Speak Up: Connected Communities Honor Fallen Firefighters

T he date is March 19, 2013. The temperature is minus 8 degrees Celsius and the sky is bright blue in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The sound of a Highland piper playing “Flowers of the Forest” in the clear, crisp air can be heard for at least a mile in...

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To my surprise, once I came out, I was met with overwhelming support. I quickly reassured my co-workers that nothing was going to change and nobody would have to tiptoe around the issue. I made it known that if anyone had any questions for me, I would gladly respond openly and honestly. Once people started asking questions, they began to understand me. It became a great learning experience all around.

In honor of “National Coming Out Day,” let it be known that you support equality. Nobody is asking you to march in a gay-pride parade, but being a straight ally can be as simple as letting it be known that you would support an openly gay or lesbian co-worker. Or, if you hear someone on your crew talking disparagingly about an LGBT individual, telling him or her it is not OK.

Discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated in the fire service. Be a leader and speak up against all forms of inequality.

Brett Dunckel

Firefighter Paramedic

Broward Sheriff’s Office

Department of Fire Rescue

and Emergency Services

Fort Lauderdale, FL

The writer is the founder of the non-profit organization You Can Be Anything Inc. (youcanbeanything.org) and author of the book American Heroes Coming Out From Behind the Badge. He may be contacted at brett@youcanbeanything.org.

5 reasons to become

a fire protection engineer Fire is a danger that can impact entire communities. For example, each year in the U.S., more than 3,000 people die, thousands are injured and billions of dollars in property is lost as a result of fire. To combat these significant losses, fire protection engineers are using science and technology to make our world safer from fire.

Fire protection engineers work for an important purpose: to protect the environment, property and, most importantly, people from the dangers of fire. Here are five reasons to enter the essential field of fire protection engineering:

1. Fire protection engineers make a difference. Because fire protection engineering is a unique profession that focuses on protecting people, property and the environment from the ravages of fire, many fire protection engineers find job satisfaction knowing they are making a difference.

“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, a fire protection engineer from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. “I really wanted to have a positive impact on society, and so fire protection engineering drew me in.”

2. Fire protection engineers are in demand. Despite the staggering economy, fire protection engineers are in high demand and short supply. As such, employers find it difficult to recruit qualified engineers.

“The market for students graduating with a bachelor of science in fire protection engineering is very strong,” said Jim Milke, chair of the Fire Protection Engineering Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Many of our graduates this spring had multiple offers.”

3. Fire protection engineers work on interesting projects. Fire protection engineers have the opportunity to work on a wide range of important projects, ranging from designing a high-profile Las Vegas casino to protecting nuclear power plants.

“Being a fire protection engineer is very satisfying. I do something different every day, and I am continually learning and challenged by the projects,” said William Fletcher, a fire engineering consultant at Aon Fire Protection Engineering. “I get to work with a variety of people and projects in a field I really enjoy every day.”

4. Fire protection engineers are well paid. According to a survey conducted in 2012 by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), the median U.S. total compensation for fire protection engineers is $113,748. (See http://goo.gl/fkMjcd.) Because of the overwhelming demand for fire protection engineers, they are among the highest-paid engineers in the world.

5. Fire protection engineers have diverse career options. They are employed internationally by consulting firms, government agencies, corporations, fire departments, insurers and building code officials. Fire protection engineers perform a wide range of roles such as designing building systems that detect fires, control the spread of fires, control the movement of smoke and provide a safe means for building occupants to egress a building. They also conduct fire safety research and investigate fires to discover how they spread, why protective measures failed and how those measures could have been designed more effectively.