Why the Fire Safety Industry Urgently Needs Engineers

Are you currently studying engineering at university? Or are you an engineer looking for a new challenge? How would you like a career in a highly in-demand field? How about a role where you make a real difference and save real lives?

 Consider bringing your talents to the fire safety world.

 We’re just finishing National Engineering Month (NEM) in Canada, with over 500 events held across the country. At FCS, we were more than happy to participate. One of our key focuses during this time has been to light the career path for engineers to get into this sector.

Life safety systems are getting more complex and fire safety standards are constantly evolving. This means that Canada now doesn’t have enough engineers specializing in complex buildings and fire code life safety. The opportunities are limitless and the need is great.

Let me tell you about the moment I realized we needed an in-house engineer on the FCS team.

 I was auditing a high-rise condo in Vaughan. They were under a notice of violation with the fire department for Part 7 smoke control. I had a great team with me, but I didn’t know the scope of what was about to happen next.

 The test should have been simple. Pull a pull station and watch…

  • The elevators recall  
  • Fresh air fans turn on/off
  • Pressurization fans start up
  • Dampers open
  • The doors at the bottom of the stairwells open to relieve the pressure

 How did it go? Well, the elevator recalled, then things went straight downhill from there. 

One fresh air controller went off, but the other one did not. The pressure fans fired up, but since the dampers did not open, the fans shut back down and the doors at the bottom of the stairs didn’t open.

 We waited for alarm technicians, and electrical/mechanical contractors to resolve these problems. We sourced all the right contractors. But it was very clear the complex integration of auxiliary systems was not being tested holistically. I came to the sudden realization that I needed an engineer.

And I will now turn things over to the engineer we found.

Tom Marchese, PMP, P.Eng

One of the goals of NEM was to feature “fun and inspiring events that will spark an interest in the next generation of engineers.” That really resonated with me and got me excited to help people get into this industry.

I’ve been working as an engineer for over 25 years. But if you asked me 10 years ago, there’s no way I would have predicted that I would be working as an engineer in the fire safety sector today.

In fact, when I was brought onto the FCS team, it was for a project management role. Now, I’m much more hands-on. I’m in the field, carrying out assessments, on-site at high-rise buildings. And I love it!

It’s an emerging and important field. I can personally tell you that engineers are the cornerstone of many fire protection and life safety system standards. There is a vast number of opportunities for all kinds of disciplines within engineering.

I’ve done a lot of exciting things at FCS so far, and we’ve actually made Canadian fire safety history. In fact, I was one of the first people in Canada to officially issue an S-1001 certificate, after completing one of Canada’s first assessments for ULC S-1001 – Integrated Systems Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems. 

That standard is relatively new, and it’s one of the main reasons that the fire safety industry needs engineers. And we need them right now!

Why the growing need? Prior to the new standard for integrated testing (which became the law in June 2020), life safety system testing was done in silos. The elevator people were testing the elevators. The fan people were testing their fans, and so on. But there was no standard to ensure that the equipment would communicate properly with the other systems, and ensure the right sequential series of events would happen. When all of these systems are tested in isolation, they may work in isolation. But will they work when they’re called upon in a real emergency, to protect real people, in real buildings?

There was a need for more holistic integrated testing, as well as a need for more situational/ operational testing. Now we have it, and it’s a good thing we do. Because these integrated tests are finding issues today before they become deadly problems tomorrow.

When I first started carrying out integrated assessments, I wasn’t sure how many issues we were going to find. But I can tell you that I have personally been in over 300 buildings since we have started this integrated testing… and fewer than 5 of them passed their first test.

That is a stark warning about the importance of integrated testing, while it also really illustrates the importance of the engineers and their role in making these environments safe.

If you would like to know more, Michele and I took part in a great webinar during NEM and you can watch it by clicking here. In the video, I give you a deep dive into the specifics of the work I do, and what brought me here. I also end my presentation by giving you some of the continuing learning courses that you can study to help you take your career to the next level.

By Michele Farley and Tom Marchese


COVID-19 Update

As a company whose business revolves around Safety and Prevention, we have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it unfolds. We have developed internal and external policies to keep our team and yours safe. We will continue to monitor this situation and are continuing to develop a variety of contingency plans which we will activate accordingly as necessary.
What we are doing to keep our team and yours safe:
What we ask of you:
We have every intention of continuing regular operation, with the safety of your team and ours being the top priority. We are taking steps to ensure no on-site services are impacted, however, will re-scheduling if necessary, based onsafety concerns or if quarantines are mandated.
The health and safety of both our team and yours is of the utmost importance. If you have any questions about our policies or would like to request more information about them please reach out to our team at Admin@fcsfire.com

Safe Wishes,
Michele Farley
President & Senior Code Consultant
FCS Fire Consulting Services LTD