Fire Protection Engineers Boost Building Safety Since 9/11

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff October 4, 2006

Better building methods and codes cannot stop determined terrorists, but they can dramatically increase the number of lives saved in the event of an attack.

One group of professionals in particular has worked hard to advance building occupants’ safety through better construction methods and codes: fire-protection engineers. Since 9/11, fire protection-engineers have increased their scrutiny of extreme events, seeking to improve the science and technology that is needed to make tall buildings safer, say officials from the Bethesda, Md.-based Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE)

Last year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as part of the investigation into collapse of the World Trade Center, recommended including fire-protection engineers in building design teams in order to prevent future devastation, especially on high-rise buildings.

“We have seen our work sought more frequently among the general building community,” says Dr. Jim Milke, fire-protection engineering professor at the University of Maryland.

NIST also recommended that engineers in other disciplines receive continuing education in fire-protection engineering, so they too can know how buildings react under extreme conditions.

But even before NIST released its report, SFPE had already undertaken initiatives to advance similar goals.

“We believe that we have a very important mission to serve our communities,”

says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager for SFPE. “Our knowledge base can be tapped to help limit damage and loss of lives in an extreme emergency.”

SFPE recently collaborated with engineering departments at several colleges and universities to help develop courses that teach the principles of fire protection engineering to engineers of every discipline.

The Society also developed distance learning programs to increase access to fire protection engineering education for students unable to travel or dedicate the time to attend full-time fire protection engineering courses.