Fire Protection Engineers (FPE’s) do not work in the public very often and their role in fire safety is widely unknown. However, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in their office to learn about their jobs and what they do behind the scenes.
|From the USFA web site|
In addition, they spend a lot of time meeting with people who need their help. I was able to sit in during one of these meetings where the owners of a building had a broken fire alarm control panel. The issue was that when it was installed on the outside of the building, the elements took their toll and caused it to malfunction. The FPEs informed them that the fire code specifically called for it to be installed on the inside and somehow they had gotten away with it being installed on the outside.
Finally, most of their enforcing comes when they are actively inspecting buildings. During and after a building is constructed, it has to be inspected to make sure all the codes are met and it will be safe for people to live or work in. For example, the diameter of the pipe bringing water in to the building must be at least a certain size, depending on the stresses it will be subjected to. In addition, there needs to be smoke detectors and sprinklers in every room that is qualified to have them. Unfortunately, almost all of these inspections are done in the morning so I was not able to join them to learn more.
The residents of Montgomery County are lucky to have four Fire Protection Engineers that graduated from the FPE program at the University of Maryland, one of only two in the country.