Why is fire protection engineering so important? Why is it essential that the life-safety systems are designed, installed and tested by qualified people who truly know and understand the code? For Jack Poole, principal at Poole Fire Protection, Inc., the answers lay in the numbers.
“With more than 3,000 people dying, more than 18,000 people injured and $10 billion in property damage each year from fires, that’s what [fire protection] is all about,” Poole said during a Sept. 16 Silent Knight webinar titled “Role and Responsibility of the Engineer vs. the Designer.” “We’re in this business to save lives and protect property, and there are lots of ways we do that.”
“As the community continues to struggle with a number of firefighter deaths, fire protection engineers are involved in making buildings safer,” Poole added. “We’re here to protect the safety and the welfare of the public from fire hazards.”
While engineers play a critical role in the fire protection industry, designers also play a part when it comes to fire alarms and mass notification systems. Participants left the webinar with an enhanced understanding of the separate responsibilities of the two professions. For instance, fire protection engineers evaluate the broad range of hazards and protection schemes required to develop a workable, integrated solution to a fire safety problem, while designers prepare drawings and material submittals based on the engineer’s design.
“From a fire alarm perspective, the fire protection engineer sets the criteria for the fire detection system—whether the fire alarm will be a manual or automatic system, how to sound the speakers or horns, whether there will be strobe lights or laser beam detectors,” said Poole, PE, FSFPE. “Now once that criteria is set, then the designer can pick up the fire alarm criteria and do the shop drawings.”
Here’s a bit more on the distinct roles:
Design and Layout Stages: When setting the design parameters for the system, the engineer takes into account how fires spark and grow; how smoke moves throughout a building; how many exits there are in a building; and numerous other factors. After the engineer prepares the criteria documents, the designer develops the shop drawings according to the engineer’s design. The engineer will review the designer’s drawings and it’s the engineer’s responsibility to make sure the shop drawings are consistent with the initial design parameters for the system.
Installation and Testing Stages: Subsequently, the engineer will monitor the system’s installation to make sure the right types of materials are being utilized, ensuring installation is consistent with the design’s intent. Once the system is installed at the end of the job, the engineer needs to be present to witness final acceptance testing and commissioning of the system to make sure it truly works as designed and intended, according to Poole, who has served as project manager, project engineer and lead fire protection engineer on projects for public and private sector clients.
Liability Insurance Significance: Moreover, it’s critical that engineers understand the liability and responsibility in the fire protection industry. For instance, if a resident passes away in a fire because a smoke detector could not be located properly, the engineer would be held liable, which is why engineers must obtain professional liability insurance.
The webinar is now viewable on demand on the Silent Knight website. Click here to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the engineer and designer.
About the Author
Beth Welch is the Manager of Public Relations and Social Engagement for Honeywell Fire Systems. For a decade, she has strived to raise awareness of new technologies, industry trends and information, for the benefit of engineers, integrators and end users.