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The Status of Fire Safety Engineering in Europe

2014 Q1

By Michael Strömgren | Fire Protection Engineering

Fire safety engineering methods are becoming more and more common within Europe. While there are many differences between European countries, there are also many similarities. All countries face new challenges in the built environment: environmental concerns, new architecture, changing societal needs and new technology. Fire safety engineering is a tool to allow for non-traditional approaches, which is being used increasingly in Europe.

This article reports on the results of a survey conducted on behalf of European Chapters Coordination Group (ECCG), which is a part of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). The purpose is to identify the status of Fire Safety Engineering (FSE) in Europe and to support the activities of the ECCG. All European countries were invited to participate in the survey. In total, responses were received from respondents representing 21 different countries within Europe. The questions cover a wide range of subjects, from education and regulations to certification with the intention of identifying the degree of FSE currently in use throughout the continent.


The term "fire safety engineering” has been used more commonly in Europe than "fire protection engineering” and will be used in this article as a synonym. Several definitions and questions in this article are based on a report about performance-based building regulatory systems.1 To successfully facilitate fire safety engineering on a national basis, several components are recognized as vital. These are:

  • Qualified practitioners, a product of education, certification programs and other measures
  • A legal and regulatory environment allowing for FSE, e.g., a performance-based building system
  • Appropriate guidelines for the use of FSE

The questions on the survey covered a wide range, including education, regulations and certification. The respondents were experts in fire safety in their respective countries. Countries that were represented in the responses to the questionnaire included Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, England and Wales, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The questions and their responses are summarized in the remainder of this article.

Application of FSE

Does the legal building regulatory system allow the application of FSE? Since when?
All of the respondents answered positively to this question, with the exception of two countries: Estonia, for which no response to this question was entered and the Slovak Republic, which does not allow FSE. Most notably, many big countries, such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, started allowing FSE only in the last decade. See Table 1.

1975: Iceland 2004: Denmark, France, Slovenia
1985: England and Wales 2005: Scotland
1994: Belgium, Sweden 2006: Spain
1997: Finland, Norway 2007: Italy, Czech Republic
1998: Russia 2009: Portugal
2002: Germany, Switzerland 2011: Lithuania

Table 1: Years When FSE was First Permitted

Are there guidelines for FSE that are used?

Guidelines for FSE are required to be used in Iceland, Italy, Lithuania and Sweden. In Iceland, the guidelines are under development.

Do national guidelines for the use of FSE exist (even if their use is not mandatory)?
The response to this question was a little more mixed, with approximately an even split. A summary of the responses is given in Table 2.

Yes No

Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden

Belgium, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Portugal, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland

Table 2: Recognized Guidelines for FSE

The status of these guideline documents (where they exist) varies. In a number of countries, documents are under preparation or revision. For example, in Spain at the time of the survey, a task force was being set up to produce a guideline document.

What specific guidelines (including national) for FSE are used?
Specific guidelines in use in different countries are typically comprised of common international guidelines, such as the International Fire Engineering Guidelines (IFEG)2, ISO standards3 and the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering4 and SFPE guidelines5. British standards6 are also used, both within and outside UK. In addition, a number of countries publish and implement their own guidelines, which cover various aspects of FSE.

FSE Education & Certification

Are there requirements for the qualification of practitioners of FSE?
In Norway and Sweden, a voluntary national approval system is in place. In other countries, a combination of certification and education does exist; however, in the majority of cases there is no mandatory requirement for qualification of FSE practitioners. See Table 3.

No Requirements
By Education
By Certification
Belgium, Denmark, England, Estonia, Lithuania, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic
Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Sweden
Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Norway

Table 3: Requirements for Qualification

Is there an education program for FSE professionals?
In the majority of the responding countries, there are educational courses on FSE available. See Figure 1. Available through universities, they comprise either undergraduate or postgraduate level degrees. In Scotland, a degree level course has been available at the University of Edinburgh since 1974. Of the respondents to this question, this is the earliest known degree course. In Poland and Sweden, the educational programs have been in place for approximately 30 years. In other countries, academic programs are more recent introductions.

Figure 1: Status of Different Types of Fire Safety Education in the Responding Countries

 Education programs range from fire safety technology to fire safety engineering at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Fire safety technology education is focused on skills for application, installation, operation and maintenance of built-in fire safety. Introductory mathematics and science courses are included. Fire safety engineering education is focused on skills for understanding and applying the concepts and principles of fire safety science and engineering. It is geared toward development of theoretical skills, consisting of courses on engineering fundamentals and design, built on a foundation of mathematics and science courses. These definitions are based on definitions listed in SFPE publications.7

Is there a certification program of FSE professionals?
Although a certification program exists in the countries noted in Table 4, there is no formal requirement to achieve certification to practice. Despite this, the level of certification varies, and not all applicants pass the required standard.

England, Finland, Poland, Sweden
Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland

Table 4: Countries with FSE certification

Legal and Building Regulatory System

Who promulgates the regulations?
In all of the responding countries, promulgation of the regulations is achieved at a national level, with varying levels of responsibility being handled by regional and local governments. The structure of this depends largely upon the regulatory framework of the country in question.

Who is responsible to verify compliance with the regulations? While basically all countries have stated that fire safety engineering is allowed, the meaning of this varies. Verification responsibilities lie heavily with the authorities in some countries. For example, while Belgium has allowed FSE since 1994, it is still requiring approval by the national authority. In other countries, licensed practitioners are used. Countries such as Norway and Sweden are very liberal, with a large degree of freedom for the practitioners. See Figure 2.

Figure 2: Verification Responsibility Varies Where Several Countries Rely Mainly on Authorities

How are disputes resolved?
The mechanism for resolution of conflicts varies by country – the most common situation is decisions by the authorities having jurisdiction, negotiations or by court cases. See Table 5.

Duty Holders

While the regulations apply to buildings, it is important to note that groups and stakeholders bearing duties and responsibilities vary. The duty holders are primarily the building owners, but some countries also put a large responsibility on the design professionals. In several cases, there are also multiple stakeholders.

Insurance Perspectives

Insurance companies are rarely, if ever, involved in the building process. Since many countries primarily focus on life safety, this means that property protection may not be taken into account during the design process except in some rare cases.
Government Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
Appointed Body
Progression From AHJ Through Appeals to Courts
Belgium, England, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia
Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Scotland, Spain
Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden
England, Iceland, Scotland
England, Iceland, Scotland, Switzerland

Table 5: Resolution of Disputes

Michael Strömgren is with SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden


1Meacham, B. (ed.) "Performance-Based Building Regulatory Systems – Principles and Experiences.” Inter-jurisdictional Regulatory Collaboration Committee, Canberra, Australia, 2010.

2International Fire Engineering Guidelines. Australian Building Codes Board, Canberra, Australia, 2005.

3ISO/TR 13387, Fire Safety Engineering, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 1999.

4Dinenno, P (ed.) SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering, 4th Edition, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2008.

5SFPE Engineering Guide to Performance-Based Fire Protection, 2nd Edition, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2007.

6BS 7974, Application of Fire Safety Engineering Principles to the Design of Buildings – Code of Practice. British Standards Institute, London, 2001.

7Recommendations for a Model Curriculum for a BS Degree in Fire Protection Engineering, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, Bethesda, MD, 2010.

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