect people, buildings and property from fires. They design fire-suppression systems, develop evacuation plans, and evaluate building construction and materials for fire safety.
Fire engineers work in a variety of fields and industries, including government agencies, insurance companies, hospitals, schools, colleges, and private consulting firms. They also participate in forensic investigations and research labs.
Career opportunities in fire engineering range from entry-level positions to managerial positions. Graduate programs are available in both the United States and internationally.
The Society of Fire Protection Engineers reports that fire protection engineers can expect to earn a median salary of $85,000. Experienced engineers tend to draw higher salaries. SFPE also notes that fire engineers have access to a wide array of professional development opportunities to keep up with new techniques, equipment and materials.