Fire safety engineer
Setting the bar. A new competence regime for building a safer future. The Final Report of the Competence Steering Group for Building a Safer Future, published in October 2020, defines fire safety engineering: ‘Application of engineering methods to the development or assessment of designs in the built environment through the analysis of specific fire scenarios or through the quantification of risk for a group of fire scenarios.’
Fire safety engineers may also be referred to as fire safety specialists and several other professional titles - there is no fixed title or role, as is the case with many jobs in the construction and building management industries. Some of the responsibilities of a fire safety engineer may overlap with those of a fire engineer. For more, see Fire Protection Engineering.
The primary responsibility of a fire safety engineer is to ensure that buildings are designed, constructed and renovated in a manner that minimises the risk of fire and prevent its spread, should a fire occur. This involves making recommendations based on research and engineering principles that would be suitable for the type of building being constructed or renovated. The recommendations also ensure that projects meet safety codes, regulations and requirements to protect people, property and the environment from the destructive effects of fire.
Fire safety engineers may:
- Identify, reduce and eliminate fire-related risks.
- Create a fire strategy based on designs, calculations and diagrams.
- Build fire safety practices into the design, incorporating specifics of the building along with the behaviours of those who occupy it.
- Suggest construction materials with fire safety in mind.
- Review installation methods.
- Provide advice on building occupancy levels and fire evacuation.
- Work with local authorities and others during fire investigations.
- Undertake risk assessments to identify potential hazards, the risks of fire and its effects.
- Minimise potential fire damage by effective design, layout and construction.
- Evaluate the optimum preventive and protective measures necessary to limit the consequences of fire.
- Design and develop fire detection, fire suppression and fire control systems, along with fire-related communication systems and equipment.
- Direct and control of relevant equipment and people in fire fighting and rescue operations strategies.
 Employment potential
Fire safety engineers may be employed full time in high risk industries such as oil refinery and chemical manufacture. They may also work for organisations such as architectural firms, property developers, insurance companies, engineering consultants, landlords, contractors, local authorities and so on.
Fire safety engineers work closely with architects, risk assessors and building services engineers. It is possible for fire safety engineers to specialise in a type of building (such as commercial, residential or mixed use, or even more narrowly in healthcare, education or retail, for instance) as they become more established in their careers.
Fire safety engineers should be appropriately educated, trained and experienced. There are a number of paths to qualification.
The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) is the professional body that represents fire engineers. The IFE registers suitably qualified IFE members as Chartered Engineers, Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians.
In Scotland, a degree level course for fire safety engineers has been available at the University of Edinburgh since 1974. It is one of the earliest programmes of its kind and includes degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Ulster University also has a Fire Safety Engineering Postgraduate Diploma/Master of Science, and the University of Central Lancashire offers an MSc in Fire Safety Engineering.
Fire safety engineers should understand:
- The nature, characteristics and mechanisms of fire including how it begins, spreads and can be controlled.
- How fires can be detected, managed and extinguished.
- The probable behaviour of structures, materials, machines, apparatus, and processes in relation to the protection of life, property and the environment.
- The interaction and integration of fire safety and other systems into buildings, and other built assets.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing consultants for building design and construction.
- Building design process.
- Building services engineer.
- CIBSE updates Fire Safety Engineering guidance.
- Designers for buildings and other built assets.
- Fire protection engineering.
- Fire safety design.
- Fire safety officer.
- Guide E: Fire Safety Engineering.
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
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