Fire Protection Engineers Work to Make College Students Safe from Fire


College fire safety has become a serious concern as parents send their children off to college for the new school year. According to the United States Fire Administration, as of April 30, 2005, 75 people have been killed in student housing fires, both on- and off-campus since January 2000.

That is why the states of Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Rhode Island have designated September as Campus Fire Safety Month.

To help make their campuses safer from fire, many colleges and universities are employing the services of fire protection engineers.

According to officials at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, Bethesda, Md., fire protection engineering is a unique profession that uses science and technology to protect people and buildings from fires. In order to select and design cost effective fire protection for campuses, fire protection engineers analyze how buildings are used, how fires start and grow, and how fires affect people and property. They work alongside university architects, engineers and construction project managers to build and maintain fire safe campuses.

“I am making our students, faculty and buildings safer by ensuring that all new and renovated construction projects comply with current life safety and fire protection standards,” says Purdue University Fire Protection Engineer Michael Koppes. “Many of our construction projects are related to the university’s high demand for high-technology research.”

At Purdue, Koppes is responsible for protecting from fire over 69,000 students on four campuses throughout the state of Indiana. Some of Koppes’ projects include a state of the art nanotechnology building and a pharmaceutical research facility.

Since most campus fire deaths occur in housing units, besides working on the design and construction of new campus facilities, fire protection engineers are also designing ways to make existing campus housing units safer.

“Fire protection engineers are using the latest technologies to design systems that control fires, alert people to danger, and provide means for escape for campus housing facilities,” said SFPE Engineering Program Manager Chris Jelenewicz. “Since many deadly campus fires occur in student housing facilities, university facility managers and planners are working with fire protection engineers to put parents’ minds at ease by improving the fire protection in existing dormitories, fraternity houses and sorority houses.”

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