Introduction To Fire Protection Engineering

As a consultant fire protection engineer, I have had the privilege of working with local fire departments either to gather data on hydrant flows for sprinkler system calculations, code and regulatory issues, or just to stop in for a quick look around the firehouse and grab a bite of grub from the firehouse chef of the day. During this inter-action with the local fire departments, big or small, there was a common trait amongst my fellow colleagues, the thirst for information about the "other side" of the fire service - the fire protection engineering side. There were questions about sprinklers, building construction, dynamics of fire, and what fire station has the best chili. I have always enjoyed the ensuing conversation and debate that followed, trying to share as much information as I could, so as to promote some sort of bond between the fire service and the fire protection engineering communities.

Having my career origins in the public fire service as a full time firefighter and then moving into the private sector, specifically fire protection engineering, I have always maintained a close relationship to my roots. I have had the opportunity during most of my career in fire protection engineering to be a member of the fire department in the area of which I lived such as St. Charles, Missouri and most recently in Love, Mississippi (just 22 miles south of Memphis, TN.) where I was a Captain.

This brings me to the topic or topics of which I plan to discuss in this forum. My goal is to bridge the gap in order to share information between the two communities which will serve a multitude of objectives and benefit all of those who participate in either side of the fire service. It will benefit the public fire service by giving them additional background and information on various topics of fire protection engineering such as sprinklers, responding to an industrial facility and daily company inspections. The fire protection engineering side will benefit by better understanding the task involved with responding to fires, tactics and strategies, and the view point of what the fire is actually doing at the time the firefighter enters a room.

In order to ensure that we are all on the same page with respect to terminology, my next few articles will concentrate on developing a common understanding of terms and definitions between the author and the reader. We will cover topics such as: What is fire protection engineering? What is a sprinkler system? What is meant by fire resistive construction? I look forward to not only sharing my experience with you but also hearing your thoughts and feedback about Fire Protection Engineering.