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Fire Prevention Engineer


Fire prevention engineers are responsible for ensuring safety and the prevention of fire in all structures. Using engineering and scientific principles, they try and protect people and their environment from fires. They analyze and point out fire hazards, install systems and analyze post-fire situations. They are a vital part of the building process and as a result, a significant portion of money allocated to construction goes to installing fire prevention features such as detection and suppression systems, egress systems and alerting systems. They consult with companies and advise people on how to apply fire safety systems in buildings. Fire prevention engineers also inspect locations and troubleshoot potential problems within a structure.

A fire prevention engineer should be overly knowledgeable about the nature of fire and associated products of combustion, they must understand how fire originates and spreads within buildings, how it can be detected, controlled and extinguished and can anticipate the behavior of materials and apparatus in a fire. They know a lot about fire safety, how buildings are constructed and relevant fire safety legislation and regulations. Fire prevention engineers install active fire protection systems such as fire alarms or smoke detectors and sprinkler systems for larger buildings. They strive to prevent fire before it happens by inspecting buildings and seeking out any potential disasters.

Fire prevention engineers are very people-oriented because they deal with other engineers, management and clients all the time. All in all, their main function is to ensure the safety and well being of those working in a building, plant or other workplace edifice.

Fire prevention engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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Grand Canyon University
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  Interests and Skills  
Fire prevention engineers should be interested and fully dedicated to the safety of people and structures. They should have a natural curiosity about safety engineering systems and have a creative imagination when designing new practices. They must possess excellent communication skills because a majority of their job deals with people. Engineers should be able to troubleshoot potential disaster areas and have a keen eye for spotting problems within a structural environment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Inspect buildings to decide which fire protection systems are required, such as fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire resistant doors
  • Inspect and review building designs and architects' drawings
  • Read relevant documents and discuss issues with local authorities such as city councils
  • Meet with builders and architects
  • Design fire protection systems to comply with building codes and regulations
  • Prepare and write reports to send to clients
  • May attend conferences and give presentations
  • Fire protection engineers work mainly in offices and on building sites to inspect and install fire protection equipment. They generally work a standard 40-hour workweek, but will work longer hours in the case of a fire emergency. They may also travel to fire safety and regulation conferences both locally and overseas.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Fire prevention engineers work in a variety of industries. Any structure that need fire protection and advice will require a fire prevention engineer to install necessary equipment. Examples of such organizations are, financial institutions, government institutions, health care institutions, manufacturing and industrial plants, transportation companies, universities and colleges, insurance companies, department or grocery stores and many more.
  • Some fire prevention engineers are self-employed and work as consultants on a freelance basis. This allows them the freedom to switch areas and industries and set their own hours and schedules.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Fire prevention engineers may advance into senior management and other management positions within an organization for which they work. They may decide to become fire chiefs or managers of fire squadrons. Those with engineering PhDs can teach professionally at the postsecondary level. They could also move into any other related engineering disciplines and specialize in a new area such as the environment, safety or a related field.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Fire prevention engineers require a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or in a general engineering field, such as manufacturing, safety, mechanical or chemical engineering. Then, they must also become registered as a Professional Engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as manufacturing engineering, and a PhD so that they can teach at the postsecondary level.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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