An ocean of opportunity: Building and fire codes are the boat to get you there
What if I told you there was a career path that will open numerous doors and fill your life with interesting options?
What if I told you that you can literally shape the built environment around you?
What if I told you that you will be presented with interesting challenges, situations and projects that will ensure that you don’t get stagnant in your career and will keep you sharp?
What if I told you that you will meet a ton of people and will see buildings and places that most people don’t get to see?
Finally, what if I told you that this same career path will allow you to literally help in reducing injuries, save people’s lives and make a significant, positive difference in society?
You might say to me ‘LIAR! This is too good to be true! Surely this all can’t be done by choosing one career path?’
Well, I’m here to tell you that all the above is 100 percent true. And the path to get there and open these doors is the understanding of building codes, fire codes and their associated standards. It won’t come easy though, as nothing worthwhile does. However, as you will see below, the valuable options that you get from understanding and applying these codes are substantial. You will need to work hard to learn these complex documents. It will take enrollment in educational programs, studying, training programs, seminars and, of course, application in real-world scenarios. However, once you get started and dive into this ocean of opportunity, you will be presented with career options that provide not only good monetary rewards but, more importantly, will keep you engaged and interested in your profession. Additionally, because there are many different paths, if you find that you want to expand your horizons, you will have options to explore different opportunities.
When you start a path to understanding and applying building and fire codes, here are some very brief descriptions of career opportunities that will unfold before your eyes.
Fire protection system designer
In this role, you will analyze building design layouts and design fire protection and life safety systems for the building (fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, special hazard systems, etc.). You will ensure that the design meets codes and standards, and you will use state-of-the-art technology to execute the design of these complex systems.
Fire alarm technician
A fire alarm technician installs and maintains fire alarm systems in buildings. They will review design documents and install fire alarm systems so that they are code compliant and operational. The technician will also service and maintain existing fire alarm systems so that they operate as designed and as required by code.
Fire protection system technician
A fire protection system technician is more of a broad term to describe a person who installs fire protection and safety equipment. This can include special hazard systems, kitchen extinguishing and exhaust systems, explosion protection systems and equipment, flammable and combustible liquid protection systems, firestopping, etc.
A sprinkler fitter will review and interpret building sprinkler design drawings and will install sprinkler systems in buildings. The installation can be in many different types of buildings and will expose the fitter to many different job site settings.
Fire prevention inspector
Most fire prevention inspectors work for a municipal fire department and inspect buildings in a municipality to determine compliance with building and fire codes. They will also review building design drawings for new construction (plans review), review fire safety plans, conduct fire investigations, prosecute offenders of fire safety/attend court and be involved in public education and community outreach.
Fire protection consultant/code consultant
A fire protection consultant has a multifaceted role but, in a general sense, is involved with helping their clients achieve code compliance in their buildings. This can be code compliance in existing buildings or in the design and construction of new buildings. Either way, the fire protection consultant assists their clients with understanding the requirements applicable to the specific building, identifying code solutions and helping the client navigate the process of building approval by the authorities.
A plans examiner will review design drawings for proposed new construction projects and identify areas on the drawings (or in the overall design) that need to be revised to meet code requirements. A plans examiner will also assist with the building permit process and may also be involved with development proposals, pre-consultation applications, site plan applications and approval, zoning, etc.
Insurance risk management consultant/inspector
This position involves working for an insurance company and conducting inspections of their insured buildings to determine code compliance in the interest of reducing risk to the business and, ultimately, the insurance company.
A fire investigator conducts investigations of fires in order to determine the origin and cause of the fire and reports on the findings. A fire investigator may work in the public sector (e.g.; fire service/police) or in the private sector (e.g.; insurance company, an engineering firm, etc.).
Public fire and life safety educator
A public fire and life safety educator typically works for a municipal fire department and assists the department with public fire safety initiatives/programs, fire safety events, fire safety messaging, obtaining grants, community outreach and media/public relations.
Sales representative – fire protection equipment
There are many different types of fire protection equipment available throughout the world and many different companies that produce their own variations of this equipment. Since fire protection equipment is a requirement in the vast majority of buildings, sales in fire protection equipment are a lucrative industry.
Fire safety/site safety coordinator
There are some buildings/facilities that are so large they need their own fire protection professional with a solid code background to ensure the building is operating in a fire-safe manner (think: hospitals, colleges/university campuses, multi-use high-rise towers, etc.). This is where a site-specific fire safety coordinator plays a key role.
Project manager/management positions
Many of the positions noted above can graduate into senior management roles in their organization as their professional experience and code knowledge advances. Many excellent opportunities exist in the fire protection and life safety field to advance into a management role.
Every single one of the positions noted above represents an opportunity for an individual (or partners) to start their own business! Of course, there are also always opportunities to find new ways of doing things and new fire safety products which also lend to the great entrepreneurial potential of this industry.
The above descriptions are only brief and if any have piqued your interest, I encourage you to do more research and network with people in the industry to find out more information. There are extremely rewarding careers in this field. The beauty is that each of the positions described represents an outstanding potential for growth and can also lead to new opportunities that are different but interrelated.
I’m sure I haven’t covered all the avenues and positions that can be pursued in this field and I encourage you to share any I’ve missed. If you, or someone you know, is looking for an interesting career that will only continue to grow and keep you engaged, look no further as the pursuit of knowledge in fire and building codes can certainly take you there. Hop in the boat, fire up the engine and get cruising! The wake you leave in your path will be one of a safer world and rewarding personal achievement.