Core Competencies for the Practice of Fire Protection Engineering
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Initiated as part of the SFPE Strategic Plan, the SFPE Board of Directors recognized the importance of clearly defining an internationally applicable set of core competencies that a fire protection engineer needs to have. Globally, protecting people and property from fire events is a challenge. Those who specialize in fire protection engineering must have a base level of knowledge and experience in order to appropriately reduce the negative impacts from unwanted fire incidents.
The SFPE Standing Committee on Professional Qualifications (CPQ) and specifically, the Subcommittee on Professional Competency and Credentialing has worked over the last couple of years to develop the “Recommended Minimum Technical Core Competencies for the Practice of Fire Protection Engineering.” This is the first time that the SFPE has documented the minimum knowledge, skills and experience someone needs in order to qualify themselves as a fire protection engineer.
It is important to recognize that there are other terms used instead of fire protection engineer depending on the jurisdiction, such as fire safety engineer or fire engineer. Yet the focus for this document is to create a basis where engineers working with fire safety and fire protection can show they are competent in the field of practice. This is especially true when a jurisdiction does not have a formalized process to govern someone using the term engineer or specifically fire protection engineer.
During development, the committee carefully examined many of the existing frameworks for competencies, credentialing and other regulations related to the governance of someone being a fire protection engineer. Much of the underlying information on subject matter in the descriptions available were similar. From this, four categories of subject matter were created – fire science, human behavior and evacuation, fire protection systems, and fire protection analysis. The details for each of these areas stirred much conversation in the fire protection industry not only among the committee, but during the public comment period once the draft was released.
The feedback from the members and public was instrumental in helping the committee to produce the official core competencies that were approved by the SFPE Board of Directors at the end of October. These technical core competencies now clearly convey the need for both education and practice for someone to achieve competency in the subject areas. A note for this document is that an engineering foundation is assumed, and the information provided is specific to the fire protection engineering component of someone’s knowledge and practice.
In addition, it is recognized that university study in fire protection is the most direct path to achieving competency, but not every subject in the document may be covered at the level necessary for competency by a single university course/program. The CPQ Subcommittee on Higher Education has published recommended model curricula for a bachelor’s degree in fire protection engineering, a bachelor’s degree in fire protection engineering technology, and a master’s degree in fire protection engineering. However, additional study and practice may be needed for certain subjects in order to reach a competent level.
Lastly, it is important to understand that this document is detailing the minimum core competencies. Many practitioners eventually develop an expertise in a few areas that are part of the core competencies. However, a minimum level of knowledge for all of the areas listed are deemed necessary so that the fire protection engineering that is performed has a solid foundation of essentials. Also, continuing education throughout a professional’s career is important to ensure that new data and technology are properly incorporated into fire protection engineering.
The fire protection industry works to improve public health, safety, and welfare related to fire events. Ensuring that professionals who perform fire protection engineering meet the minimum core competencies will raise the bar for the industry and assist in engineering a fire safe world.