The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is an international organization dedicated to the advancement of fire science, fire protection engineering and fire education. The organization is committed to high ethical standards in all aspects of fire science. SFPE is comprised of local, regional and university chapters throughout the world which further the society’s goals. An SFPE university chapter was established by the current fire students at The University of Queensland (UQ-SFPE) and was officially formalized by SPFE in October 2014 marking the first SFPE chapter of any kind in Australia. The chapter consists of current fire research students and students in the fire safety engineering BE/ME as well as alumni of the fire group who are now working in industry.
UQ-SFPE’s first initiative was to institute an exciting seminar series for fire science and fire safety engineering. The events are focused at educating students to varied aspects of fire safety engineering as well as providing a networking opportunity for the students and industry professional in the Brisbane area. The inaugural lecture entitled “Fire Safety Engineering: Profession, Occupation, or Trade?” was given by Professor José Torero (Head of School, UQ Civil Engineering). The event brought numerous students and industry professionals associated with several major fire engineering companies in Brisbane as well as many members from the Australia-based fire safety organization, the Society of Fire Safety (SFS).
UQ-SFPE’s second guest speaker was Dr. Jonathan Barnett the Technical Director for RED Fire Engineers. Dr. Barnett a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) FPE graduate and former professor delivered specially for UQ-SFPE his 100th lecture on his involvement as a core team member for the Building Performance Study that investigated the events of 9/11. He also gave two other lectures on designing tall buildings with the fire brigade in mind and the use of lifts for emergency evacuation.
The final seminar speaker for 2014 was Dr. Rory Hadden the Rushbrook Lecturer in Fire Investigation at the University of Edinburgh. Rory spoke on real charring rates and the appropriateness of their use in standard and non-standard fire exposures.
The 2015 seminar series was started with one of the biggest names in fire safety engineering: Peter Johnson of Arup. His lecture on the professional life of a fire safety engineer was delivered to a standing room only crowd. The engagement of the audience was so great the lecture ran 30 minutes over with questions still flowing during the catered networking session afterwards.
The second seminar speaker of 2015 was Dr. Michael Woodrow of Foster + Partners in London. He spoke on his role of being a fire safety designer in an architecture practice which is a rarity in the design industry. His presentation highlighted the advantages of bringing fire safety engineers into the design phase as early as possible. This allows the architects vision to be recognized in significantly fewer iterations as well as reducing the overall cost of the engineering design phase.
The third seminar of 2015 was delivered by former UQ graduate Ted Simmonds, a fire safety engineering with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Ted spoke on facilitating fire brigade intervention through building design. Several case study example from here in Australia and Brisbane were used to highlight the need to consider fire fighter operation in the life cycle design of the building.
Seminar series planning is currently underway for the second half of 2015.
UQ-SFPE is dedicated to furthering fire education outside of the classroom as well as providing students with valuable industry connections and interactions. Plans for the growth of UQ-SFPE in terms of the number of members as well as activities and student involvement are in the works and should be ready by the start of the 2016 academic year and the first fire safety engineering BE/ME class.