Posts Tagged ‘Code Consulting’

by: Elizabeth Keller

 

Everyone is aware of the benefits of professional licensing for Fire Protection Engineers; however, few people consider the cost (time and money) for maintaining licensure.  Although the benefits far outweigh the costs, there is an opportunity for improvement in the licensing system that would greatly streamline license maintenance.

A professional engineer must meet the engineering licensure requirements in each state in which the professional engineer seeks to practice.  Most states allow licensure by comity if a professional engineer is already licensed in another state with requirements at least equal to those in the state in which licensure is being sought.  Fire Protection Engineers are always in demand and are increasingly crossing state lines and finding the need to be licensed not just in one state, but in many.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The issue is that most states require continuing education prior to the renewal of an engineering license.  Continuing education requirements are not uniform across the states and unlike the more streamlined comity application process, very few recognize the requirements for continuing education via comity.  Renewal periods range from annual to triennial, and the number of continuing education hours ranges from zero to thirty-six (36) or more per renewal period.  It is up to the licensee to keep track of their continuing education hours (also called professional development hours in some states) and to present a log of activities to the licensing board upon request.

Imagine being licensed in more than ten states.  No two of your licenses expire in the same month and different requirements must be satisfied for each.  How do you balance that?  Do you fulfill the requirements of the most demanding state and know that the others are then taken care of?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Not only do different states have different hour requirements, they also have specialty requirements, such as the need for “live” training, multiple categories for activities with specific limits on each category, and requirements for state specific courses in ethics and rules and regulations.  You could complete all of the continuing education activities required for one state, and still only be halfway to completion in another state.

So why are all of the requirements different?  Well, the simple answer is that’s just the way it is.  Professional licensing boards are all made up of representatives from the state they represent.  They are empowered by the laws of their state and they research, propose, and vote on amendments to their regulations on a state board basis.  Although one state may look at another’s process, there is no real crossover.

What about NCEES you ask?  The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) published model Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) Guidelines in 2008 for the use of state licensure boards in developing state specific requirements for continuing education.  Many pieces of the NCEES CPC guidelines can be found in state laws and regulation across the country, but boards can pick and choose the pieces that ultimately become incorporated.  If all states used the NCEES CPC guidelines, it would even the playing field and make complying with continuing education requirements a much simpler process.

One idea that could easily streamline this process is a national licensing board for engineers.  Currently, NCEES plays a large role in the licensing of engineers for every state and every prospective engineer generally follows the same four major steps:

  1. Earn a degree from an ABET accredited engineering program.
  2. Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
  3. Gain acceptable work experience (typically a minimum of four years).
  4. Pass the Professional Engineer (PE) exam in the appropriate discipline.

What is the benefit to having each state manage application approval when a national council is really managing the application process?  Perhaps the benefit is in the details, but this is not certain.  This is a debate that has many sides and deserves more research.

Overall, the professional engineering licensure system could be well served by a reset and reboot.  As more states adopt continuing education requirements and more engineers cross state lines in the name of business, a better and better case can be made for the development of national guidelines and somewhere in the future, perhaps even a national licensure board.

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by: Jason A. Sutula

The (cliché?) saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” comes to mind as I write this short blog post. Mostly because I have the good fortune to know Samarra Khaja. Besides being family and a friend of mine, she is a highly talented and creative individual. While having her husband and family over for a visit recently, she spent some time working with me on a new branding image for the blog. The final result is below. If anyone who reads this blog has a need for logo & branding work, illustration, or photography (and several other creative services), I hope you will consider contacting SK. You can check out her work at smarrakhaja.com.

And now, the reveal:

Logo low res

Feel free to chime in on the design in the comment section. If there is enough interest, maybe I will make up some t-shirts and give them away in a contest!

by: Binyamin Besser

Fire Protection Code ConsultingTo be honest, fire protection engineering was not my first career choice. Before going to college I had not known that there was such a thing simply because it never crossed my mind. I fell into the major and profession due to some odd circumstances that made it more financially wise (because a bachelor’s degree costs an exorbitant amount of money in the first place). I was apprehensive coming into the profession since I had known so little about it, and since the little I learned in the beginning was just referencing books. That first year, I mostly heard about NFPA codes and standards. I do not find, literally, pounds of reference material and code books to be particularly enthralling.

I thought that I might go into the research and testing side of fire protection, being impressed and mystified by the videos and images of massive glowing flames consuming fuel in a complex test apparatus. However, as with most things, ads do not properly represent the market. Though large tests and complex, creative apparatuses exist, they are not as prevalent or accessible as one might think. I did do some testing in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering’s Fire Testing and Evaluation Center (FireTEC) and was exposed to the tedium of repetitive small testing.

After trying my hand at some testing, I thought I should look into that which I dismissed off hand, code consulting. For most of my peers, building consulting is a large part of our profession that we are not excited about doing. The task of knowing the extensive volumes of codes for the plethora of building types, occupancies, and specific area usages with their associated hazards seems like it would generate mental sloth. Since my first year in fire protection engineering, I had only some design work with the building codes in class, but became more interested in that side of the field only recently. I realized my interest was in puzzles.

Designing and fitting a building with a fire protection system is much like a puzzle. Not a 1000 piece puzzle with an obscure picture on it. Fire protection system design is a mental puzzle like Sudoku, but perhaps closer to a board game as well. The board changes for every project but the rules stay constant. The rules obviously are the codes and standards and the “game board” is the building. The rules are rigid and complex, but orderly, and the puzzle is just fitting the rules to the board. This is not the first time that professionals have used a game to solve a serious issue. The game “Foldit”, which is used to make protein structures and was played by non-scientists, has a set of rigid rules in how bonds could be formed. The game was created by scientists, but played and used by non-professionals to solve the structure of an enzyme involved in the reproduction of HIV. I am not suggesting that the fire protection profession should make an online game, but we should try to remove the mundaneness from working with fire protection codes. Code consulting and building design is such a large part of our profession, but it seems that novices in fire protection shy away from it to a degree.

There is something to be said about the draw of the more intriguing aspects of fire protection, including testing, research, and fire and explosion investigation. But we cannot forget our roots. Fire protection began with building design and the safety of people occupying those buildings. All of these aspects are aimed at the goal of safety. Testing materials allows us to determine how long it is safe for different constructions, materials, and systems to be burning. The plethora of research opportunities are used to invent new testing procedures, safety methods, and to pinpoint the science and behavior of fire. Fire and explosion investigation is used in the pursuit of justice and to insure that what has happened will not happen again.

We students tend to gravitate to the more flashy (or flashover) side of fire protection, as it can be more enticing to be entertained by mystifying fires nearly out of control, but still being managed by the experiment or apparatus that contains it. More appropriately, this representation of that side of our profession, I think, is not authentic of either the type of work done or the prevalence of that work. I feel that students are given this imagery as a “hook” to be excited, but to be better prepared for the “real world” there should be an effort to make the code consulting side more interesting to learn. I suppose time will only tell whether I am correct in my thoughts. I am, after all, only starting out.