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Oct. 27, 2021

024 - Who's a Fire Safety Engineer with Jimmy Jönsson

024 - Who's a Fire Safety Engineer with Jimmy Jönsson

Who is a Fire Safety Engineer? And when do you become one? How do you know the person on the other side of the table at the project meeting has the necessary competencies to judge fire safety solutions of a building you design?

That is a problem with (a) the definition of the profession and (b) the definition of the core competencies related to the profession. And both of these issues are close to the heart of my guest, Jimmy Jönsson, Director at JVVA in Spain and a member of SFPE Board of Directors. Jimmy has led an SFPE "Core Competencies" task group which created a reference document - Recommended Minimum Technical Core Competencies for the Practice of Fire Protection Engineering

In our talk, we dive deep into the competencies of fire engineers, and to what particular tasks these competencies are required. You will learn where one can obtain the broad view over a fire science, and why Jimmy would rather hire someone with wide but shallow knowledge, over a specialist without a fire engineering background.

If you are looking for more resources, SFPE has some goodies for you:

Transcript
Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Hello everybody and welcome to session 24 of the Fire Science Show. Before we started having an announcement, the moment, his episode goes live the Fire Science Show has passed 10,000 individual episode downloads 10,000. Wow. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to it. It's 10,000 times someone tuned into the show to gain some new insights about the fire science. That's 10,000 chances to change someone's professional workflows or, challenge the way they are thinking. And I hope this is something that brings you to the show. When I've started this. It was a kind of experimental to see if there is, let's say a market for a very specific well-produced show on a very narrow field of science the fire science. And I was not really sure if it will work out because it seems that it's not going to be interesting to general audience and for fire engineers, it could actually be even too narrow with the topics. I was worried that people will not like it, but, they do. And that makes me very, very happy. So thank you once again. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for your messages that you sent to me. Thank you for sharing the episodes with your friends and writing about them on the social media. Thank you for all your donations through the website. They really helped me supporting the technicalities of the podcast and helped me get going. Uh, so yeah. Yeah. 10,000 downloads. Wow. That's that's a lot and there's going to be a lot, lot more so, yeah, I'm not stopping anywhere soon. Now to today's episode. My guest is a director in his own engineering company in Spain. He's running a fire safety engineering office. So he knows a lot about what to expect from fire safety engineers. And, he also led to very specific task of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. Few years ago, they've decided it's necessary to define what are the core competencies of a fire safety engineer. s guest was leading this. Difficult task group and they've produced a very nice core competencies document. And, today we're gonna, we're going to discuss that in depth about what makes a fire safety engineer, a fire safety engineer, where is the boundary? When one should become a fire safety engineer for the type of the work they are doing. And, what are the perspectives for the fire safety engineers in the future. And, I'm going to spoil it the bit for you. They are great. Anyway please help me welcoming director of JVVA Fire and Risk Jimmy Jonnson and let's spin in the intro and jump into the episode. Hello everybody. Welcome to Fire Science Show today. I'm with Jimmy Jonnson from JVVA in Spain. Hey, Jimmy

Jimmy Jonnson:

Hi Wojciech, good to be here.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

to have you here and with Jimmy, we're going to talk a bit about fire protection engineers, but, first Jimmy, you're a Swedish guy who met an Italian guy in London and started together engineering company in Spain. Tell me how did it happen and do you enjoy sunshine that much?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, we're really, enjoy sunshine. That's why we're in Spain. I was the primary objective, but back, to seriousness. Actually both of us worked in a larger consulting company. no problem say ARUP . don't think so. No. Well we learned a lot then and did a lot of work and at some stage we decided uh, we can also do this on our own. So that was almost 10 years ago now. And we created JVVA and that's, how we are now.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's so cool. And you don't look at someone who retires soon, so it's, you must really enjoy the sun and the climate. before we jump into, , how we train fire safety engineer, tell me your story. How were you trained as a fire safety engineer? I guess that's a good way to start on the.

Jimmy Jonnson:

It's a really good way to start actually. I was quite lucky, I would say when now when you know, a bit more about what's out there in the world, I started out as a, with fire engineering at Lund University. Okay. So I started

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's a great place to start.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Great place to start, , quite a few years back now, more than, 20 years back, actually. The good thing we've learned is , it's really wide. Uh, you learn a lot, especially basic fields of fire engineering that you need to know, and then they go quite lot into risk engineering That's a really good thing. When I was back in Lund the good thing is that you got lots of practical exercises, they've got a nice fire lab. You burn things, you measure it. And then you compare with equations and theory and see how it works. So you get to know, you get to know quite alone in, in the, in your program, how real fire is, what smoke is and so on. Another important aspect that I learned a lot from is that you have all the practical fire fighting side of it. Every summer you're working at the, fire station. You get, a basic fireman training, from the university working in conjunction with. Fire academy and Sweden. So you get both the theory side and the practical side. And that for me, it's been a lot of help. I think that's important for engineers to know about the practical side as well.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah. Uh, practical from both sides designing the safety systems and using the safety systems during a critical situation

Jimmy Jonnson:

Exactly.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

In my career, I've pursued the Masters in Fire Safety Engineering in a Warsaw Main School of Fire Service. This is an officer's school for Polish firefighters. So people who want to be officers and commanders in fire service, go to this. And there's like a, sort of a joint fire protection engineering program where you can apply as a civilian and become a fire protection engineer. And you train with these guys and these guys train with us. So it's kind of great because every officer is a fire protection engineer in here because of this, dualism. We got like a lot of, fire protection engineering, core competencies being trained as a fire protection engineer, but also a quite significant exposure to firefighting and firefighting tactics, what the supply and stuff like that. So, that was also very interesting. One thing that I didn't get much in, in that school at the time, I know now it's a little bit better in, there was a, I really didn't get much from smoke control engineering, which I ended up doing as a professional. So that was a deep dive for me when I, , joined ITB a decade ago to have to learn. Competency from the scratch, but it was challenging, but doable, and then now, now I'm perceived as an expert in that. So I guess it went not that bad at all.

Jimmy Jonnson:

No. That's true.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that's, that's, that's funny, you know, this paths are usually very unique but in the end we meet at the same meetings in the same offices with all these interesting backgrounds and actually this diversity is something uh, very nice for fire safety engineers, because you cannot be master of all the crafts in fire safety engineering.

Jimmy Jonnson:

No, definitely not. actually been working with consultancy most of my time. I mean, I've also been in, in academia and fire and rescue, but in consultancy the fire engineering profile, fire engineering a person is actually one of the key persons in the project. Because he's involved and he's his things with each discipline, with the electrical, the guys with the structural, uh, with the mechanicals, with the plumbing he's involved in, in all this. so he actually finally, it gets a more holistic view in a project and that's necessarily. fire engineering effects all other disciplines. So that's, one of the good things and that's what you see in the projects as well. That's why we see so much diversity within the fire engineers as well. So it's, it's very positive.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

So you said a fire person is the one that's in the middle of a project. And this also my experience, we often had it, that people from other branches, let's say the plumbers came to us and ask about what the electricians just did in the shaft next door is because they didn't knew and they knew we will know. If they touch the shafts, they must have consulted with us. So it's usually funny when you become the connector in the building. And if that's the case, that's actually pretty cool because you can fire engineer of the building. It's much worse. You jumped into the building in last minute and have to learn everything that happens around. But let's talk, who is the fire engineer? Is there one definition of what a fire engineer is because every country has different, , in Sweden you have a different than in Poland and in Spain it's like completely different than in here. And then probably you will jump into middle east, US, Australia and each in every of these places, it will be like very local about who this person is. But yet the challenges and the fire and the science and everything is global. It's the same everywhere. So who is the fire engineer?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah. that's a very good question, actually. Yeah, we can see it. We can see the same dilemma in, in the codes. And we know you just said it's fires behave in the same way. Doesn't matter if you're in the States or in Australia or in China or, or whatever, but the codes are also different in these areas. You cannot build the same building in the states or in Poland or in Sweden or. They are different applications to it. And still it's the exposure from the firehouses all the same. Going back to your question, that the definition of the fire engineer. The best definitions I've seen so far and in written and kind of acknowledge is definitions that the SFPE Society of Fire Protection Engineers, having some of their documents. They basically say that you need to be trained. You need to know the basics. and you need to be able to develop systems or methods to protect a building or people from the hazards of fire and, a few more things. But I think that's the key thing you need to be capable of actually developing solutions that protect buildings and people from the hassles of fire. That's, I think it's the key definition. And then whatever, if you're a fire safety engineering of fire risk engineer or fire protection, Or a protection plumbing engineer or a firefighting engineer. I've seen so many of these. doesn't really matter if it's different, but, it should be, I wish it at some stage in the future, there's a commonality thing about these as well.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I have the definition from the Core Competencies Document, which I will link, obviously in the show notes, I have this definition in front of my eyes, so I'll read it aloud. A fire protection engineer is an individual who by formal training and professional experience carries the necessary competency and has the skills to provide guidance and direction to protect life property in environment from threats posed by fire and it's related mechanism. So it's really nicely written. And when you were saying that in my head, I got this short idea that the fire engineer would be a person that can apply a global knowledge on fire to local problem. And that would also sum it up, uh, quite nicely. And is international, challenge, of the profession we face. Right.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, it would, it would, it's a good thing.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

uh, I'm coining that. Yeah. Yes. Good, good. Good for us. Okay. The fire protection engineer and their role in the projects. Learned or produced by universities in a different way. They come from different backgrounds, in some countries, uh, you enter a fire protection engineering as your master course in some countries like in Poland, you will do full bachelors and masters in fire safety engineering. You may come from outside of, professional education to, in an office and in a way, become a fire engineer, not knowing that you are becoming one. And that's the career path of many people that I know, It's a challenge that it's so scattered in a way. And I know that was one of the reasons why, , the group for defining the core competencies in the practical fire protection engineering was formed. And you were leading that task, writing this a minimum fire protection engineering competencies guideline. So tell me what were your goals or your first thoughts when you have entered this process of writing, what did you discuss on the first meeting

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, This was a problem that was identified in SFPE , many, many years ago, it's been known, , as a problem to, to the industry. No one was actually doing anything about it. SFPE took a good decision. We needed to do something now. Otherwise it's, we're going to lose this, , in the end. in the first meetings, you probably could it be said what you just said. We were all different backgrounds. Some didn't even have. Formal training in, in fire enginering. And so it was a very wide groups, so that was quite good. But the overall goal, I think they were all we're thinking about is to, make the discipline recognized. It's such a young discipline fire engineering If you compare with structuring engineering or, uh, electrical engineering, or even not even engineering, like medicine, they're all recognized things. If you ask a person do you know what a structural engineer is, most of the guys can, any person can probably say, yeah, I think he maybe builds houses and do engineering and so on. But if you ask someone about a fire. Uh, you can get any answer. I mean, scattered so wide, so you don't even know that's what's happening. So that was one of the things try to get the better definition of fire engineer and to make a recognized discipline, to make the industry aware that we need fire engineers and there needed to be competent fire engineers otherwise it's probably creates more problem than it would solve.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I guess the second issue that came up, If you want competent engineers, how do you measure competency? And when does one become from a incompetent into a competence, a fire protection engineer.

Jimmy Jonnson:

That's the whole key question and I'm afraid it's no easy answer to that one. In some countries, They assume or it's wrong or correct. I don't know. But once you get your degree and your diploma, you're competent enough to start working, in other countries, your degree and your diplomas, just the first step, then you need to experience and there's, once you can show experience. Show that you're competent. And there's also an even further step where you actually need to get your license needed to do a test and an exam on top of your degree. And on top of your experience, it's doing an exam to actually show that you're competent enough. So there's a mixture of all of these things all over the world. I think the minimum minimum thing is that you actually should have some kind of formal training. In whatever area of expertise you're doing. If it's modeling, if it's, evacuation, fire risk assessments or whatever, you need to have some training, just can't start doing these things without having, uh, a formal background in it. So that would be the first step. And then where does it actually stop? Are we going to have licensed engineers like in the US or no requirement as at all, as in many European countries, there's no requirement that all to be, but you find in here. But, , to be able to call your self a competent fire engineer at least you should have some formal training and experience in the field that you're working with.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I'm going to challenge you a bit with, this. Let's imagine I'm my work is to design sprinkler hydraulics. And what I'm doing all day is calculating pressure losses and the areas of sprinklers and stuff like that. Do I need to be a fire safety engineered to do that? Or, is specializing in within, let's say NFPA 13 is sufficient for me to say I'm competent, like what I'm losing by not knowing. And is it truly critical for my.

Jimmy Jonnson:

I'm going to be totally honest with you. and straightforward. I think if you're a plumbing engineer, you don't need any knowledge at all about fire. I think just, you need to be able to design correctly according to standards and guidelines your system. The fire engineer needs to tell the plumbing engineer we need to have this type of system need to have, this level of risk. You need to design to these standards and that's it. And I think it's the same for detection. We can have an electrical engineer doing the detection system. If it's according to the standard. If it becomes a bit special and need to do a special detection system and so on, then of course you need to be working with them. My view of fire engineering that when you're deciding to standards sprinkler systems or detection systems, you don't really need to understand fire engineering at all. You just need to be in good hands. If you have questions that affects your.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

But the moment you are responsible with the decision, which type of sprinkler to use, what the spray is needed for this class of

Jimmy Jonnson:

That should come from the fire

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

of, and that's the moment where you should actually be competent to do these choices. And it's not something you can learn by just reading the standard. That would be a line between this

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, that's what I think. Once you start to design. What type of system you need. What does it need to protect and so on, then you need to be , fire engineeri deciding that issue and deciding that question.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay, let's go further. Let's go into people I love the most CFD engineers, because it's a thing. You know, there's a bunch of people doing CFD calculations for fire systems. Without any fire knowledge, because they consider it's , just like for, um, hydraulics it would be the plumping calculations, pressure, losses, and stuff. Some people treat, , smoke movement and airflow in the building in the very exact way. It's just calculations of how a fluid moves. So they jump into delivering CFD analysis, for buildings. And they just read out the values of what they've seen is this, pushing the boundary, of this competency.

Jimmy Jonnson:

I think you've passed the boundary already. If you do that, that's a very good example. I can see that lot as well. Actually. I think it's a world spread phenomenon. That actually good engineers, which are good at fluid dynamics, different programs, and so on, normally specialized in, in ambient climate and so on. They are doing fire simulations as well. And every time I've seen it, it's been wrong. I can tell you 100% it's been wrong. The fire size is wrong. The fire behavior is wrong and the energy. per unit area ratio is wrong. I can't tell you how wrong it is. So, eh, in the end, , I've seen it done, but when it comes to review or third-party review, or even authorities review, it needs to be redone again because it was wrong. So it's a, that's a clear example of when a person. He's not competent enough to be able to decide and to determine the right input data or the background or the input data when he, when it simulates a fire. So that's why it's so important with, on the job training, a good course specific training in safety for fires. I can tell you a few more areas where it happens,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah, can you try one area?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Can try one that you would like as well, because it has to do with simulations. It's when a people movement, engineer's pedestrian movement, they'l try to do emergency movement and they get to draw not as much as the CFD guys, but almost because they don't know. About the emergency movement, how it works, , the psychological factors behind movement in emergencies and fires. How will the smoke effect, the velocity of the people, how will they affect their ability to choose exits and so on, and you need specific knowledge to actually know that, and they don't have. I don't want insult more people here in the school,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

it's like, I we've passed the boundary. Jimmy, let let's give them hell. Nah, no, but it's really serious. From one side is obviously dangerous. It's bad for the safety. So it's bad for society. And, you ended up with dangerous buildings, but from the most pragmatic point of view and you are running an engineering company, I'm working in an engineering company. It's the people who we compete with for projects. And so many times. And non-fire engineer or a fake fire engineer was chosen above a real one due to costs or whatever. It's devastating for us pursuing this path of career and devoting ourselves to learn these competencies and to be truly well all around fire engineer. Right. So, , sharing this, knowledge, and I really appreciate that. You've said that you don't have to be a fire engineer to design, the pipes or, basic hydraulics, for example, or even a smoke alarm system. That's because, , you understand that, for some jobs, understanding the technology is sufficient to apply the technology, but the difference between the choice and application. This is the powerful one that, that, that is fire engineering, not screwing the pipe into the wall.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, I think that's the, put it down on the on the spot. When it comes to pure design, normally you follow basic standards and you understand what you're doing as a good design engineer. You don't know to understand why that system was asked for or why this structural requirement was put in place. You just assigned to meet that requirement, that someone, another guy put that for you. So it's a, for me, it's a clear line between most disciplines. And what you can do. It becomes a bit blurred when we have these experts in some areas that thinks that fire is, not any other specific thing. It can be done easily. And that one, when it becomes a bit dangerous, when you're not aware of , that's not how it is really.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

The next thing I wanted to talk is that, you've also mentioned that a few times already. That is the same as with systems. In some worlds, you have a performance-based engineering, in some worlds you have full prescriptive engineering. What about a fire engineer who becomes a compliance engineer and your ability to engineer is taken away from you. All you can do is pick a value from the code and apply it, uh, you in a way, become a code engineer, even, How does that look for you? And is this fundamental competencies still useful in this situation? Or maybe not even useful, useful, they always will be, but are the necessary in that situation?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, that's a, it's a, bit of a tough one because I, when I started my career, I did a lot of code consultants , lifesafety consultancy, and. I think you have an advantage if you know the reasons behind why we need to certain travel distances, why we need to certain protection to stairs and so on, it doesn't mean that that if you don't know this, you can still design a building, but it's certainly, better if you actually know the background to do what's behind the code requirements. So I still think you just should be competent and you should have. background, if you're only within parentheses, even if you only do code consultancy, because you need to understand from, where did those requirements from whether they come. They just didn't show up overnight in a book, so it's not as critical as it should be because any architect can sit down. and assign a building, which is code compliant to fire code. But if, there are some changes maybe, and they want to do some alternative solutions to it, it's there and then it stopped for them there. They wouldn't be able to do that, but the fire engineer would.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I guess it also depends to what extent your local system allows the allegations from the procedures and from the lower requirements and performance based engineering. And you cannot exclude that your low system will change into one. Let's go further. in some aspects, the PBD becomes risk engineering. And for me personally, jumping from fire engineering, into fire risk engineering, that's quite a steep jump, to be done. And I've also seen risk engineers come from non-fire and environments to calculate fire risk. Because for example, if you work for an insurer, you, you sometimes would have to do that based on just code compliance and stuff like that. So this, when you step up to the risk engineering, , how important is competencies are, should they be raised into the power of two or.

Jimmy Jonnson:

you're making a really good point. Next to my fire eng I have. and a second degree in risk management. So, I know where this will end up with, but, that jump from pure engineering to a kind of probabilistic approach it's to fire engineering is it's a long jump. If you're not competent, you shouldn't even try to do that step and try to. Make that long jump that's necessary. It's necessary for many projects related to fire. You do it's for offshore industry. You do it for tunnels to do it for Metro systems and so on. You include risk engineering because you need to understand the risks of infrastructure, but if you're doing that, you really, really need to know what you're doing. You really need to, to have a really good background. , statistical analysis, event trees or F and N numbers.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

a very specific tools that

Jimmy Jonnson:

you need very specific tools. Yeah. And it, it's not as straightforward. So, it can be done. I don't see it for the building industry yet. , because we don't, there's not. capacity among the engineers to actually do that. Just a few engineers that get there, they're able to do it. And even if we all could do it, there's a, there's another side of the coin, which is the authorities and the building, approvals authorities. If we don't have that system in for buildings, it's going to be really hard to drive, to improve or approve. I mean, these kinds of solutions. It would be really difficult for everyone to sign off on that solution. That's why it's only done for very specific projects, where you actually need a specific team of risk engineers involved in those projects. And it's normally has to do with, projects requiring a large amount of investments. You don't want to waste money. You need to be sure that you actually. Like a large infrastructure project, that's millions and millions of euros . So you really need to be sure that you're doing it well.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

So we will come back to the core competencies and technical competencies in a second. But before we do that, I would also like to ask you, what's your take on soft skills that fire safety engineer. has to have.And from my experience, fire engineers has to have this very certain soft skills that not is they're not expected from many others. First of all, you have to communicate, between technical and non-technical people on the design team or on the construction yard, from architects to, uh, health and safety people, to, engineers who craft very specific systems and they need to be able to convey the same message to both of them. Sometimes is a hell of a challenge, you know, to, to explain, uh, fire safety strategy, to all of the participants and especially the guy with the bag of money who pays for the building. And as Benjamin Ralph said, they're definitely non-certified. You don't have to have a license to have a lot of money and build buildings, which maybe shouldn't be the first thing to license. And the second thing is you have to communicate with people, who'd not always want to listen to. You with firefighters, local authorities. sometimes it's not only communication. Sometimes you truly have to do proactive teaching to them. Imagine you're building the first road tunnel in your city or your building, the first huge warehouse in your region. And they have never met such a challenge. And you're the most competent person around who knows how to build them. And if you don't prepare them for the challenges that. To come, they will make your life very hard accepting your design or throwing bricks at you when you are doing things that are you're supposed to do. So being at this local educator is also a thing for fire engineers. What do you think about these soft skills? Maybe you see another important, soft skill and that is critical

Jimmy Jonnson:

No. The key is his communication skills is what you said, because you're forced to communicate the same problem or the same solution to such a wide range of different people that someone has, as you said, no skill, no technical skill at all. They handling, uh, permitting a license , or a money issue. They buying the components, something. To the far far end to another engineer, maybe the, third party reviewer of the project, which is a fire engineer here. And then to the authorities that might know a lot, or might not know a lot that we'd have to approve this whole thing. So I think that's a, key skill that is necessary. You need to be able to communicate. Uh, really well to convey the idea and the solutions. Everyone understands it. And I really liked one thing that you said there well, you don't need to have any license if you have a lot of money , to do whatever you want with that money. Yeah. If there's someone keen to invest, in this. And you're convinced them, for example, this is, acceptable and it will work. You better be sure that that will work then later on. A lot of pre-work is needed, especially with authorities before you actually start any project, make sure that it will be to some degree acceptable that you have a path that is planned, that you can actually convince them and that they are open to these ideas because that is all a performance based design about your you're not compliant with the rules, you're deviating from the rules. So unless that is conveyed in a straight manner and a serious in an open way, the project will not go forward. So I think communication is the number one skill as you said,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay, so let's go, back to the curriculum document to the core competencies and that document. Once you enter the, fire protection competencies, the final tier of the competencies that an engineer should have, you have, subdivided it into four areas. And the first area is the fire science knowledge, which includes heat transfer chemistry, fire dynamics. And the second area a is human behavior and evacuation where you, cover the human behavior response to fire and the in egress and life safety design, then the third area fire protection systems, which includes all types of passive and active systems. And the fourth area is, , related to five prediction analysis. So I assume that's the tools of the craft, how the fire safety is delivered in the building and includes smoke management, PBD, evacuation analysis, numerical methods, and so on. So on. So this is really fun because it's four fields that, you could technically specialize in one of them and have a, quite a great career, in it. But what do you lose when you don't know about the others? Can you pick one and just be the fire safety engineer with that or still, you've made them core competencies because they truly are the core competencies.

Jimmy Jonnson:

I mean, that's a good point. I think it's both. Yes and no for that one . The goal is that if you gonna need some formal training and that formal training. Should, , encompass all of these areas. You should know a little bit about everything, and, and then the specialization comes on top of that. So I cannot say that when I went out from university, I started passive, active, risk management, smoke control, firefighting intervention. So, you know, more or less what it was about, but you need that experience from working with it as well. And once you start to work, you probably, I mean, some people are more talented than others, but most of the people are specializing in some specific area. So I met engineers that are basically really just doing evacuation modeling or structured financing in that. Or smoke control systems. And if you're getting into such specialization that you doing that, I personally think that you need to know anything about the other areas. So you don't have, you don't get anything from risk management. You don't get anything from psychological behavior of evacuation if you're just designing smoke control systems. but I think you need it as a basic knowledge. From the beginning and then the way you have specialized yourself, you just need to make sure that you're competent in that area. And then we have the general fire engineers that knows a bit more about everything of those, but they're not really specialized in an area. They know the basis and how to do this recreation analysis, uh, how to do smoke model analysis, but they're not building the model. They're not doing the input. You're not calculating looking at the movement and so of smoke. So I think we have all these, this spectrum, but to be honest, it's totally impossible for anyone fire engineer , to be a specialist in all these areas. , I couldn't see that maybe one or maybe two, if you really want to study and be good at something. , I think most of the people are specialized and they maintain their competency in that area. It doesn't mean that they need it in others, but I think that it means that they need to know about it. At least what it's about.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I've asked this tough question because when the document was published, I've heard the voices that the overall competencies within the document are like too much. That would have to be a superhuman, to know all of this. Like it's literally impossible to be an expert in heat transfer, fire, alarm systems, human behavior, and risk management. It's impossible to have all of this. So the question becomes, what is the core of the core disciplines and how much time actually you should spend learning these basics and then specializing. When you're in your university, It's kind of obvious, you know, it's, you have this years that are shaped in a way to give you this progress into these topics. So when you're going into full FPE program in Lund Maryland, or Poland, you're probably will get them all of them in a bit, but let's imagine you're in a place like Spain, where you don't have formal fire protection engineering education, and you are hiring a new person into your. And you probably cannot expect them to have all of this. And you would like them to specialize in the thing that you need them to work on. So to what extent they should go outside or how much time they should spend outside of this specialization, or is there any branching strategy that you can apply to make this the most useful for them?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, actually put two questions there. I go for the first one. And then I go back to this new person hiring. The first one you said, you cannot be the super engineer when we first launched the draft document of the core, and this is minimum technical core competencies. Okay. I think we got like 200 - 300 comments on the document. It took that it took. At least three or four months, or even more just to sort out and answer comments and upgrade, documented to reflect what we think was okay. Okay. but the whole idea is that you're not going to be competent in all these areas. I just have a basic understanding of these areas. That doesn't mean that you're competent. You should know what evacuation modeling is. You should know what the evacuation strategies are. Different ways of protecting from smoke, different smoke control systems. What is passive protection, active protection. You should know that. And then your specialization comes a bit also depending on the university you're going to, I mean, some universities are specifically. , looking into structural fire engineering, some are looking into risk, some are looking into recreation and so on. So it depends a bit on a university. You're come from going back to your question. I personally would love to hire a graduate from a fire engineering university. That's the best stock they can have. Uh, if you can't have that, you, as a, employer need to make sure that they get the right education, you can do online courses. You can have in-house training, you can send them to university courses and so on in the areas they would like to develop themselves in and the needs of the company. But, you need to sort that out. That's clear. You need to give them. Training about the subjects that you would like them to work with and they need close supervision. And during the entire time it would take them a few years to actually get to know what they supposed to know. There's no doubt about that, that you, as an employer, we need to give them the tools and the education and the training they would need to do to perform their job task. And that's, that's the money and time that. You have to invest that and just hope that they stay in the company and not change.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And then go to Spain to start their own business.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Exactly. Exactly.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

But let's re let's revert that. Let's look at the perspective of someone who's doing the FPE master's course, for example, to what extent should they specialize already within the university curriculum, because you know, some universities would go very deep on active passive systems and code compliance. Some would teach more like modeling skills. So some would focus on, for example, Or maybe fundamental science it's like this university's coming in flavors as well. And it's difficult to push person to learn, like to spend like 300 hours on sprinklers and maybe they don't learn enough about human behavior. So I guess this balancing out of competencies is also a challenging task for the universities, right?

Jimmy Jonnson:

It certainly is because they have their research centers and they have their specific skills and so on. But to a certain degree, I think the, education, facilities, the university's Needs to be a bit more coordinated and look into what the industry needs. My personal opinion is that it's better, that you have a good, basic knowledge about all areas. And then you can actually try to educate yourself in a deeper way in during the thesis work or even after when you start to work in a company, you can do extra courses. You can read more, you can buy. And so on. the key thing is that you need to have the minimum level in almost all areas.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah. well, you're running your own company. You're hiring people. There's a lot of young fire safety engineers listening to the podcast. So I think it's quite priceless to hear this, perspective. If you had to choose between like a narrowly specialized graduate and one that has this, maybe not such a specialized, but wide field of view, would you choose the latter or the special.

Jimmy Jonnson:

If the graduates, I think I would choose the wide one because if they interested in some specific area, they can always specialize. Uh, if there's a specific need for a very specific, individual, for example, structured engineering. It's not that easy to come about. Aerodynamics is not that easy. So if you need aerodynamics engineer, obviously you're looking for someone with those skills and you don't need a, generalist. Okay. But I would say if you're starting in any large company or in any company with the recent amount of people, you're probably better off starting off with someone that has basic skills and are very, really interested in simulations or structural engineering or aerodynamics or whatever. So they should be able to develop that within the company or on their own.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Do you think we train enough fire protection engineers?

Jimmy Jonnson:

No, definitely not. No, no. The market for fire engineers so good. I mean, you can find a job in any continent in any country, in any market. That's why we have the problem with competence because there's such a demand for fire engineers that all the non engineers are filling up those positions as well. So it's a universities really needed to be able to produce a lot more. They need to look into how to, increase the programs, to get what the market needs and fire engineering in and fire analysis. That's the hot topic. And it always been for the last almost 30, 40 years. there's no fire enginer out of a job.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

They don't tell you that on even where you choose university and you learn about, you can be a programmer or maybe a civil engineer or an architect there there's no, this fancy guy who'd tell you. Yeah, man, there's this branch where they literally run out of people and no matter how many students graduate, they'll all be sucked up by the market regardless.

Jimmy Jonnson:

No it

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

if I knew that such a career path exists, I would take it. I took it accidentally,

Jimmy Jonnson:

I think it's the same for almost everyone. They interested in fire, or if they have a fire named program one, what that is take it. And then you end up be able to choose whatever you want to work. And yeah, if we could have more influence, in this young people that already. Trying to go into university. She would see a program. Many of them would choose, fire engineering. I think

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah. Especially if you drive a Lamborghini for the interview, you can borrow one just to make the impression that makings red, for

Jimmy Jonnson:

That's the only in Poland though. That's you drive a rock?

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yes. Yes. We have very narrow number of chartered fire engineers. And I'm, unfortunately I'm not one of them maybe one day. So we have this, draught, this, unsufficient amount of competent fire engineers. And there are challenges today that need to be solved. There are designs that need to be done today. There are buildings that need to be built today. There are buildings that need to be refurbished or renovated today, and we cannot wait to train another thousands of fire engineers to do approach this. We have to do it today. So, first, what can we do or maybe should we take this proactive, let's say stance and, teach other branches how to do fire engineering and let them a little bit into our territory. Maybe train the sprinkler guy on how to choose the classes of commodities and stuff like that. And if it's in our interest to train these branches, to have more competent stakeholders to work with, who can solve the basic problems on their own without engaging us and then wasting our time in essence, is there a good way to do that? Do you have a good idea? This intersection between the fire engineer and the simple tasks that non-fire stakeholder and possibly should do and possibly will do regardless.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, I think that your last sentence, there was the correct one. , this will happen regardless. Okay. So it's actually happening now. So what is happening now? Fire engineering firms and especially maybe fire engineering departments within larger firms, they are taking a, the need people that can't find people. So they are taking the, sprinkler guy and train him into, ,fire engineerwithin the group. They will take the mechanical guy and train him into fire engineer that could work. It's a very short sighted, , solution. Those guys doesn't have the basic training that you need. There will be very limited specific tasks and that might solve the problem, but they still don't have the basics. Okay. So what needs to be done? First of all, we need to try to make the market aware of. There is a need to have competent fire engineers because the problem doesn't come from these large companies where they actually use, they are supervision. they are controlled. The problem comes from the small companies with what they say are fire engineers and they don't have any fire engineering background. They don't have the form of training that is needed and they do work and they do a lot of work and I do it wrong. Uh, you don't know this, that is. And no one knows that it's wrong. that's where the problem is it. It's a short-term strategy to get other engineers into the discipline and get them trained up the long-term solution is to get the universities to produce the need as they do in any other discipline, structural engineering, mechanical. It should be the same for fire.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's an idea I have in my head, maybe. Outside of this curriculum of a fire protection engineers, maybe there should be curriculum for, the basic fire for non fire protection engineers. A short thing that could be given to an architect, a structural engineer, a mechanical engineer, HVAC engineer. Who's not intended to be a fire engineer, but to show that. And the complexity of fire, the potential challenges, the oversight of possible solutions, , such a course could be quite efficient because if the other stakeholders understand the complexity better, the easier our job becomes. Because then they have an easier time to judge whether they need help with something or not.

Jimmy Jonnson:

It is actually a, something, there are a few unity initiatives going on about that. I know one within SFPE as well, which is to produce a kind of a crash course , for non-fire engineers. It's not about them transform them into fire engineers. It's just for them to know what is fire engineering. So that to know how. Who should they contact? If they have a problem with someone, it should be what a, the basics of fire detection, of basics of fire alarm, the basics of smoke control systems. The base is going to make the evacuation strategies. And once you get to show this to architects or building owners or investors, hopefully it should raise the awareness of them that fire engineers are out there and they can help me with. In some countries, there are always fire engineers involved in. If you do a 100% code solution, if you're building a small building, you can do it directly. They are always finding your on board and so on. And in some countries to find the answer only on board, if it's a singular project a performance-based design approaches needed. Otherwise it wouldn't be there. So you have this whole spectrum of, or different needs of fire engineersin different countries.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And now, and I was a final question. How does the future look like? Is there, are there any plans or actions being taken to, let's say standardize this, maybe in the form of licenses maybe in Europe, because you were so heavily involved with SFPE Europe and. I know there are some initiatives going on in the Brussels , is this core competencies, one of these actions, or maybe it should be in the future?

Jimmy Jonnson:

I think actually more progress has been depending on within our organization. I know there are some initiatives to actually start, and this is more of a CPD thing that actually courses or knowledge that you learn after you're graduated. But I know there are plans on doing courses in what I just said. fire engineering in different areas that will be oriented tainted to actually existingfire egineers. They don't really think they have the skill in that area and they shouldn't have it and they take the course and so on. So I think in the future, this will be quite an important part of, how to, to feed the market as well, or increase capabilities. That because some fire Luckily enough for us, all of us, there are bound , to ethical limits. Yeah. They know if they're competent or if they're not competent. So if they want to increase a business markets or increase their own skills in different areas, they look for information, they look for courses and they take them and he started to speak with people who can actually teach them and cooperate with them. But on the other hand, we have people that don't do that and they take on whatever job they do, but even if they don't, even if you're not competent to do it. So in the future, I think these courses and so on will be, an added on to help us, in the market to have more competent engineers in the market. I personally. Universities that is the key. We need to expand and get more engineers out from universities for the market. But as you already said, we're not even close to, to fill the gap of what we needed. So in the future, within a near future, these courses will actually help us a bit with that work. I think so it's happening both in Europe and in the States as well. So I think. Eventually be a global thing, which is only good for the profession and for the industry overall,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Sorry. And I said it was the last one, but it's not. And do you think we should close , the professional behind the license behind an exam?

Jimmy Jonnson:

Don't think it should be a licensed engineer, to be honest. I think it should be some kind of register of engineers kind of like, they are approved by a body or something. If we only can have licensed engineers, there's a, a further object down the line I think would just slow down. And instead of speeding up the stream of engineers,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

We already don't have enough.

Jimmy Jonnson:

We would have less. Yeah, exactly. So I think it's good to have a register of engineers that we need to show that they have an education experience and so on. I think that's a good step once that is working. Maybe the next step up is the license. But I think it's a bit dangerous to just jump straight into license requirement. For engineers because, there will be so few people that would actually be able to get that. If you're looking in Europe, for example,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yep. Okay, man. That was really interesting discussion and. I know you've put a lot of heart and work into this development of these core competencies documents and with the work of the whole work group. So where I should send people to learn more about this

Jimmy Jonnson:

Do you know what you should do. And now when you put the notes on and so on, you can put a straight link to the SFPE site. Then you can, you can download them directly because it's a good document.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

it's short, it's condensed. and it's great summary of what we were talking about. It's actually, it could be fun to do open it up when you're listening to the podcast and take a look around it. It's interesting. And so for a continuous education and the.

Jimmy Jonnson:

Yeah, because actually, I think you can contact. The top five universities I mean, if you're really interested in, getting, degree or something, I think not the degree, but of course, most of the top universities in Europe about fire engineering gives these. You don't have to be a student directly to reading everything. You can, you can sound courses are just for a few weeks or half a semester and so on. So I'm sure that people that are interested. ation modeling fluid dynamics, risk management, or whatever. They can find their course and most of them are also online. So you just need a few days where you actually go to university and meet up with people as well.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I think SFPE had a list of universities yeah. So, I'll link to that. And there is so many free, webinars

Jimmy Jonnson:

That's also good thing.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Conferences around that, there has never been a better time to educate yourself. And yeah, I will tell you to listen to a podcast, but if you're still with us, statistically, you're the longest listening person in the podcast. So I thank you so much for staying with us so long and, you are on a great traject trajectory to be the best well around engineer. If you're still with us now. Anyway, Jimmy, man, that was really interesting. Thank you so much for having this discussion. And I think it will be very helpful to students, helpful to engineers who are running their own companies, helpful for people who try to switch jobs. I just really hope that no research is going out of academia. We lied about that Lamborghinis. They are not there. Stay researching fire science. We

Jimmy Jonnson:

No. Thank you very much for inviting me. It's been a, it's been a pleasure talking to you.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And that's it. I think it was quite an interesting discussion, especially if you're a graduate student or looking for job in fire safety engineering, I guess Jimmy, , has gave some tricks of the trade of what, uh, he has a director of an engineering companies looking for, in fire safety engineers And yeah, I think so many important aspects of our profession were touched in this discussion. First of all, the formal training, Jimmy has mentioned that few times that he would expect it.a fire safety engineer has a formal training and in, in a way it is true that you need, some sort of formal education because that's. Probably the only way you will be exposed in a structured way to these, complete curriculum of different fire problems. And, uh, I know you can try to get it on your own. You can. try i don't know go and readSFPE handbook from cover to cover, which will probably take you as much as going to a formal course. But, yeah, formal courses are the way that can give you this knowledge necessary. This wide overview over the fire science and engineering. Probably the best and most organized way. And you get the diploma afterwards, which is a form of proof that you've done that. . So this, this can also be considered as the obligation for universities to provide this type of competencies to more and more people as we've discussed. There's absolutely not enough fire safety engineers, no matter how many we will produce, they will always be sucked by some company for a good job. So, uh, we need, we need more of them. We need more competent fire engineers, and we also need to find a way how to, get people who do fire engineering work, but they are not fire engineers a little bit more competent. How do we secure that? Their work is not dangerous to us because it's impossible that we are on every project. We are on every installation. We are on every single fire problem. There is in the world that some of them must be solved by non-fire stakeholders. And. Providing them with knowledge courses, some other ways to expand their knowledge and be more sensitive about the fire problems. It's definitely a way to build a safer world. So I hope you've enjoyed what I've discussed with Jimmy. I think it is very worthwhile to go into the core competencies document, which I'm linking in the show notes. Read it up. See what. So, whether it has insight, make your own opinion about the contents of the document and whether that truly defines a fire safety engineer. I think it's quite a good try at doing that. I really liked that document. So yeah, I think that's it for this episode, please connect with Jimmy and. I saw his name on the ballot for SFPE presidency, , this year. So if you have the power to vote and you've liked what Jimmy had to say, well, he can be your president, so yeah. Thanks for being here. Once again, thank you for 10,000 downloads of the podcast episodes. It's still mindblowing for me. And, , I really, really appreciate your support and just listening to the podcast. It makes it worthwhile , to do this show. Thanks a lot. And yeah. See you next Wednesday. Cheers.