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Blazing a trail in fire protection engineering
September 26, 2017
Tina King wears many hats. She’s a risk consultant; a professional engineer; a technical advisor and a valued instructor. And now, as a result of all that Tina has accomplished in fire protection, she is a Fellow of the SFPE, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. SFPE is a professional organization that represents engineers that engineer a fire safe world. The organization’s Fellows like Tina represent a distinguished group of members who have attained significant stature and accomplishment in engineering. As the only woman among this year’s appointed Fellows, she’s also a trailblazer in more ways than one.
Congratulations! Out of a total SFPE membership of more 4,500 engineers, there are only 292 fellows and in addition to you, only handful have been women. How does it feel to be among such a prestigious group of industry colleagues? To be among so few women representing fire protection?
It’s humbling. For fire protection engineers like me, this is the highest level of industry recognition that you can achieve. To be among this group, fellows have to be members of the Society for at least 10 years and have been nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to the advancement of fire protection engineering and valuable service to SFPE. And I am in such good company, including my XL Catlin colleagues John Frank, Senior Vice President of our Loss Prevention Center of Excellence, and Pete Willse, Director of Research.
But, yes, while it’s an honor to be among so many accomplished engineers, I am anxious to see more women represented, especially in the fire protection industry. According to some industry statistics, less than 10% of practicing fire protection engineers are women. That’s not unique in engineering overall where women only comprise 11% of the engineering workforce. Fire protection has big appeal to many because it helps make the world a safer place. It’s a profession that I’ve found so rewarding and I would certainly like to encourage others to explore it.
What exactly is a fire protection engineer?
Fire protection engineers ensure that people, buildings, landscapes, both urban and rural, are protected from the possible effects of fire and smoke damage through design of hardware systems. As fire protection engineers on a property risk engineering team, we help our clients implement fire prevention and safety measures at their facilities.
For your valuable service to the industry and SFPE, you’ve been recognized for creating a fire protection P.E. exam prep course. What’s the significance of this test and the prep course you initiated?
The engineering profession is regulated nationally by licensing boards in each US state. These licensing boards set high standards for professional engineers to protect the public and assure that engineers in various practices, including fire protection, are proficient in their area of practice. To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, have at least 4 years of work experience in the industry, and pass two intensive competency exams. The exams are tough. When I studied and took the test for the P.E. in fire protection, there was only one prep book to help.
Fire Protection Engineering is not as populated a field as other engineering disciplines like civil or mechanical. Fire protection engineers don’t typically work in large groups, which make it difficult to study together in preparation for taking the FPE version of the Professional Engineer examination. I figured there had to be a way that I could at least help my colleagues pass. I developed the online review sessions so that participants could tune in wherever they were located. Most of the students who took the online class that first year passed the P.E. exam. Since then, it has transformed into the official SFPE PE Review class.
What does the course consist of?
It delivers online, live content. Our Property Risk Engineering/GAPS team worked with vendors to find technology that would enable this course to be delivered anywhere in the world from a computer.
I put together high caliber instructors to deliver the course content and even delivered some of the training myself. Each session is taught by a subject matter expert, and I’m happy to say that most of experts who continue to teach these sessions are my XL Catlin colleagues including my fellow Fellows, John Frank and Pete Willse and Sr. Loss Control Consultant, Todd Dillon who has been an instructor from the start. Many others contribute their time too and share their expertise on such topics as Fire Protection Analysis, Fire Protection Management, Human Behavior, Fire Dynamics, Fire Protection System, Smoke Management and Explosion Protection
How has creation of the prep course helped?
Before the onset of the PE Review Sessions, we were at risk of losing the Fire Protection Engineer license. There were not enough people taking the exam and not enough people passing the exam. The existence of the FPE license was threatened. The prep course now touches more than 100 participants globally each year. The success of the P.E. exam preparation class is tremendous. Those who take the on-line course have a much higher success rate in passing the exam (approximately 75%) than those who do not. In addition, the course provides flexibility to allow those taking the class to join the on-line session where ever they are in the world. Since the onset of these P.E. Review Sessions, the national average pass rate has increased significantly, yielding more registered P.E.’s in Fire Protection each year!