What Do Fire Protection Engineers Do? 8 Defining Services

Our team of experts offers regular updates on FPE and life safety best practices, code modifications and more.

Haavard Boehmer, P.E.


November 10, 2022

Fire protection engineering aims to identify fire risks and ultimately protect people and property. In this blog, we explore eight services that fire protection engineers provide.

Fire protection engineering is defined as “the application of science and engineering principles to protect people, property, and their environments from the harmful and destructive effects of fire and smoke.” To accomplish this, fire protection engineering focuses on detecting, suppressing, and mitigating fires.

Fire protection engineering is important because it saves lives and property. One report found that in the United States, local fire departments responded to 1,353,500 fires in 2021. The fires were responsible for: 

  • 3,800 civilian deaths
  • 14,700 civilian injuries,
  • $15.9 billion in property damage

Without fire protection engineering, those numbers would be even higher. But how did this kind of engineering come about?

History of Fire Protection Engineering

One of the earliest instances of modern fire protection engineering regulations occurred after the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed over 80 percent of the city. As a result of the fire, London implemented fire protection regulations that required buildings to have brick-and-mortar exteriors to hinder the spread of fire.

Over the course of about 250 years, the focus of fire protection evolved to include protecting buildings and the people and property inside them. And in 1903, the Armour Institute of Technology established the first-degree program in fire protection engineering. Now, people can study at colleges and universities worldwide to become licensed fire protection engineers.

What Fire Protection Engineers Do: 8 Key Services

1. Performance-Based Design

Performance-based design utilizes fire and egress modeling technologies to determine alternative means of compliance with prescriptive building codes. It allows architects and builders to maximize life safety without the limitations of the prescriptive code. Plus, performance-based design can help to reduce project costs and time while making clients and the AHJ happy.

2. Fire & Life Safety System Design

Fire and life safety system design involves designing systems that ensure the safety of building occupants in the event of a fire. From fire suppression systems to fire alarms, fire protection engineers have the knowledge and skills required to design systems that ensure safety in built environments.

3. Fire & Egress Modeling

Fire and egress modeling leverages modern software applications to perform a few tasks:

  • Predict fire behavior
  • Determine the effectiveness of life safety systems
  • Realize how building occupants will react to a fire

Doing these things allows fire protection engineers to visualize the effectiveness of their designs and know for certain whether they will work.

4. Alternative Means & Methods

Alternative means and methods are fire protection solutions that meet or exceed the intent of prescriptive code without following it to a T. This allows architects and builders to meet their clients’ vision for a structure without compromising life safety. Fire protection engineers help to prove that an alternative means and method is safe and effective by creating defensible documentation and working closely with the AHJ.

5. Smoke Control

In order for a building to offer adequate smoke control, it needs systems that can displace smoke in the event of a fire. Atrium smoke control systems, floor-to-floor systems, and stairwell pressurization systems are just a few examples of smoke control systems that make buildings safe. And to determine the right system for the building, fire protection engineers perform CONTAM modeling and prepare a smoke control rational analysis to ensure code compliance and overall efficacy.

6. Hazard Analysis

There are fire and building codes for the maximum allowable quantity (MAQ) of hazardous materials in a building. It’s essential to follow these guidelines to reduce the chances of starting an uncontrollable fire. Fire protection engineers can help to analyze, classify, and inventory MAQs so hazardous materials are stored in a control area that is safe and compliant.

7. Code Consulting

There are all kinds of fire and building codes that architects and builders must follow for the safety of buildings and the people who occupy them. The International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are just a couple of examples. And that’s not even including the state-specific amendments to the codes. With so many codes, it can be challenging to keep up with all the rules and regulations. Fire protection engineers can interpret and articulate the codes to help improve understanding and avoid costly oversights.

8. Fire & Life Safety Narratives

Fire and life safety narratives serve as a comprehensive guide that answers all the fire protection and life safety code questions that apply to your building. The last thing you want is to start construction and find out your design isn’t up to code. Fire protection engineers can help to eliminate surprises, identify value engineering opportunities, and ultimately save you unexpected costs and delays.


Fire protection engineering helps to keep buildings and occupants safe in the event of a fire. To make this happen, fire protection engineers provide various services to help architects and builders create safe and beautiful buildings.

Performance Based Fire offers effective fire protection engineering services, ranging from performance-based design to code consulting. Contact us to learn how we can help you with all your fire protection needs.