Apr 6, 2020
In our first episode, we talk with Russ Bainbridge, PE, CFPS, who is a fire protection engineer with a bachelor’s degree in fire protection and safety technology and a master's degree in fire protection engineering. We discuss Russ’ career and dive into niche aspects of the fire protection industry like combustible dusts and hazmat response. I really enjoyed my interview with Russ, and I hope you do, too!
1. How did you get into fire protection?
2. Tell me about your experience with the design side of fire protection?
3. Can you speak about your educational background?
4. What is your experience with hazardous materials, and what does hazmat design look like?
5. What is your experience with combustible dust?
6. What is the American Fire Sprinkler Association?
7. What classes are you teaching for the University of Idaho?
8. If you could start your career over again, what advice would you give yourself?
9. Tell me about in your involvement in professional committees and standards.
10. How would some one get onto a professional committee?
[00:00:00] 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.
You're in the right place today we have for our very first episode of fire code tech, Russ Banbridge, he's an engineer with his PE certification and his CFPs S Russ has a bachelor's degree in fire protection and safety technology and a master's degree in fire protection engineering. Today in our interview with Russ, we talk about his fascinating career and all of his different roles that he's been a part of.
He's been a authority having jurisdiction. He's been a consulting engineer. He's also currently a lecturer and somebody who owns his own consulting practice. I talk with Russ about his education and how he got involved with fire protection. We get into some really niche areas of fire protection, like combustible dust, and hazardous materials.
And Russ talks about the benefits of being in professional societies and why it's important to be a part of the creation of codes and standards through committees. I really enjoyed our interview today with Russ and I hope you do. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media.
Let's dive in. Well, hello, Russ. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to have you on. I saw that you were a okay. State alum, and I saw that you were active on social media, LinkedIn, and you are active in the field. And so I was interested in having YRN and talking to you a bit about your.
Career in fire protection. Yeah. I didn't know if you could give me a little bit of background on how you got into fire protection or just your background in general. So I actually got into the field on complete accident. Um, uh, I wasn't planning on going to college at all, but my girlfriend at the time she was planning on going and both my parents told me I wasn't allowed to not go to college.
So my wife was going to Oklahoma state, so I decided I might as well go there. And while I was there, I found out there was a degree for fire protection and I was really interested in fire. So it sounded like a perfect fit and that's. Pretty much how I fell into the field. I fell in love with it while I was there was very active and the different student associations was the president of the S F P chapter.
There was active in the fire protection society. Teaching assistant for the fire dynamics course took firefighter one that was being provided by one of the other students there that was certified to do that left the program. Right. When the recession hit, took a job in New Mexico, and that kind of started me off.
And from there, I kind of touched almost everything. It feels like in the fire protection side of hazmat response, did fire protection engineering. I never planned on actually becoming an engineer, but I fell into that. And now I also helped develop the exam. So I've really gone from not knowing anything about the field to kind of in the thick of it.
You know, I've interviewed a couple people now and it seems like I have a similar story about how I fell into fire protection, but seems like everybody has, uh, a strange path into fire protection. So I always like. Get some information on how people found it. It seems like if you didn't have a family member who, if you didn't have a family member who had experience in it, or you didn't have previous knowledge before you got into college, just seems like a lot of people just kind of fall in.
And so I always think that's interesting and talked about quite a lot there in your experience, starting out with your degree at Oklahoma state university. Um, moving on with job in the, uh, nuclear industry. Was it, uh, commercial nuclear, or was it, uh, department of energy? Nuclear? So I [00:05:00] actually did an intro ship, uh, nuclear power plant.
Sure. My experience there was, you know, as an intern. So, but that was, uh, enough on the non-governmental side for me to decide. Wasn't exactly where I wanted to go. So it was, luckily it was an internship. And then I spent some time at Los Alamos and Pantex, which both had sites that had materials, but it wasn't, you know, all over the place.
So I had to be trained and have dosimetry, but I wasn't messing with it every day. It sounds like after you, uh, had a couple. Job experiences. You got your PE you had some consulting work. Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience in, uh, the design side of things after leaving Los Alamos? I moved back to Oklahoma.
Some family was having some medical issues and so we wanted to be back with them to help with that. And so I went on kind of the design side for a while. Kind of had as much fun as I thought I wanted to have with that move back to Los Alamos, move to Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas spent some more time there.
And then I got asked to move and develop the fire protection group at a consulting firm. And that to me was extremely interesting. I got into combustible dust. With manufacturing plants, uh, doing a lot of water supply analysis, fire barrier design. We did a couple of smoke control systems. Wow. And I did a lot of hazardous material analysis with my background for a short time being a hazmat respond.
I kind of fell into that. My sister's also a chemist who's right now she's studying in Oxford. If I had questions, I had a pretty easy line to call and be like, okay, help me figure out what this chemical breakdown is and what I'm looking at. To me, that was fun. Um, right now. Well, and then I moved to a FSA, which was on the teaching side.
I really wanted to do that more. Uh, Oklahoma state has now wanted PhD candidates for professor positions. And I struggled just to get my undergrad degree so I going back to school to get a doctorate isn't in the cards right now. I said that about my master's degree from Cal poly and got that one done.
So, um, school is actually really hard for me. I have an eye disability. So reading textbooks and looking at screens, uh, gives me massive headaches if I do it for a decent amount of time. So thankfully I have ways to compensate for it. School is extremely complicated for me and testing, which is surprising since I've done so much testing, it was a hurdle I've had to overcome.
Just from looking at your credentials, as you know, PE you have a CFPs, um, you have a master's degree in fire protection for somebody who has difficulty with testing in school, it seems like you've done quite well for yourself. Then it seems like you're very well qualified and, uh, yeah, that's a lot of hard tests that you've had to go through.
Yeah. It's actually, uh, a disability that's kind of hard to diagnose, so. Happened to end up going to a, a person that specialized in this disability, uh, to get a new pair of glasses, um, didn't know anything about it. And they're like, oh yeah, you've got this disability. It's like, oh, that explains a few things.
wow. So it was kind of a surprise. I found out later that my grandfather had it and he couldn't even finish high school because of. That's really interesting. So yeah, something that I wanted to ask you since you have a similar background. Uh, to me or that I do. Can you tell me a little bit about your master's degree and how do you think that that prepared you for your career?
Or how do you think that that prepared you for your getting your PE or your CFPs, or, yeah, just tell me a little bit more about your master's degree and your master's degree courses. Oklahoma state does an amazing job at preparing. People for work in the field. I honestly think if that's all you get, that is perfect.
It is a great name out in the field. [00:10:00] Everyone knows the Oklahoma state program out in the business world. That's not to put anything against, you know, all the other programs, cuz they're all just as well known. But I could be perfectly fine where I am with my Oklahoma state degree. I just happened to want to move to a different part of the field, which, which the Cal poly degree helped with.
And it was all online, which was great because at the time I had a young daughter and so going to school wasn't exactly. Easy, but doing it online was very flexible. Even though I was working, uh, 10 hour days, for the most part, I was still able to get the program done. So, and their professors were extremely accommodating.
Especially when I explained about my eye disability. They helped me out in more ways than. I can count for, and I really appreciate that from them. The beauty of having the Oklahoma state degree as an undergrad and the Cal poly as a master's, there's a lot more hands on at Oklahoma state. So I learned a lot of, you know, we touched fire pumps.
We did flow test. We did main drain tests. We did fire pump run test. I know at one point for S F P E we burned down a structure and calculated the heat flux outta the building. So we just did a lot of hands on Cal poly is a lot of theoretical, a lot of stuff that I didn't touch while I was at Oklahoma.
When I was at Oklahoma state, none of the professors were pushing to go for your PE until about the last year they were telling you, you really should take the Fe now because it's gonna be easiest. Now. I wish I would've taken that advice. So for any potential college students, don't be like me take the Fe while you're in college.
Cuz when you're out of college and you have a kid it's extremely hard to pass that exam. It took me three tries to pass it. Wow. So it was, and when I'm not good at tests and it hurts going through it three times, by the time I was finally passed, I was like, ah, but I don't pass this time. I'm not taking this exam again.
Oh my gosh. So it was, it was a rough trip, but I got it done and I have had so many people ask me. What's the difference. And that's my main breakup is Oklahoma state is much more hands on with a little bit of theory. Cal poly is all the theory. So if you wanna really round out your experience, I highly recommend combining those two programs, but that's my experience.
I've heard other people that have gone to WPI in Maryland and they say similar things to me. I just, wasn't gonna move to new England to get my master's. Balancing out. Those is great way to flush out the field and get as much knowledge as you can. That's awesome information. I love what you said about Oklahoma state being very functional and all of the fire pump tests and doing a hydrant flow test and you know, their lab where they show you what it looks like when a sprinkler activates.
And there's a lot of great hands on activities, you know, discharging a fire extinguisher, you know what it looks like to pressure test a fire extinguisher. You're right. They do great. Yeah. I actually just had that conversation with someone about, I take a kind of controversial view on fire extinguishers.
I want everyone to exit the building upon a fire alarm, not try to fight it. Sure. And they were asking why I wouldn't want them to grab a fire extinguisher and start putting out the fire. And I'm like, well, when was the last time you actually. Used a fire extinguisher. They're not as easy as you think they are.
And you only have so much extinguishing agent. The person was kind of surprised by that response. Yeah, no, I, I, in my eyes, sir, I always think that if it's bigger than a trash can fire, then you just need to leave. Because if it's bigger than a one megawatt fire, Then you just need to get outta the building and you might not even be able to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher and yeah.
People might not know that you need to aim for the base of the fire. So yeah, you might be trying to shoot the top of the flames with the extinguisher. If you don't have training, you know, it's kind of like the same reason why they've started taking out the, uh, hose lines for the stand pipe cabinets. You.
The fire department is gonna use their own [00:15:00] hose. And there's not really very many people trained to, to use that anyways. Yeah, I totally agree with you. Another good thing you talked about that I wanted to reiterate is yeah. Taking the F E if you're a student in college taking the F E before you get out college, I did the same thing as you.
I waited until I got out into the work world and, you know, I didn't even have a young child, but just working and having to come home and spend two hours a night. Or, you know, more than that to study for months on top of working a full-time job, it's very hard, you know, it's, it's hard to have the discipline to do that.
It's even harder yet to not get discouraged. And it's, uh, super good idea to take your Fe as soon as possible, cuz otherwise you might not have the time. Or the resources to do it once you're in the field. So I thought that was great. Part of the reason why I had the motivation to do it was because of the child.
So. There's a little balance there. Right. You know, you wanna get a promotion, so you have that drive to get it done. Cool. Well, another thing that, uh, you spoke about that I've had some interest in recently is your experience with hazmat. And I've had some experience recently in my design slash consulting work with, uh, working with hazardous materials, my company.
Does work in California. And as you may know, they're a lot more serious about hazardous materials and, you know, having them classified and in the context of the building code a lot more serious than other states. So, yeah. Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience with hazmat? What kind of work you got into and yeah, what that looks like, what that design process looks.
Definitely. So my hazmat experience started because at Oklahoma state, we got our hazmat tech, the hazmat team at Los Alamos wanted some backups. So basically I, I thought I was gonna be a glorified water boy, you know, just show up and, you know, have the guy helped the hazmat, the actual hazmat responders recover the person in charge.
Had a different view. so I got suited up a couple of times. We had a couple of situations where we thought were a big deal, ended up being, not a big deal, which was great. One time we thought we had a mystery chemical and we got all suited up and it ended up being water. So that was happy. Surprise.
Another time we thought we had a pretty minor chemical and it ended up eating through a diesel tank. It was a fun time from that though. It expanded. Kind of more on the four facilities at laboratories. We worked kind of as the AJ a little bit at Los Alamos. So we had to analyze all the chemicals they had in the facility to make sure they weren't exceeding their limits.
Uh, we had a couple of laboratories that pushed that limit quite a bit. I had a buddy that was working on making jet fuel out of sugars from potatoes. Wow. And I would give him a hard time all the time about his chemicals, but he definitely respected me a little bit more cuz he was dealing with flammable material so he didn't wanna die either.
And then when I went to the consulting side, a lot of food manufacturers. Really don't realize how hazardous their chemicals can be because they have 'em in bulk. You know, if you just have it at home, it's, you know, no big deal. But when you're ordering 500, a thousand gallons, all of a sudden that material can get pretty bad.
And so I was having to train a lot of these building owners and facility owners, what they actually had on. One of our customers. I actually took to Foskey in Illinois and showed them that their dust was explosive. And that kind of helped us get through that was doing a lot in combustible dust, be amazed what goes into different products and how small it's all getting.
But it, it was very eye-opening to me. I joked with several customers that I thought the most dangerous material I worked with was at Los Alamos. And Pantex until I got into food manufacturing with combustible dust. Next thing I wanted to ask you about was your combustible desk experience because that's another one that is not as common, [00:20:00] but.
It is very hazardous and hard to deal with and people who don't deal with it every day have, uh, I feel like it's a rough time to even wrap your arms around all the codes and standards for combustible dust. NFPA has done a considerable job trying to clean that up. When I first got into it, you know, it would say, look at this one.
And then, but if you have this go look at this one. And then that one that you just referenced says to go back to the previous one and it, it kind of bounced around. They have cleaned that up considerably. Uh, the, the biggest hurdle I ran into was getting these building owners and manufacturers to believe that their material was combustible.
Most of them, if they were dealing with powdered milk and sugar, they knew about those. but they didn't realize, like I did a corn or a cattle feed plant. They didn't realize a lot of their grains when they brought 'em in, they were fine. But as soon as they crushed them down, it was highly explosive, which they had vents on the roof.
And when you went up to the roof, those events had activated quite frequently. Uh, but they didn't realize they had it in the rest of the facility. They only thought they had the issue in their equip. And trying to explain to them what they really needed to be doing was that was a struggle. Uh, it wasn't just anyone, uh, manufacturing process either.
We found it all over the place and they had no idea. They had the issue. I also worked with equipment manufacturers trying to get some of those designers to realize. Look, we can't put that piece of equipment in this room because of the combustible dust issue. Mm-hmm that was a struggle as well. Cause they would be putting these pieces of equip.
Dead smack in the middle of the plant. It's like, no, you need to have it on exterior wall so I can vent out of it. That's a big problem for those dust collectors is where you gonna put 'em, it's not gonna be a hazard to, uh, whatever's around them. You know, you can't have people walking around near a dust collector.
If it's gonna, you know, if your declaration vent near it is gonna be throwing shrapnel 50 feet, you know, That's an interesting point about, you know, locating those Def ration vis and those collectors, right? You really have to fight for your location early in the project, which sadly enough, most of the time we as fire protection engineers get involved late in the game.
And so a lot of the real estate's already accounted for trying to tell. An architect, Hey, I hate to break it to you, but you're gonna have to rearrange this whole corner of the facility because you got this issue. It's almost a non-starter and you have to figure out other ways to fix it, which is just a huge headache.
One of my go-tos to get these guys to realize like, Hey, I gotta ventilate this properly. My minor is in emergency management. Some of the classes I took, we specifically covered. When your organs start to rupture at different pressure waves and how the pressure waves work. So I could go in and be like, well, at this point, your eardrums have ruptured at this point.
Your lungs have ruptured this point, your spleen and heart have gone. So we probably want to ventilate this properly instead of just dumping it into the room. And normally everyone's eyes get real big. People start agreeing to what you're saying. yeah, maybe that's a good, uh, that's a good little tip there.
Maybe if you can just, you know, highlight the reason for these changes, you know, bring it back to a physical world application or why we need these things instead of just saying, Hey, we need this corner of the room. It's code. You know, a lot of times that's not enough. It should be enough, but a lot of times that's not enough in, uh, when you're coordinating with other people.
I can see how that would be a struggle. Yeah. And I try to use those type of things as last ditch, cuz you don't wanna be the guy that walks in the room and tells everyone they're gonna die. But , you know, when you've been inviting for three months and you've used all your honey up, you know, trying to sweet talk everyone into doing what you need.
Sometimes you just gotta drop the hammer. Definitely I've had more interest recently in combustible dust and just hazardous chemicals and classification of those chemicals. So that's really interesting that you've had experience with that. So now, uh, moving into more of what you're getting into now, how did you make [00:25:00] the transition to become, uh, a teacher or how did you break into academia?
So my dad, uh, is a geologist in Oklahoma. Surprise, surprise. He is a very, very smart man. He's written a few books and was an adjunct professor for Oklahoma state in OKC. So saying I am the dance of the family is putting it lightly. Like I said, my sister's at Oxford. My grandfather helped invent the electric garage door opener.
Oh. My mom went to Northwestern university. Hence the reason why I had to go to college. Uh, and as I said, my sisters at Oxford and I swear she was there purely to make me look like a dunk , you know, she's always had the good grade point average. I was always the guy that's like, where's the hammer I can swing.
That's kind of how I fell into it is teaching has kind of been around me. My in-laws are teachers. My wife helps teach children programs at churches. So I was kind of the only one that wasn't in that field at the time. And so it was kind of an easy transition. I could never teach children. I have found out by volunteering to help my wife with a few things.
Don't have the ability to do that. adults though. I can do decently well, I'm actually. Very introverted surprise, surprise an engineer that is introverted. I have always liked passing knowledge on as much as I can. You know, there's certain things I can teach. There are other things where it's fake it till you make it.
I have done fairly well. I've been formed by faking it until I make it. That's all a confidence thing. I think I really enjoy teaching to be honest. So if anyone ever has any questions, feel free to email me bison fire pro gmail.com. Part of my, one of my side jobs, because I struggle to sit still I have three jobs currently and that's just in fire protection.
I also do some stuff on the side for endurance sports. So I, I just don't sit still, but one of my side gigs is for HRS systems, which is the maker of Haas. And I answer a lot of their tech questions and I'm helping them develop their programs out there. I just couldn't get away from it. After I left the American fire sprinkler association, which that was my main job was teaching and answering technical questions.
It's just something I've always liked. I think it drives my wife nuts. She knows more about fire protection than she will ever want to know. That's incredible that you are so multifaceted and you know, can keep so many plates spinning. I feel like most people are struggling just to keep down one job. And it seems like you have no end to, uh, pursuits are filled with interesting work.
Uh, It's not always as smooth as it sounds. I just got over a sinus infection, which the doctor told me was purely because I wasn't getting enough sleep. , you know, there's that side, which I kind of was like, well, that's not gonna change anytime soon. So some things do get slipped to the cracks. Thankfully, we have a great team at my full-time job and at HR systems where.
Are able to realize like Russ kind of needs some bumpers every once in a while, or they keep him in his line. So they, they keep me on track. They make sure I'm getting my tasks done. And I try to remind all of them. Like I do not take any offense. If you tell me, Hey, where is this? Hey, are you working on that?
Because there are times where I literally forget to eat lunch. That's so funny. So you talked a little bit about your. Experience with AF F S a what is the American fire sprinkler association. And tell me a little bit about your, uh, answering technical questions for them. So that's a very good question.
What is AFS a? I asked the same thing when I applied for the position, cause I had not heard about it. One of my main goals while I was there is to try to get them more represented specifically at Oklahoma state. So while I was there, we were working with several of the professors to try to collaborate specifically with their sprinkler lab.
So if we could get them products in to look at and let the students look at and also come into make some [00:30:00] instructional videos and things like that, it is in a great association. If you are in the sprinkler field. So my job was to teach their basically introduction to fire sprinkler design. So it was a condensed, extremely condensed intensive class.
So it was two weeks long, eight hours a day. And we basically crammed two semesters. Of OSU into two weeks. And so I would tell several of my students who were just like, I am not getting this. I would remind them like you are getting so much information. All I want you to do right now is take notes. You can ask me questions, you know, a month or two afterwards, if it doesn't make sense.
But so we were, we were trying to. Either recent college graduates that didn't graduate with a fire protection degree or guys that had been, had spent some time out in the field. We were trying to make them designers within two weeks, which is basically impossible. Right? So we, we got them as much base knowledge as we could.
And then the beauty was the second part of my job was answering technical questions. So when they got out in the field and they're reading something at N FPA 13, it just doesn't make sense. They could gimme a call or write me an email and say, what does this mean? Because you know, standards and codes are completely written in English, right?
Yeah. So on the flip side of that, a lot of the staff at a F S a and a lot of. They also have members that are on committees as well. So we know a lot of the backside of what went into the different standards and codes. And so we would break it down for you to English. So you could understand it or help you apply it specifically to your situation.
And I would write something called a code or standard interpretation. My. Specialty at AFSA was the code. Since I spent time working for fire marshals, we spent a lot of time in the fire code. And so I could also show why you had to do something out of NFPA 13 per the building code. Versus why doesn't N FPA 13 point back to the building code.
So I did a lot of that cross analysis and a lot of deep dives that no one wants to do. into the standards and codes. It was mind numbing, but it is thoroughly expanded my knowledge on almost anything that's water based. So we would also teach fire pumps. Obviously we would do stamp pipes, water mist, if it touched water.
Basically, we would help you out with it. Great information. You know, I'm sure that I've had so much experience with NFPA 13. I was. Fire suppression designer for a while. And you know, now as somebody who is on the engineering side of things and does a lot of water supply analysis and you know, that sort of thing for facilities, I've had a lot of experience with N F P eight 13, and I still get into situations where it's really hard to understand what's going on.
I can imagine trying to teach people. And like you were saying drinking from the fire hose, that is decodes are so difficult to start picking up in the beginning of your career. That's probably your first huge hurdle. Is being able to just even read, you know, much less understand the code. So that's really interesting to hear you talk about taking young professionals and trying to get them code literate as fast as you can, and, uh, make them designers.
When we would go over hydraulic calculations, I would bring in donuts that morning, cuz it was just like, I need you to like have a quick sugar hit when you start to the eyes, start to roll on the back of the heads. But the, the other beauty of working at AF F S a is I worked under rolling and his knowledge of N FPA 13 is just extensive.
He would tell me, you know, one time at this one committee for NFPA 13. This happened. And then someone got cranky about that. And then we all were tired and basically this is how it went through and he would know exactly like what people said, you know, what the time of day was what he had for lunch. You know, it was just one of those.
Like he just remembered all of it. And so that expanded some of my knowledge, just purely knowing. [00:35:00] Why everyone agreed to put this in the standard. You know, if you talk to anyone that's on committees and stuff, they will tell you certain things, you know, we're not entirely flushed out when they put it in the standard.
And that was purely because we knew something was going on, but we weren't quite sure at the time what was causing. Now most of it's pretty well flushed out and backed up by science, but not all of it has been backed up by science, but now we have really foremost, not all the standards we have flushed that out pretty well.
It's so interesting for me, because as a fire protection professional, I just see. Fire protection is just so very young compared to other disciplines of engineering. We're still in the wild, wild west in the wild, in a lot of ways, you know, as far as establishing ourselves and, you know, getting everything straightened out.
And I think in, you know, 10 years it'll be a different story. Yeah. Right. There's a lot of areas that are just not as developed. So that's a great point. Yeah. And I thought when I first got involved in the committee process, you know, like it was gonna be really formal and everyone was gonna, you know, there was gonna be, you know, first motion, the second motion, there are those things, but there's also name calling every once in a while.
And people yelling at each other and it gets flushed out and their tempers will get flared up on certain things. Like I am. You know, very passionate about certain things in the field. And that's purely cuz I've seen friends get hurt. I've seen things done wrong. I've seen buildings burn down, you know?
And so there are certain things, you know, that are obviously my pet peeve and I hammer those out and everyone's looking at me like, why is he getting riled up? Everyone has those things. There's other committee meetings where I sit there and I don't care about whatever they're talking about. So I zone out, but then we get back into whatever topic I am in like that I'm really interested in and I flare back up to life.
So it it's a, everyone is on the different committees for different reasons. And so everyone's gonna have a different passion. can you tell me about some of the classes that you're teaching now? What kind of classes are you teaching for the university of Idaho? So one of my other jobs is a lecturer for university of Idaho, and they have a graduate certificate program in fire protection.
And I did not actually develop any of the course material. Basically go through and grade and help the students flush out the material that is in those courses. So they have pre-recorded videos. They're pretty well done. All things considered. There are a few things that I would love to change in them because the individual that recorded them put in a few things that are specific to his region of the country, and that's not bad or wrong.
It's. It doesn't apply to everyone. So I would like to kind of flush that out a little bit more. Uh, so students email me ask questions, you know, and I obviously grade their papers. And so I help kind of flush that knowledge out that way. It's a great program. If you're looking just to put another feather in your cap, It's also great for those of those individuals that are in the field and they don't actually have a fire protection degree.
It's a great thing to go put on your resume. So if you're interested, you'll reach out to the university, you know, feel free to send any questions, my way that you have about it. We're actually trying to expand the program. So if you are interested, please let me know. I will definitely get you an application and walk you through how to get into the program.
I'm glad to hear about, you know, any programs in fire protection. I think that fire protection needs more people out there like yourself or us who are vocal about their passion and about how good the field is to people. And so I enjoy hearing about other programs and.
Can you tell me about why you decided to get your CFPs or your certification as a fire protection specialist? Yeah, I think it, I think it's a valuable certification, but I'd just like to hear about why you wanted to get that, uh, certification for yourself.
So just kind of like everything I have done in this field, I kind of fell into it. I was working with a guy who he was gonna go get it. And he wanted someone to study with during lunch breaks and stuff. Uh, he was also a student at Cal poly at the time. So [00:40:00] we had been working late nights trying to get our work together, um, and submitted and he was gonna go take the exam.
And so he was like, Hey, you wanna take the exam? You seem to like test. And I was like, oh no, no, no, no, no, I'm good on tests. I've I'm done. Somehow. He convinced me to do it. I still, to this day, I'm struggling on how he did that. Um, so we studied together and then for about two months, every lunch break we made, you know, our own study guide, highlighted books.
And then we took a class that was offered. Over how to study for it, which the first 10 minutes of class, the guy instructing, it said, how many engineers do we have in here? And me and my buddy raised our hands and he goes, yeah, you two are gonna fail. And we were both like what? He goes, well, you guys know all this stuff off the top of your head, the CFPs isn't purely that you need to be able to look it.
You know, both of us were all of a sudden, you know, like, well, we're gonna pass this dad gun thing, just to show this guy. We know what we're talking about. Thankfully, we both passed, uh, or else it would've been really awkward cuz we traveled from Texas to Tennessee to take the exam. So you know that would've been a, a weird car ride back if one of us had passed and the other one hadn't we actually kind of like stared at each other and were like, how'd it go?
You know, waiting for the other one to say like, I didn't pass or I passed. And finally, I think I was like, well, uh, I pass. He's like, great. I passed too. It is definitely worthwhile if you're looking into it. I would not. I would say if you have your PE it's not a necessity, but it's definitely something that helps round out your resume.
I am actually on their advisory board, so I can't. Too much into the specifics of it, because I know all the questions that are on the exam and how it's balanced and how it's graded, um, which I will be rotating off of that soon, but it, it is definitely worthwhile looking at, um, fire protection field. If you have a degree in it, it's not as necessary as if you are someone that is coming with like a mechanical degree.
I know there are people that have like MBAs and accounting degrees that take it. They tend to be on the, uh, insurance side. So they're trying to show that they, they know what they're talking about. So it it's a, it's a wider range of testers, you know, firefighters, the whole GA. It's pretty thorough test. I remember looking at some of the questions and being like, I have no earthly idea.
I guess it's gonna be C well, uh, it sounds like you've had a lot of great experience in, uh, fire protection. So if you were starting over again from square one back right outta college, what would you, what piece of advice would you give yourself? Let's say you're a college freshman you're, you've already decided you wanna do fire protection and you pull what I do and fall into it, which I like to say I took a victory lap because my first year, most of my credits didn't transfer.
So I decided to stay an extra year to college, which, um, if you're on student loans, I wouldn't recommend that but the big thing I would recommend that I took full advantage of was internship. Internships will get you a lot of experience. Some of it is unbelievably boring. I remember filing papers in one of my internships.
I absolutely hated it, but there was other parts that were just amazing experience. Uh, I worked for a fire marshal out in California. I got to spend a week doing wild land firefighting. I wouldn't have gotten that experience anywhere else. I actually did hand cut lines. It was out at an army base and they were shooting off, trace around.
So they wanted to burn off all the grass before it, you know, became a problem. That was a great experience. Uh, like I said, at the power plant found out I didn't wanna work there. You know, it's much, it's much easier to find that out in a three month internship than it is taking a job and relocating and being like, oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?
So I would highly recommend. Internships and then be as active as you can. I know that sounds kind of weird, but I was very active in the program and I ended up making a lot of friends in, like I said, I'm introverted. So making those friends was great. It helped me get some jobs. Help me make a lot of connections.
And then the last thing I would say is [00:45:00] if you can take the FY, I'm not gonna tell everyone you have to. It's a lot easier to take it now. Cause it's all computer based before it was, they only gave it every six months. So you only had a certain time to take it, but if you can take it while a lot of that knowledge is fresh, I would, I just cannot recommend that enough because.
90%, at least for me of the Fe, I have never used outside of the Fe the PE 90% of it, I do all the time. So it was, I barely even had to study for that, but the Fe it's just. It's a general exam for the most part. So it's, it's hard to pass that if you are an Oklahoma state grad, I would recommend taking the industrial for the afternoon portion because there's safety questions that you will just know off the top of your head.
That is actually how I ended up passing the Fe. I took it two times as general in the morning, general in the afternoon. And then someone recommended to me to try industrial and I tried it and that was when I passed. And I honestly don't know what my score was or anything. I didn't care. All I cared about was I passed.
So I don't know what really got me over the finish line. Those are the things I would recommend to new people that are in college. And then if you're straight out of, out of college, I would recommend. Just trying to soak up as much knowledge as you can. My first month at Los Alamos was reading standards and codes was so painful as also when I taught myself ha uh, just as something else to do other than staring at the standards.
um, so if you have the time, you know, just try to learn as much as you can. I know that sounds very much like. Teacher answer. I can't recommend enough. I've run across so many people that in the field that I'm like, how do you not know this? Like that's day one stuff. So just try to learn it and be patient with people that don't.
I mean, if you're an Oklahoma state grad, Maryland, grad WPI, grad, you have a wealth of knowledge that other people don't have. So just, you know, try to keep an open. That's great tips for people, um, young professionals, really all professionals. Um, so that's great. Yeah. I wanted to get into, you've talked several times about, um, committees you're on or groups you're involved with.
Will you speak to some of the professional societies or boards that you're on or a part of and how that helps you as a fire protection? Profess?
so a lot of it again is cuz I can't sit still. And I also, as a younger engineer, I'm not exactly old or anything, but I saw a lot of problems and I being the genius that I am decided I should try to fix these things, uh, you know, and being on these committees now I understand. No, there's a reason. 99.9% of the things that are in there, but it has helped expand my knowledge.
I have gotten to have my say on a few things. So right now I am most active with S F P E I am on their exam development committee. I did their risk based their guide that is out there for risk based approach analysis. And I've been on a few other committees. I've been on the nominating C. To me, it's just a great organization.
It really helps develop the field and promote the field. Um, and then I obviously worked at a FSA, so I'm very biased towards them, even though I don't work there, I try to help out as much as I can. I'm actually helping write an article for sprinkler age right now, which I believe was due a day or two ago.
Which I was writing in my son's gymnastics class. So I am, like I said, I get too many irons in the fire. Thankfully, my wife is a marketing slash grammar person, which I am not. So I can, I have an in-house editor so I can get that pretty cleaned up pretty quickly. Hence the reason why she knows more about fire protection than she would ever like to know, uh, N FPA, I was on a couple of committees as my, as part of my position at AF F S a I'm when you leave a job, you get booted off of those.
Um, so like I used to be on the laser committee because I worked with a lot of lasers at Los Alamo. And as soon as I left there, I got booted off. That was a fun committee to be on, by the way, [00:50:00] if you're ever combustible dust and laser lasers are the two fields, I can't recommend enough to go spend some time with, they're just amazing fields.
I've tried to get on the international Coco. So the ICC who develops the building code and the fire code, and I have not been able to figure out whatever. Special code to get into that is, you know, whether it's up, up, down, down a, B, B, or you know, what, whatever it is, I have not been able to break that yet.
I'm hoping someday to be able to get on there. Um, cuz in the end that's really what drives the standards is, you know, if the building code doesn't reference it or require it, you're not technically required to do it by law. But I cannot recommend enough being involved at S F P E N FPA. If you have something you're passionate about, go get on that committee.
They are actively looking for people. And so I would recommend doing that. I've also been on IFTA, which is based out of Stillwater at Oklahoma state. I've been on a few of their committees, which their first committee committee I was on was, uh, their sprinkler. Book. And I was on there with pat Brock, which was the instructor at Oklahoma state for, I don't know how long.
So when I got to the first committee meeting, I was just like, why am I here? You have the godfather of fire protection sprinklers. Like what, what a, I can't add anything to this. So it was, it was an interesting experience. To also get to know a professor, you know, as a human versus the guy that is killing me on all my papers.
So I, I would recommend that that's so neat that you got to be on a panel with pat Brock. He is definitely a legend. Yeah. I'm sure that people are like, oh yeah. Well, you guys are both Oklahoma state guys. So you would say that, but no, his book on hydraulic. I've read more than a couple about fire protection hydraulics and his book is just phenomenal.
I can't recommend that enough for people who are trying to learn sprinkler calculations or just, uh, water supply analysis in general. But his book is written well enough that I could learn on the side by myself, fire, sprinkler hydraulics. So if you are wanting to get into the field, I cannot recommend that book enough.
Mine literally is falling apart at the seams. Cause I still reference it at least weekly now just to make sure I'm, you know, not off basis on some of my calcs or theories that I'm telling people. So it it's a, it's a great book to have on the shelf. I wanted to ask, you've spoken a little bit. About committees now.
And so if somebody wanted to get on one of these committees, what's the process for that look like? So you go on to an F B's website, fill out a profile, and the different committees are looking for different individuals in different fields. So in my experience, it was a lot easier to get on if you worked for an aha than it is, if you.
On the consulting or design side. That's not to say it's impossible. It's just, there's a lot more people fighting for those seats on the consulting and design side. Whereas AHJs, there's just some that don't wanna be as involved. Um, it's not to say that's right wrong or. Anything else it's just, they don't want to consultants and engineers designers.
We all tend to want to be on those committees so that we can drive. How we think it should go. So, and that it's different for every committee. There are certain committees where there are more HJS than I personally would, like, just because they make my life hard sometimes. So you fill out the profile, you tell 'em who you're working for.
If you can get your employer to sponsor your activity, it also helps because they want to know that you can make it to the meeting, to the meetings in person meetings. There aren't too many of 'em. They wanna know that you're actually gonna be there and if your employer's supporting it and, or funding it, that's more of a guarantee for them that you're gonna be there.
Different committees definitely are needing people. I get calls every once in a while. Like, Hey. We need someone, would you be willing to just be on this committee now you still have to apply and everything. And I've had that call where they're like, would you be willing to be on this committee? And then I apply.
And they're like, actually thanks, but no, thanks. So it's not a guarantee that you'll get on it, but there have been times also where I was put on committees at a FSA that I didn't want to be on, but we [00:55:00] needed someone on it. So it. It's not that I wasn't qualified. It was just, I thought it was boring, so I didn't wanna be on it.
Um, but I mean, NFPA 13, I don't think most people realize, like there are a lot of committees just for that, that one standard. It's not just one N FPA 13 committee. I can't remember how many there are. I was on the hanging embracing because I had done a lot of work in California, which that actually can, that got heated a few times.
You know, if you're in the middle of the country and don't have earthquakes, why do you care about seismic bracing? And then if you're in California, you're definitely passionate about seismic bracing. It's kind of hard to crack into. Once you kind of get into it, it gets a little bit easier. It takes some practice riding up your biography, right.
To get on there to me. I guess the advice I would have is if you don't get on one, Don. Let that get you down. If I go onto NFPA right now, I think I have 30 active applications. And I know I have at least three times that amount of denied applications. You know, it's one of those as I've been told around here, because I found out we have alligators is every once in a while, a blind alligator find something to eat sometimes rapid fire.
You know, if I've got a free moment, I might just go in and apply for four or five committees. I've gone years where I haven't been on any, which sometimes that was kind of nice cuz it freed up my time. Other times it was like, well, what the heck? What am I doing that didn't get me on a committee. I would just recommend if you really want to go down that path, which I recommend everyone should be active in this field is possible.
I would recommend just constantly trying to. I definitely feel like I need to start applying now. You're making me feel like I'm falling behind. I needed some applications out there. I mean, that was part of my job for a while, was to be on NFBA committee. So that helps. Well, Russ, I, uh, wanna be mindful of your time.
Thank you so much for coming on. And speaking with me, I've really enjoyed talking with you. I think we covered a lot of great stuff. That was great. Yeah. Thanks for having me on. 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 time.