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Jul 13, 2020

Cathleen Childers is a fire protection engineer with formal training from the University of Maryland. Cat specializes in life safety and fire protection design and works for a large engineering firm in New York City. In this episode of Fire Code Tech, Cat provides insight into what it means to be a fire protection engineer, and we discuss some powerful professional development topics. If you are especially interested in the design-side of construction, don't miss this episode of Fire Code Tech.


Tell me about your background about in fire protection?
Tell me about your education at the university of Maryland?
I wonder if you would tell me a little bit more about obtaining your PE?
What is your specialty in fire protection or what is your favorite area of the field?
What does a typical day as a fire protection engineer look like?
Will you describe what it looks like at a high level to design a fire protection system for a new building?
What is a meaningful trend in the industry right now?
What sort of resources would you recommend for fire protection professionals?
Tell me more about your involvement with the NYC building code council?
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?



Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.

Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.

Hello, all welcome to episode seven of fire code tech on this episode of fire code tech, we're talking with Kathleen Childers. Kat is a fire protection engineer with formal education from the university of Maryland in fire protection engineer. Her specialty is in fire protection, design code consulting and life safety cat has worked for several different fire protection and MEP consulting firms.

Now she works in New York city providing fire protection, design and consulting for healthcare and other types of occupancies. This interview focuses heavily on design and communication and coordination with other architects and engineering disciplines. Kat gives a high level overview of a week in the life of a fire protection engineer.

And how one would go about designing a fire protection system. This interview with Kat has some great takeaways for professional development. So I hope you enjoy it. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow fire code tech on social media. Let's dive in. Hi, KA. How's it going today?

Welcome to the show. Hi guys. Thanks for having me. Cool. Well, I just wanted to get started with your background and how you got into fire protect. Sure. So I decided when I was in probably seventh grade that I wanted to be an engineer, but I had no idea what that meant, but I stuck with it. So when I was in high school, one of my guidance counselors recommended a program at the university of Maryland called exploring engineering for women.

So it's basically you go down and stay in the dorms as a high school student with about 20 other girls. and each day you spend in a different discipline. So that was actually the first time I met Dr. Milky. Um, I was a junior in high school and I loved it. I decided to go to the university of Maryland for engineering and I came in undecided and.

Shortly thereafter. I remembered the great day spent in the fire protection department and I switched to that department. Very cool. Yeah. That's so neat that you got to be a part of a program that exposed you to engineering at a young age fire protection, even better. I always talk about how I had never really heard of fire protection until I got to the college that I was attending and, uh, how I always wish there was more for getting people involved at the high school level.

I just, there's not a whole lot of that. So that's really cool that you got to be exposed to different types of engineering from a young age. Yes. And I have certainly tried to give that back since then. So we'll probably get into it later, but I'm very involved, uh, with the society of fire protection engineers, both on the local level and on the international level, I'm actually the co-chair of the emerging professionals.

Wow. Subgroup. Which is, you know, we're just trying to get younger engineers involved. So it, it, people kind of within the first 10 or 15 years of their career, 10 to 15 sounds long, but it's generally 35 and under, but we don't have a hard cutoff. And so through that, we work with the different group who reach out directly to the high schools, but then through the local chapter, we attend a, um, high school job fair in Westchester county every year.

And we've done a couple. Stem presentations at local high schools in New York city. So it, it's not easy to get young kids excited about engineering, but I think since, since I've been in high school, there's been a lot more push of, Hey, if you're even a little bit interested, like let's come and talk to you.

I think we're trying to get better at. Keeping kids interested, but, uh, it's not easy for sure. I understand. Yeah. We, uh, that's really neat that you get involved in and like to give back and try to, you know, get more students into fire protection. I think that. There fire. Protection's such a good field and SU has such a good job opportunity and just career development.

I think that if more people knew about it, it could only lead to, you know, the development of, of the field company I work with now does, uh, at a local high school that specializes in engineering will do a talk for them, like one a year, once a year. But other than that, you know, it's, we are trying to reach out, but it's hard to get in front of these.

High school students and whatnot and get 'em interested. I, I feel like I was like you where I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I just didn't really know what that looked like. Or, you know, what, what even that really meant. And so that's kind of even. Part of the reason why I wanted to do this podcast is cuz you know, I didn't really know what fire protection engineers did even when I was in school.

So yeah. I just kind of like to talk about that and explore that. And that's some of the impetus behind me, you know, getting into this podcast. Yeah. I think it's great. And I. I'm surprised that there wasn't already one. I know that there's a couple that are like sprinkler based, but I think this was, uh, a great idea.

Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. I feel like there's room at the table for all different kinds of perspectives and. For all different kinds of fire protection professionals, you know, the industry is so varied and so wide. No, I know there's some podcasts from people who are in inspections or people who are in sprinklers.

So I just wanted to talk about the engineers. Talk about the, the code officials, talk about, you know, just, uh, different area of the spectrum, but it's, I am only encouraging of all the other people getting after it. Cuz I think that fire protection needs as much of. That can be put on it as possible. Yeah.

And you brought up a great point with the, you know, different industries and my role with emerging professionals. First site of fire protection engineers, you know, not kids, but young adults who are just leaving school. We kind of try and give them resources. So at the north American conference for two years now, we've done an hour and a half speaker track.

And so the first year we did a panel of. Four different engineers and what they do. So I was consulting, we had somebody on in insurance and somebody on in research. And so that was kind of our goal with that. And then last year we did kind of a. 30 minutes for, from three different people of what their typical day is like.

And so we had somebody who had just started his own consulting company, somebody at NCA research foundation, and again, somebody insurance and even me, who's been in the industry for 10 years and I feel pretty confident with the choices I've made. It's always so interesting to hear what other people are doing with the same background and the same interest as me.

Yeah. I mean, they might have. The same background and the same educational experiences you, and then, you know, I've been talking with people now and just, I'm always surprised. There's always something that I didn't know about what they do, or you know, what their job looks like or the kind of problems they get to solve.

So it's always interesting to talk to different people in the field. Absolutely. I wanted to circle back on your experience at the university of Maryland and I just wanted to get a little bit more. Your coursework and what you liked there? Well, it was a long time ago for me. No. Um, I loved it and I, uh, you know, when you see people around the, the university of Maryland fire protection alumni remembers it very fondly.

It sticks close together. And I still, every year, Maybe even twice a year, go down for career fairs and networking events. And then, you know, we're always, I've had a summer intern from the university of Maryland. So I think they're doing just, um, amazing things. Some of their intro classes, they have one where they have to essentially like design a fire protection system for a shoebox house.

And I was like, okay. I, I mean, even, I wouldn't know what to do. But they came up with this thing where, you know, they have this material holding back baking soda, and then when it burned through the baking soda fell into the shoebox, like it's very like, yeah. And it's like, you know, a silly, simple concept.

And, but it, it's so interesting and it's such a real life application. Right. And so then when I'm explaining, you know, queen agent system, she was like, oh, oh yeah, like we did that project. So I think, and they university of Maryland just a few years ago, Created a position for a professor of practice. Well, whose, you know, main directive is, okay, this is what you're learning, but this is how engineers who are working every day actually apply these things.

Another really cool thing that university of Maryland did, at least when I was there was the capstone program. And so what they did is had the best professors in each department teach the entry level coursework. And so you, you got to. You know, meet these really captivating professors who are really passionate about the industry and want wanted nothing more than for every engineer to stay in engineering.

And so I thought that was a really great idea because if you know, if you have a, a bad first intro class, you might reconsider engineering. Um, So they did a great job with encouraging kids to keep at it. That's so important. All it takes is one teacher who, you know, sparks that passion in you and you see that, that they really care and believe in what they're doing to change your whole life.

And so, yeah, I that's awesome stuff and yeah, I think the education in general has a hard time. Tying things back into the real world. So I like that you're saying that university of Maryland, you know, does its best to tie education and the resources it has back into what this means in the context of real world engineering and you know, fire protection.

So that's pretty. I like that. I wonder if you would speak a little bit more about obtaining your PE designation and tell me a little bit about what that was like. That was an interesting time. Um, my advice for everyone I guess, is to take the Fe as soon as possible and the PE as soon as possible, um, It is, you have to study, you know, no matter what job you have, I don't think there's any person that I've talked to.

Who said, you know, I opened the guidebook and I knew about everything in there. So you definitely have to go back to the basics and kind of make sure you have all the building blocks. It's a little daunting to get started. I think the application process alone makes you, um, wonder if you should be doing this uh, right.

Cause you have. You have to record all of your work history and get your transcripts. And when you're, you know, five years outta school, it, you don't really remember how to study like that. So I did, um, I did the online S P prep class, and I was lucky enough to have, uh, somebody in my office at the time was also studying.

So for me, it was important that we had to do it together. Right. I couldn't just, you know, get that lesson. Like we sat together and we talked about it and. That was really helpful. You know, the practice questions are limited. So yeah, that was a, it was a long couple months and it in, you know, they do it in October.

So you're kind of giving up your summer to study every night, after a long day at work. It's tough, but once it's behind you, you never have to think about it again. that's true. It is a daunting process to start blogging all. Experience and filling out pages and pages of paperwork and every state is different.

So you have to, you know, be looking at your states, uh, sometimes your local amendments for your, uh, board of engineering. And it can be quite a lot. So I know what you're saying there. And yeah, the studying part , it's hard stuff. I coming home from work when your brain's already just been going at a hundred percent all day and studying again is, is not an easy thing to do.

It is not. Yeah. And, and since, since I've gotten it, your local chapter of S F P might or might not have a question writing session. Since I've gotten my P I've been involved in that through SFP every year. And that process has made me really appreciate how much effort goes into creating that test. And who's creating that test.

Right? So SFP is coming out as asking their engineers and their volunteers to have these minimum four hour sessions where. Lock yourself in a room with all your books and think about, okay, what do I think an engineer should know? And it is you just blank piece of paper, write this question and you try and put references.

And then that question goes to a different group that validates it. And then that goes to. You know, the testing company and then they do a practice test and a cut score where they bring in experts from every field and see if they can answer it. So it, it really is so important to our industry that the PE does mean something and has an impact.

And there's a lot of people working to make sure that we continue to have that test. You know, our industry is so small that N CES sometimes is like, are you guys sure you still need this? So it's hard for the people taking it. It's hard for the people creating it, but it's so important in the industry to have something that's recognizable through all disciplines.

So thank you to everybody involved. That's so interesting to hear you talk about the process. I never knew about how, you know, people. We'll go into a room and write questions and that sort of thing. So I find that infinitely, interesting to hear about, you know, how these questions are vetted and, you know, produced because yeah, I just took my, uh, I just passed my PE exam last, last October.

And it was the last paper. So I've had a lot of thoughts recently on how that's gonna change and you know, what the new standard is or what the new normal is for the PE exam. So I know there's been a big resurgence in, you know, uh, PE questions again, because we're trying to gear up for the online test.

So it's pretty interesting stuff. Absolutely. I wanted to get into your professional work and, uh, yeah, I just wanted you to go over your, uh, career at, uh, uh, overview level. And yeah. Just tell me about your career up till now. Sure. Um, so I, I graduated Maryland in 2010, um, and I. Like a lot of people I'm not from Maryland.

Um, so I grew up in Connecticut about an hour north of New York city. So my, I guess the summer between sophomore and junior year, I, you know, didn't wanna work my normal high school job. Everybody said it's so easy to get internships, but all the connections they had were at, you know, around Maryland and DC and I was going home.

So I Googled fire protection engineering in New York, and I. Came across this website and I called them and I said, hi, I'm a student at university of Maryland. Do you guys need an intern? And the guy was like, how how'd you get this number? And I was like, I don't know. I Googled it. And he's like, great. Like, you know, come in.

And so we talked for about 10 minutes and he was like, okay, when are you back from school? And I was like, what? So yeah. I mean, that was my first attempt at getting a job in fire protection and it's. Pretty much that smoothly ever since then. Uh, so I , I interned at that company, Hughes associates now Jensen Hughes in, you know, 2008 and I had a couple other jobs between then I worked so Hughes, which is straight consulting.

And then I had a, um, another job at an MEP design firm. I thought, you know, the code consulting was cool and I liked the variety of it when you're just starting. You don't really appreciate that. um, so I really liked design and I thought I would give it, you know, a shot at just design work. And I found that I didn't like that.

I liked sobriety. So I went back to consulting and then I was with Jensen Hughes for about four years. And then I moved over to cosent associates, which is a large MEP design firm in New York, Boston and Chicago. But we have now about 15 to 17. Fire protection engineers. Um, so we have, wow. Yeah. So it's, I, you know, I think we have maybe 350 engineers and 15 fire protection engineers.

It doesn't sound like a lot, but as you know, in the industry, 15 fire protection engineers in one spot, that's a lot is not nothing. Yeah. So most of them are up in Boston and they're all, um, I think mostly WPI grads. Has a similar thing as Maryland does where people stay in Massachusetts around there. So that's great.

So yeah, it's, it's interesting. And I, you know, I definitely still do some design work. We help the bigger design studios with some of the more intricate problems they have. We also have our own projects, so it's been really nice to be kind of. A bigger company that does, you know, the big, heavy lifting engineering, and then have this expertise kind of off to the side.

So, you know, my company in New York is one of the biggest and best MEP design firms. So we're on the coolest projects. And even if I'm not necessarily working on them, I can still talk to somebody about. Hey, like, you know, what are you guys doing on that? And they're like, well, you know, the architect said this.

I'm like, I don't think that's right. uh, so it's definitely like a very exciting place to be with the design studios and the collaboration and you know, that we're the new technology. So yeah, it's in, uh, An interesting ride and I've seen some very cool things and everybody who does not do fire protection when they go places with me are, are always surprised at the things that, uh, I.

Have to look at . Yeah, for sure. That's really cool. Yeah, no, I was blown away. I was not expecting you to say 15 fire protection engineers. That's a lot. Yes. And that's just code consulting. We, I mean, we have sprinkler designers who, you know, are plumbing and fire, but 15 license. I think most of us are licensed by now.

Um, FPE, Maryland, WPI. Yeah, my company is the company I work for. FSB is one of the biggest architecture and engineering firms in the state. And there's only. For fire protection, people who do fire protection for my company. And that's not small either. I can only imagine the huge projects that you guys get into cuz you know, the company I work for gets in on some pretty cool jobs and really big jobs for the state.

I mean, for Oklahoma, you know, uh, we've done a lot of neat jobs so I can only, so yeah, that's why I'm a little bit awestruck when you're like 15. And then I'm just thinking of, I know what that means for my instance, but yeah, I'm just thinking of, you know, what kind of neat stuff you guys get to do. And as an engineer, it's always fun to get the biggest and the baddest problems.

So yeah. That's pretty neat. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And another good point you had is. Is the diversity of thought through being involved with other professionals in your field, you know, 15 other engineers doesn't mean just, uh, more people. It means more people solving problems, more people being innovative and more people having just good takes on the industry or lessons learned or all of that.

So that's neat that you get to be in that, uh, group of people who are all solving big problems. Yeah, it's, it's really great. You know, we have a couple of engineers who do the fire modeling, be it smoke control, or can fire analysis and egress modeling. Um, and I, you know, I know what that is, but I would never attempt to do that.

So it's, it's nice to, you know, we get to see their reports and see the output and understand their process, but they've got it covered. and then for sure, you know, we. The design, the people who specialize in design, people who do, you know, just healthcare. And it, we have one guy who is our accessibility expert, which I have no interest in, um, becoming an accessibility expert.

So it's, it's really nice to have a, a team that covers all the bases in fire protection. So, yeah, it sounds like you guys have different sectors and different specialties. That's pretty neat. So I think that's a good time to, to say so what is the area in fire protection that you specialize in or that you enjoy the most?

I mean, I have always really liked design, so, you know, right now I've got. A couple of design projects. Uh, I, for some reason have always loved working in AutoCAD and now Revit, it just, you know, they used to joke like, oh, like give this to cat. She'd love to do that on a Friday, just like clean up notes pages so I've got, you know, some Revit projects.

I've got one right now that I'm doing, you know, the life safety drawing. Some fire alarm, design drawings, and some sprinkler drawings at like a very high level, you know, kind of like 60% CD type detail. And that is very fun. Right? Cause you get to look at the whole building and get to really understand it from the egress to this depression, to the alarm and how it all works together.

So I do really enjoy design, but I also. A pretty good amount of experience in healthcare, which is kind of booming right now. Um, and so we've got a couple of healthcare clients in New York who are, you know, in preparation mode. So we're trying to, you know, meet their needs as best as possible. And the great thing about working in, in healthcare is because, you know, everybody in that industry kind of understands how essential.

Being safe is that, you know, those are the proactive owners and those are the owners who come back and say, you know, you saw this and I really wanna fix it. And what do you think we should do? And, you know, there's always something going on in, in the, in the healthcare sector, right. They, they figured out that this door is not, you know, functioning properly and they need somebody to come in and look at all the doors and they wanna solve the problem and make sure everything is safe all the time.

And, uh, that's a, you know, A good industry to work in where people care a lot. The service, the safety that you're providing, whereas you know, it, when you're working in New York city with some developers, you know, they're concerned about the cost. Well, okay. It's safer, but how much is that gonna cost? You know, we really don't find in healthcare that we get questioned on things that are providing safety, which is great.

That's neat. I've never worked in healthcare. That seems pretty intuitive that they're like to be proactive and they care about life safety. So that's pretty cool. Yeah. The, my only experience that would probably be in the same vein as that is, uh, like working for the government or for working for department of defense.

That's another situation where. You know, they understand life safety and they are not as likely to push back on, you know, preventative measures or, uh, good maintenance. Uh, but yeah, I'd also have plenty of experience. Like you're talking about where you're providing the code minimum standard and the level of life safety that is, you know, code compliant, but nothing above and beyond.

Yeah. And I like drafting and designing too. Yeah. I wanted to get back into, uh, you know, you talked a little about like consulting and, and designing, and I could tell that there was, uh, some difference in your mind about those two things, but yeah, I just wanted to. I can't tell if you meant like code consulting and life safety stuff is different than designing and drafting, or do you have any thoughts on that?

It feels that way. Yeah. So, you know, sometimes if, if I'm on the project just to design the sprinklers, I kind of have to ignore some of the other stuff , uh, right. You know, it's really great to be. On for both, right. To understand how the building works and then design from there. But that's just not how we get brought onto projects a lot of the time.

Mm. Um, so yeah, I mean, for us, it's like totally different. Service. Right. So if you, if we get hired as the code consultant, you know, we'll put together a code compliance approach report, and we'll be there to help the architect with wall ratings and egress and all that stuff. And we'll get brought on in the beginning of the project.

If we're on for sprinkler design or fire alarm design, they send us the building that's already done and say, you know, put the sprinklers in. So it is very different services. And. in New York. It seems people don't always think that they need a code consultant. Mm-hmm um, so. Yes. I mean, some clients, you know, and, and some architects are very knowledgeable on that stuff and that, you know, they say, well, we don't need that.

Um, so yeah, it's, it's, I obviously the project where I have all three right now is the best, the best in that, you know, I can take the time from the beginning to understand what's required, why everything is there and then designed from that. But, you know, the co consulting projects are nice. You really are kind of involved in the decision making and well, if you, you know, if you add that much retail, then you're gonna have to upgrade a fire alarm system.

And, um, you know, that, that kind of stuff is interesting versus, Hey, here's 20,000 square feet of this. You know, put the smoke detectors in. Yeah. That's an interesting point. You have maybe for, I don't know who all will listen to this, but maybe for somebody who's not as familiar with the, the construction in industry, uh, a lot of times the architect will produce the life safety plans.

And, uh, it's, it's kind of goes back and forth in the industry, whether or not the fire protection engineer will, um, have impact in the life safety plans. Definitely. If there is a fire protection engineer on the set of drawings, a lot of times they will provide, uh, the fire alarm and fire suppression drawing.

For the construction documents, but yeah, it's kind of interesting that I feel like that we're trending right now towards more and more having the fire protection engineer involved with the life safety drawings. But yeah, I, you know, I go back and forth between. Whether I get to be involved with that or, you know, not, it seems like when there's problems I'm always involved with it.

Exactly. Yeah. . Yeah. And I, I think that, you know, the architects who are sure that they always want a co consultant on every project have learned that lesson the hard way, and you know it with anything, anything design related, it's always nice to have somebody. Just look at your drawing, right? Did I get too far into this?

Can I not see, you know, the trees through the woods? Like, am I crazy for thinking this is fine and you know, a lot of the time somebody else doesn't have to be somebody with more experience than you, just a different set of eyes, big picture. It's always helpful to have somebody who does. Day after day, look at it and just say, no, that looks great.

Everything looks great. Good to go. Yeah. A different perspective is always valuable and these projects can be very long and, you know, just providing construction documents can, you know, take. Months and, you know, sometimes, uh, more than a a year or, you know, so depending on how big the project is and what the, what the, you know, contract for review and whatnot looks like.

So it's, uh, definitely a process that. Could use a set of eyes for reviews because yeah, I've definitely been in this situation where you've been staring at a set of drawings for, you know, a week or two, and then somebody takes a look at it for three seconds and it's like, Hey, this isn't right. You know?

And you're like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's like, you know, I've been looking at this one stare for a week. I didn't even realize there's a whole nother one over there. . Yeah, for sure. So, yeah, definitely. It, uh, helps to have second, second set of eyes. So we talked a little bit about one of the projects you're working on now, but yeah, I just wanted you to go into a little bit more about what a day in the life of a fire protection engineer might look like.

Or so, I mean, as we kind of were chatting about earlier, We're all working from home now. So it's definitely not what it used to look like. um, but I have always enjoyed, um, maybe we'll talk about my typical week, uh, getting out of the office a little bit. Um, so I, with the healthcare and some other stuff I've worked on.

There's a lot of inspections that I have to do, which, you know, if you're going a hundred percent inspections, it's driving you crazy. But if you're in the office every single day for months, you're also going crazy. So I, you know, in my four years at Costantini have gotten a, a good mix of versus design.

Um, So we just wrapped up, well, we're kind of wrapping up, uh, a project where we were looking at fireproofing and fire stopping above the ceiling in a million square foot building. So that was a lot of months of being out in the field, you know, on a ladder with a flashlight. And that stuff is really interesting to me.

And I think you need to have the full picture for that. Right. So you're gone up and you're looking at these things and you're noticing, you know, one tiny square inch of an issue, but then, you know, you have to remember the person that you're gonna ultimately submit this report to. Does he care or does he just need to know what needs to be fixed?

Right. So I think. The biggest thing is understanding the construction process as a whole of like I'm looking at this so that I can create a document that tells somebody else how to fix it. So yeah, the inspections, the report writing, you know, I just, I like when it's the full process and it makes sense to me, right.

So, you know, that was fire proving, but it could be sprinkler design. If it's an existing building, you know, You gotta come in, you gotta somehow be able to express to somebody what's there, what they can reuse, what they have to remove and what needs to change going into it. And I, you know, a lot of times with the design, you know, people are worried about the H J approval and this and that, which is all you have to look at everything, right?

Mm-hmm , you don't just wanna put things on a drawing. So it gets approved. You wanna put things on a drawing so that everybody who picks up that drawing understands what you saw and. You need it to look like at the end. Um, so inspection report, writing drawings, lot of meetings when things don't go great or when they're going good.

I, you know, the collaboration on, on these projects is so important, right? Like when you're. Designing the system and you're, you know, all just staring at your computer screen, trying to figure out this valve room, you gotta talk to the architect, right? Like, Hey, can you make this room a little bigger? Is this absolutely it right?

So you, you know, you can spend hours trying to solve a problem that might not be a problem. If you had just picked up the phone and asked the a. Um, if there was anything that they could change. Um, so that, that part is fun. When you, when you have a good team, who's all on board. Nice. When you see the process work well.

Yeah, I think I said this, uh, before on the podcast, but you know, you get into fire protection and you think that fire protection's gonna be the hardest thing you do, but turns out. Coordination and teamwork and communication end up being the things that are the hardest and, you know, uh, vary the most from project to project is the people on the team and the stakeholders.

And I like what you said about, you know, knowing your audience with these projects, you know, every project's different and. You know, uh, who you're reporting to or what the end goal of the project is, is always different. So you have to know your audience when you're writing these reports and, you know, um, making these engineering judgements, um, as well as knowing the technical for, you know, why they shouldn't have the conduit or the sprinkler pipe in the rated wall without, you know, uh, protection.

Interesting. Yeah. And I, you know, in healthcare and, and some of the government projects that I've had. I found that having a fire protection engineer on the owner or client side, you think it's gonna make your life harder, but it often makes it so much easier to have somebody on the client side. Just say, yeah, that's absolutely correct.

We absolutely need to make this change. Um, You know, sometimes when you're the only person in the room saying, you know, you can't do that. And everyone's like, well, why? Yeah. You know, it's nice. It's nice to have another person who understands where you're coming from, especially when they're on the client side.

Definitely. And. Having somebody who knows what they're doing on the client side is gonna help you get the information for you to get your design going and get everything moving along the way it needs to be in the first place. And you know, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So if you need information about existing systems or, you know, what they really want for deliverables, then you have somebody who, you know, understands.

What's required, you know, talking to you about what they want instead of part of the consulting and just engineering and, and, uh, architecture stuff is in general is narrowing down these nebulous thoughts that the owner might have about what they want or what they need, um, and kind of synthesizing that and giving them something.

That, uh, is gonna make them happy at the end of the day and, uh, achieves what they're trying to get at. So, absolutely. Yeah, it's hard to do, and it definitely helps if you're talking to some people who know what's going on. Yep. I like, uh, getting into all this design stuff and, uh, life safety, obviously. Um, it's great.

I big fan of design, big fan of, uh, fire suppression and fire alarm layout, kind of like you are and just, uh, I don't do as much of the life safety stuff, but I like getting into all that mm-hmm it's good stuff, but, um, So, if you were gonna give like a breakdown of the methodology or like a, you know, high level overview of what it takes to, you know, or what it looks like to design a sprinkler system or a fire alarm system for a new building, you know, How would you describe that?

You know? Hmm. Well, uh, so you definitely need to talk to the architect about what they're doing in the building. Um, right. So that, that helps you understand what. You need, um, in terms of hazard classification, if you need any specialized reaction, special hazard. So understanding that would be number one.

And then obviously the incoming water supply. How big the building is. Do you need a fire pump? Where can I put all of, uh, you know, the backflow prevention and the riser control valves, um, and then, you know, something that people always forget the, the drainage, um, you know, and making sure everybody understands what you're gonna ultimately need from the square footage, uh, at the end.

Uh, so we're, I've got this project now where, you know, there's a big overhang and. Don't know where to put the, um, dry pipe valve and they're requiring the nitrogen generator. So, you know, it's a significant amount of square footage and important to know that up front for the architects, especially. And then, yeah.

So figuring out where you're gonna put kind of the brains of the operations between the incoming and the floor control valve, and then, you know, the sprinklers figured out . It's it's a lot of one inch pipe. You should be able to fit it in, you know? Um, so definitely, definitely you gotta nail down the incoming to the riser control valve and then loosens up after that.

that makes sense. Yeah. Those nitrogen generators are big and it seems like it's a common thing that fire protection engineers are always trying to arm wrestle architects for space and. You know, usually we're in a mechanical room or, you know, some sort of our fire alarm panels in an electrical room. And, you know, unless you're in a really big building, you're probably not gonna get your own space.

And yeah, a lot of times these, these dry pipe systems, they they're serving. You know, they're ugly. People don't wanna see 'em. Yeah. And so you're like, oh yeah, we need a, a 10 by 10 space or a six by six by four space or whatever in the corner near the front of your building, where this overhang is gonna be, you know, figure it out.

The less pipe we gotta use is the better. Exactly. Yeah. Uh, you know, and some of the. You know, some of the, you gotta welcome all the solutions, but some of the things that they say are like, no, we can't, we can't do , you know, I wanna work with you, but we cannot do that. yeah. Can we put your pipe in the column and then can we, you know, oh, can we go underground with that pipe and then pop up somewhere else in the building?

I'm like, no, nobody wants that stop. you're not, you're not preserving the architectural arch by having me run. My pipe and the column, you know, we'll, we'll paint it black and, and it'll look fine. It'll be fine. Yeah. so yeah, I definitely have had those same struggles. Yeah. Well, I mean, yeah, so the, the design assistant, if, if it was a empty box that nobody cared about the piping, it would be.

Very easy to design a system, but you know, keeping the other stakeholders in mind becomes the challenging part. Again, uh, the coordination and communication, and you know, you sure you could just provide fire protection design and just plop it in a building, but everybody's gonna be mad at you cuz you didn't coordinate with the electrical to get it powered.

You didn't coordinate with the mechanical engineer to make sure you had all your duct detectors. You didn't coordinate with the. Architecture be. And they had a nice ceiling that you didn't put, uh, cover plates in. You just put straight up sprinklers in. So there's all these stakeholders that need to be communicated with and, you know, have input from, and yeah, the fire protection can be the easy part a lot of times.

Yeah. I, I worked with a woman in the design studio. She just retired after I think 45 years. I was kind of taking over a project for her as she was going on vacation. And we were sitting down with the electrical engineer to go over what valve needed to be monitored. And she, she could have done this with her eyes closed.

She just pointed at every spot where she had a valve and I was like, how can you do that? She's like, what do you mean? How's I do that? This is my design. I know where every valve is. And I was like, wow. like, I, she has a million projects going at once and she somehow. Always knows where every valve and she was like, listen, if I didn't know, this coordination meeting would take two hours, but I can tell you, I can tell you in five minutes where every single valve in this building is, and then we can all go back to our desk.

I was like, okay, that's awesome. Yeah. It's always neat to have, uh, Good, uh, mentors or good people in your, you know, professional career that have, uh, they're just strong in fire protection. Yeah. It's always, you're always like, man, I need to, I need to get on my game, you start highlighting my plans and you know, but, uh, yeah, I know how you feel.

It can be a daunting time to, you know, and that's not your only project, you know, you probably got a bunch of other projects. Exactly. And it's like, how am I supposed to remember all this for all these projects? And yeah. and then by the time, by the time they go into construction, you haven't looked at it in oh yeah.

A year. And it's like, yeah, I think I put that. I have no idea. So yeah, I'm always so impressed. You know, some people, when they design these systems, it goes right into their head and they never forget it. And it's. Very cool. I'm not quite there yet, but we'll see. I wanted to transition a little bit into some professional development talk topics.

It sounds like from what we've already talked about, you have had some great experience in, you know, um, promoting the field and being involved with S F P E. But yeah, always like to get into some professional development stuff so that, uh, we can spread the word about what's good to get involved with in the field, but.

Yeah, I, I know you talked a little bit about healthcare right now and trends in healthcare. This podcast probably won't come out for a while, but I imagine that, uh, all this coronavirus stuff will still have echoing effects for, uh, years to come. But yeah, I just wanted to get, uh, a little bit of what you thought might be a meaningful trend in the industry right now.

I think right now it's. Technology. We're all, since we're all working from home. I, I think people are leaning on the technology more than ever. So like, you know, between Skype and Microsoft teams and zoom, I have always used, I care a lot about sustainability and you know, the paper recycling and all that.

So I, for a long time have, uh, used my iPad to survey, which is a. Because you don't have to carry around a roll of drawings and you kind of fumble around with them. Um, but B now it's nice, you know, people we're running into issues where people are like, oh, I love that drawing in the office. You know, I, I don't know what my notes said.

And, you know, having something where all of your field notes are a legible to anybody who reads 'em, but be available all the time, as long as you have your laptop, that's been great. So I think we're kind of. A lot of times people get ramped up in, well, I have to get this done and I'm gonna do it the easiest way.

And now that we're all at home trying to, you know, be just as efficient as we are in the office, we have to really rely on the technology and figuring out what the best way to record all this stuff is so that you can recall it easily down the road. Uh, so I've always. Thought it was important, but I think now everybody else is realizing how important it's for sure.

Yeah. I can see that a lot of people, um, just in my life or there are some people that I work with that are, you know, getting more involved with technology than they ever have before. You know, whether that be through new software or new. You know, uh, forms of communication. It's just, uh, you're forced to, because everybody's so, uh, uh, isolated right now.

It's but, uh, it's kind of neat, you know, you see some people adopting new technology or, you know, moving forward with some of this stuff. And I think that it's all for the better, even though it's painful now, you know, I'm not trying to, none, none of the situation is for the better, but I'm just trying to say that the progression in, uh, technology use.

Technology literacy seems like a good thing for sure. So, yeah, definitely. I see what you're saying. Yeah. And, and I've been doing quite a bit of like coordination type work remotely, which, you know, at first I was like, oh my gosh, that's gonna be a disaster, but no. So, you know, I share my screen in CAD and we go through and he says, you know, pan up, move that over.

it's been going, it's been going great. And so, you know, people are saying, I hope some of, some of the use of technology sticks, right. If I had to go down to that person's office, it might take, you know, an extra hour and a half, but you know, if we can just jump on this. Screen share for 20 minutes and solve that problem.

You know, we might cut down on a lot of coordination time in the future, for sure. Yeah. That's, that's what I was saying, uh, to somebody the other day too, is like some parts about this situation. Working remotely are not as efficient, but some parts about, you know, working remotely. Being in a meeting while you're also on your computer and able to access other resources, you know, while you're in the meeting, while if you were to be in a meeting in person, there would be no, like searching your computer for a document or a resource that you needed for the meeting.

Like while you were in there. Yeah. So in some instances it's more productive, you know? Yeah. For coordination or communication than just being physically in a meeting with somebody. And then all you can do is just be there in the meeting. Yeah. I, I hope I hope some of that sticks cuz I, I think it has been going really well.

And I think people normally would've fought against it are forced to do it. So here we are. yeah, I. I think some of it will stick. Uh, it'll be interesting to see how it all, uh, pans out. But yeah, I think there is gonna be a, a new normal in a lot of ways. Yep. But yeah, so I wanted to also touch on, um, what kind of fire protection resources that you would.

Recommend to professionals. I know you've talked a lot about, um, S F P E and you know, your great experience at the university of Maryland, but yeah, I didn't know if you had any other tips or, uh, things that you would think would be good for professionals in our industry or in other industries in fire protection.

Yeah, I mean, I am a huge proponent of S F P. Was the student chapter president at Maryland. And then when I graduated, moved up to New York, I joined right away, got on the executive board. So I was now president of the local chapter two years ago. And you know, it's, a lot of people are like, you know, what's the benefit and it's tough because you don't.

See the benefit until you need it. So it's, you know, I'm at somebody five years ago at a meeting. That's great. And now, you know, something comes across my desk where they make that, or they sell that product and I need to get this question answered. And so that's the benefit, you know, knowing the people in your community.

Who, um, who are answering these questions and, you know, knowing them well enough that you can call them and get your question answered in five minutes is really important. And another thing that I've been involved with New York city is New York city loosely follows IBC, but generally modifies it so much that, you know, it is our own, our own building.

So I'm actually on the technical committee for fire protection in reviewing and writing that new code. And those are connections that I made through S FFE where they're, you know, Hey, does anyone have time to join this committee? And it's been a very cool. Process to be part of, kind of like we were talking about the PE like the man behind the curtain and seeing, you know, the discussions that go into every single word that goes into that document has been so interesting.

And to have, you know, a, a voice on that committee, but also to just understand. How they arrived at those decisions and all of that stuff, you know, came about because I was involved so involved in the local fire protection scene. Yeah. That's neat that you get to be involved with the New York, uh, building code.

Yeah. For people who don't know, uh, Uh, like places like New York and California effectively have their own version of the international building code. And, uh, you better know what's different about the international building code and the New York building code, or you're gonna have a bad time because, uh, a lot of times they're big differences, but yeah, I did a job in LaGuardia.

Uh, last year is still in progress, but yeah, working with the, with the New York building code and you. Since that, uh, the building we're working on was a hundred year old building it's, uh, close to a hundred year old building. It's, it's a interesting situation working in New York for sure. But that's really neat about you being on the code council for, for that.

Yeah. I'd like to hear more about that and, uh, what that, uh, looks like. Yeah. So it it's been. More than a year now that we meet once a month for maybe three hours. But so I'm on the fire protection technical committee and there's technical committees for everything. So there's plumbing and, uh, mechanical and there's, um, you know, life safety egress.

So fire protection, we cover, uh, chapter nine, which is all the system stuff. Um, and then, you know, some stuff in chapters four and five and seven. So there is a fire suppression subcommittee, fire alarm subcommittee, and then. Smoke control and interior finishes and, you know, kind of the architects mostly handle the fire systems rated construction, but we weigh in on a lot of that as well.

So I'm on that third kind of smoke control and other one. And so we, the department of buildings has gone through and. We started with 2015 IBC and they've kind of made their suggestions and then we review, uh, so every single word has to be unanimously agreed upon. By the entire committee. Yeah. So we, they read it, you know, somebody who is suggesting the edit goes up and they read it and then you discuss it.

It's yeah. It, it, again, similar to the PE exam to see what goes behind it is crazy. And so we have people from department buildings, people from the fire department, architects, engineers, and all these people kind of getting together and it, you know, When I first started, it was kind of like, oh, okay. Yeah, this all seems fine.

Somebody said, Hey, I noticed 37 instances where high rise is high space rise and it's supposed to be high dash rise. And I was like, what? Oh my gosh. Yeah. so it's, that's intense. Exactly. Yeah. Like you don't realize how much detail goes into it until you're watching it happen in real time. Crazy and said, and you know, somebody says, you know, okay, we want this.

And then the fire department says, well, none of the, our guys know how to use that. So that's pointless. It's like, oh yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Right. We're not gonna require building owners, uh, to put something new and costly in their building. If the fire department is saying we don't need. on the opposite side.

We have some people on, you know, the owner side who are saying, you can't make us do this in the fire department saying we absolutely need that. So if you don't provide that, you can't open this building. So it's very interesting. , that's cool. That sounds like a really neat process to be in. Yeah. You named all my favorite chapters, so I'm, I'm down for all that.

Yeah. And I, I guess that's a, a good point that, um, You know, NSTA and SFP and all ICC, um, there's always volunteer opportunities. I know, especially SFP and like, If there's volunteer opportunities, go on their websites and, you know, say what's interesting to you. And if those committees are seeking, volunteers get involved, that's a great tip.

Get involved, make connections, uh, join, uh, local organizations you would be surprised about. Um, The kind of people you're gonna meet and, uh, the kind of great, uh, knowledge and, um, just, uh, networking that you can have at some of these events, people are interested in helping you out and, you know, fire protection's very close knit, so that's all great stuff.

Yeah. So. Um, got one last question for you and I wanted to see, um, so if you were to go back and, uh, talk to yourself when you were just getting back in the, in the fire protection field, what is the one piece of advice that you would, would give yourself? I don't know. I definitely stick with it. It'll be worth it.

I mean, there was definitely times, uh, where I wasn't sure. That this is the right thing, or, you know, that I was gonna ultimately be happy with this long term, but yeah, stick with it. It's worth it. And if, you know, there are things you don't like, you can still change those things, but there's so much that you can do in the fire protection industry and community that.

You know, find the things that you enjoy and, and stick with them. That's great. Well, awesome. KA, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I wanna be conscious of your time, but, uh, I really appreciate you coming on. All right. Thanks so much. Thanks for listening everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business.

The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next.