I’m excited today to start a series on the who of fire protection.
We’ve seen salary surveys in the past. We’ve seen studies on what degrees people have.
But – what about the questions that we all really want answered about how we all got into fire in the first place?
MY BIG QUESTIONS:
The awesome thing is – because of your help – we now have data to answer every one of these questions – and we will.
A few weeks ago I posted a survey and we received 443 anonymous responses from you. Thank you!
The 443 total responses include:
For this series, and in splitting out the date, I will use these four different categories:
Each of these different groupings seem to each show different trends and tendencies, and I think the takeaways will be better showcased by doing so.
THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES
Originally I thought one article could summarize the data and give helpful feedback, but after going through and categorizing over 3,100 different data points (yes, I read and categorized all of them), I found a lot of interesting takeaways that I don’t want to skim over.
So that said, today’s post is the first in a series where I answer each of these big questions.
GROUND RULES FOR THE SURVEY & DATA USAGE
A few ground rules that I think are really important here.
If you’re less interested in the nuts and bolts – I suggest skipping down to the findings below.
#1 LOOKING IN THE REARVIEW FOR CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE
First – I like to think I have a good grasp on how to speak about the industry in a way that would resonate with someone new. I like to think that. However, I’m terrible about it.
I once talked with a nice lady on a plane who asked what I did and I tried to explain what my version of fire protection engineering is. After we talked for most of the flight I mentioned that the industry has things like smoke control, fire modeling, hydraulic calculations, etc. She said I should always start with that stuff, because what I’d said I did sounded incredibly boring. And she was a nice lady!
I’m not great at reading other people’s motivations. Most of us aren’t.
So in order to answer questions about – “how do I pitch fire protection?” or “where should I be looking for help?” – I think we first have to look at ourselves and find out who we are.
Where did we start?
Why did we get into the field in the first place?
If we can answer those questions about ourselves, by looking backwards, then that just might be the best possible answer on how we address industry concerns and issues moving forward.
#2 I HAVE NO AGENDA HERE
Second disclaimer - I didn’t come into this with an agenda. The questions (which can be seen here) do not suggest, prompt, or give examples for any specific end result.
#3 ALL QUESTIONS ARE OPEN-ENDED FOR UNPROMPTED ANSWERS
Third – each question was open-ended. This is critical. When we’re asking for things like “how did you first hear about fire protection?” or “why did you go into the fire protection field?”, it’s imperative that we don’t suggest ideas. That would poison the well. We needed authentic, unprompted responses. And that’s what we got in this survey.
Just as a quick example – if I ask why you went into the field and laid out seven reasons – naturally we’d select the top ones and move on. That’s not truly representative. Each person has their own reasons, and that’s what I wanted to seek out. It’s not good enough to say “career opportunities” as the reason to get into the field, what we actually need to know is what the unprompted reasons are.
This point becomes really important when we’ll get into reasons why people get into the industry and where they became aware of the industry. When we get data that says that 19% of all designers and engineering techs got into the field in part because they felt it was “interesting” or 12% thought it would be “enjoyable”, well, those are unprompted sentiments. We didn’t put those words into mouths or give A/B/C/D options – that’s what you, the industry, is telling us about why you chose to get into the field.
#4 I'VE CATEGORIZED AND DID MY BEST TO STAY TRUE TO YOUR INPUT
Last – it isn’t helpful to have a survey that says 443 different things and just give that back.
So, in reading everything that was submitted, I categorized and tried to group responses into themes. I did my best to stay true to the original response in every case.
If someone said they thought the salary would be great, or the pay, or the money – well that’s pretty easy to categorize together.
Others weren’t as black and white, but I did my best to stay true to your responses and in no cases put words in anyone’s mouths. That’s the last important point before we hop in.
So what are we covering today? Today I want to talk on awareness.
TODAY'S DATA: HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT FIRE PROTECTION?
We, in the fire protection industry, have been described as “niche” and “specialized”. You’ve probably heard many times how people didn’t really know a fire protection industry “existed”.
So, how do people first become aware of the fire protection industry?
To this, we had a lot of different responses.
A summary chart for the raw data from the survey (just to give an idea of the analysis involved)
Here's a quick summary of how people hear about fire protection, in total:
Few notes on the summary table:
BREAKDOWN BY GROUP
Here are breakdowns of this question by different user groups:
ARCHITECTURAL & ENGINEERING SPACE
For Architecture & Engineering, the top ways people first became aware of fire protection are (139 applicable responses):
#1 Learned about it while working in an adjacent industry/space (35%)
#3 Originally wanted to be a firefighter/am a firefighter (9%)
For the Contracting space, ways people became aware of fire protection are (172 applicable responses):
#1 Having family or a relative in the industry (24%)
#2 Having a friend or family friend in the industry (19%)
#3 Learned about it while working in an adjacent industry/space (19%)
FIRE DEPARTMENTS, AHJs, & GOVERNMENT
For Fire Departments, AHJs, and Government entities (63 applicable responses):
#1 Originally wanted to be a firefighter/am a firefighter (32%)
#2 Learned about it while working in an adjacent industry/space (21%)
INSURANCE, MANUFACTURING, ORGANIZATIONS & CORPORATE CLIENTS
For Insurance, Manufacturing, Organizations and Corporate Clients (34 applicable responses):
#1 Learned about it while working in an adjacent industry/space (29%)
#3 By Recruiting or Career Fair (18%)
For everyone combined, here’s the full rundown of top ways people became aware of fire protection:
So what does this mean? What are the takeaways here? What trends are there?
#1: Most People do not start out in Fire Protection.
This has been a suspicion for some time. Even counting firefighters as “in the industry”, only 48% of respondents (213) started their first “real” job in fire protection. The remaining 228 respondents started somewhere else.
This is commonly spoken around the industry, but I’m not sure that we’ve ever had some data to support it.
What does this mean?
If we’re looking to source talent, it can’t all come from high school, community college, technical schools or universities. Over half of those in the industry are already in some other field.
#2: Contractors Spread the Word via Friends & Family
The top ways how those who work for contractors hear about fire protection is overwhelmingly by family, a friend, or relative (43% combined).
This is very different than everyone else, where that’s half as likely to happen.
What does this mean?
For one – kudos to contractors for spreading the word. Those who are now in the industry and work for contractors overwhelmingly heard about it from family and friends.
For two – this word-of-mouth among contractors is a very important part in sourcing talent. We’ll get into the data there as we get further along.
#3: Don’t Discount the Allure of Firefighting for Industry Awareness
It seems like half of my son’s preschool class want to be firefighters when they grow up. My 5-year old daughter wants to be a firefighter for Halloween. I doubt either of them have any that I work in the fire industry.
The allure of firefighting is an asset we probably overlook too much.
I wouldn’t say that we’re all some version of a pyromaniac in this industry, but I would contend that we’re all at least somewhat fascinated with the spectacle of fire itself.
What does this mean?
The appeal of firefighting, and as a means that brings people to the industry, actually shows up in the data as far as awareness. I wonder if we couldn’t play that up a little more.
So if you’re a student in a technical field and have had some buried fascination with firefighting? Well, here’s a whole industry on it. Join the cause.
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE?
From the data we’ve looked at today, those are my biggest three takeaways. What do you see?
What’s a surprise, and what is not?
Does any of this back up your anecdotal experience? Join our discussion here.
We've had an extremely busy fall thus far. We had a soft-rollout of the MeyerFire University platform, which has had very positive feedback and is already over 100 users strong (just a few weeks in)!
If you're interested in learning more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to share more detail or set up a quick demo for your team.
UPDATED NFPA 13R/13D CODE IMPACT CHEETSHEET
A couple of years ago I wrote a couple pieces on when NFPA 13R can be used, and I put together a cheatsheet on the code impacts associated with using NFPA 13R and 13D.
I'm happy to say that we've now updated the cheatsheet with impacts from the 2021 Edition of the IBC. While it may not yet be the adopted building code for your area, it's still important to compare code impacts with the latest version of the building code, so that you're not building a structure today that is already beneath modern building code standards.
Click below to get a copy of the updated cheatsheet:
Thanks & have a great rest of your week!
Today is a pretty big day in MeyerFire-world.
I've spoken with contractors, consultants, plan reviewers, educators, insurance carriers, installers, inspectors - and we all continue to come back to one big issue that is holding our industry back right now.
We need to develop new talent.
For the organizations that are busy and growing - we need more help, and we need knowledgeable help.
When we look out even a little into the future, even just 2-5 years from now, the problem will be compounded. Call it the Silver Tsunami, the Experience Exodus, the Golden Goodbye, or whatever other name the kids come up with - our industry has already lost a lot of experience to retirement, and that will only continue as many of the remaining Baby Boomers look to complete their careers.
We need to develop new talent.
We need something that can resonate with today's Gen Z. We need engagement, and a way to not just train in a two-day or two-week sprint, we need something that can help people new to the industry learn every single day, year-round.
Around here we've thought and debated and circled on the idea for a solid couple years.
I'm excited to say that we finally have the platform that we have built specifically to help develop new talent in the fire protection industry.
We're calling it MeyerFire University:
It's an all-new training platform built for those with 0-3 years experience, and covers technical topics like fire suppression, fire alarm, code, life safety, and specialized systems; it covers production topics like plan preparation, drafting, modeling, and plan review; and it covers business & career topics as well.
It's everything we wish we had when we started, delivered in bite-sized, highly-visual video clips that are delivered daily and on-demand.
Today is our "Soft-Launch".
If your organization finds that you also have this need to help train and develop new talent - and you want to join in on this platform early - now is a good time to do so.
We've only been in full production on our video content for a month and our platform is growing by five new video modules each week. If you're wanting to be an early adopter - we have a couple ways of saying thank-you and making sure the platform is worth your team's time.
To get a quote & more information for your organization, visit:
This has been a dream we've worked towards for years now, and I'm thrilled that it's finally coming to light and can soon start helping teams like yours shine.
Thanks for your time and being a part of the community for better fire protection!
It's been something that has been requested here and there about the Toolkit, and I'm happy to say we've finally come around and made this happen. I apologize that its taken way too long to get some of this training out.
If you're a Toolkit user (thank you!), we now have a welcome series of weekly emails that explores each tool in a little more depth. Some emails are articles exploring some of the topics, some emails include videos explaining the tools in a little more detail. You can always unsubscribe at any time.
To sign up for this free email series, you can do so here:
If you don't already have our whole set of tools, check it out here: www.meyerfire.com/toolkit. Happy to say it continues to do well thanks to your feedback and referrals!
That's all for today - thanks and have a great rest of your week!
The fire sprinkler database is coming up on its third year in existence; it originally took hundreds of hours of research and plenty of updates, but we're happy to say now that we've upgraded the database to include better search, sort and filter capabilities.
The database is a collection of over 1,500 fire sprinkler models on the market today. Even with a select number of manufacturers, finding just the right type of sprinkler with correct spacing and minimal pressure demands can be tough. The database was built to get answers in seconds - with links directly to manufacturer websites & data sheets.
See a quick update video here:
The database is part of our Toolkit package. More information about that here.
Have a great rest of your week!
One of the most-requested tool features was not technical - we wanted color! I'm happy to say that with today's new updated release of the MeyerFire Toolkit we now have just that - different color options to match your company's look:
It sounds incredibly simple, but this one took a little while to work out the kinks. At least we rocked out to 90's jock jams while doing the updates, which may or may not have influenced the bright color choices.
To get this update, download the latest version of the Toolkit here: www.meyerfire.com/download.
If you aren't a Toolkit user, you can get a copy here - www.meyerfire.com/toolkit.
Thanks & have a great week!
Quick but big post today - we've just completed our most-requested tool to date - I'm happy to announce the System Estimator.
We've taken the Remote Area Analyzer (free online, here), added in hose allowances, main losses, elevation losses, riser details, and underground for an estimator tool that allows k-factor, spacing, density, system type, etc with updated system pressure and flow demands, all in real-time!
Check out a very rough video snapshot of real-time pressure and flow updates here:
If you're a toolkit subscriber - great! Get the new tool right now by clicking the download link below:
Have you ever needed to do a quick estimate for a job, and not had a couple spare hours to lay out and calculate a system?
Even for a very basic remote area, laying out sprinklers & pipe, adding fitting, flow, control valve, and backflow losses, a source, and then hydraulically calculating is smoothly - easily can take an hour or more. Now take that same design and change it to a dry system, or at a different density. If you're like me, tweaking sprinkler spacing, k-factors, sprinkler heights, remote area sizes, and c-factors alone can take significant iteration just to get an idea of pressure & flow demand.
With this new estimator you can adjust all of those items in one-click, and see the immediate impact of each decision. It's built for estimators, but it can be a very helpful tool for new designers & engineers to quickly grasp design decisions well before a system has to be completely laid out and detailed.
Any feedback, let me know! As always, thanks for reading & have a great rest of your week.
What a weird year for 2020.
Last year I thought this would be somewhat of a wild year for Fire Protection PE Prep - with the major computer-based changes, references changes, and question styling changes. That prediction ended up being too modest as we've had a total of 12 changes to the exam references (either removing, adding, or changing year editions) that shook up the prep space.
Yet, that of course was hardly the biggest shuffle this year. For the first time, the Fire Protection PE Exam is getting a second day in January (January 12th, 2021) due to limited capacities (re: Covid) in the testing centers on the original October 22nd date.
For those who are preparing for the exam and are in the PE Prep Series, all of the access for those exams are now extended through January 2021.
Thoughts on 2020 Prep Season
If you know someone taking the exam this year (...or in January), send them some flowers or ice cream or chocolate... if they're like many I've spoken with they probably feel like guinea pigs with all the changes, plus the uncertainty of actually being able to take the test, all on top of the normal uncertainty of whether all the preparation over the summer has been enough. That's rough.
Around here there's been so many changes due to the exam. The Prep Series was pretty much overhauled, as was the 2020 PE Prep Guide. Just this year over 150 questions were written or re-written to match the new exam specifications.
Along with those overhauls comes the pain of errors in those questions. I've been thankful for the loads of input and feedback since I first wrote the guide in 2016. Each year up until now the number of errors and tweaks found in the books has gone down... up until the 2020 edition. It's discouraging on my end when we find errors in the material, but that's nothing compared to the frustration for an examinee that doesn't have reliable content. My goal when I started the Prep Guide was to continually improve it year over year, and try to be as open and transparent as possible when it comes to getting the material right.
If you have a Prep Guide and haven't seen it yet, I've posted errata and have made updates to it throughout the year. It's located here: www.meyerfire.com/errata
I very much appreciate the feedback from examinees, especially with so many changes to the guide and online content this year.
Next Year & Continuing the PE Prep
Helping with PE Prep materials has been extremely rewarding for me. I saw a positive review online the other day that said the value of the materials is well beyond the cost. The review mentioned they hope I don't raise prices to match other content out there...
I got a good laugh and am very happy to report that I have no intent to raise prices for future years.
The whole goal here from getting into PE Prep a few years ago was to be sure that there is quality, affordable content for Fire Protection examinees. It was extremely frustrating to me when I took the exam that the materials were so expensive and that there just wasn't a lot of great content at the time. My whole goal here it to try and mend that gap with helpful material that is reasonably priced. I certainly hope that's the case now and the case going forward.
Frequently Asked Questions on Scoring Correlations
I've gotten maybe half a dozen questions asking about how close question difficulty comes into play, and how a score on a MeyerFire exam compares to scores on the actual PE Exam.
There's a ton to discuss here, but I'll try and pick off a few key points. First, is that with the data I've compiled, the average score for an examinee across the 20-weeks of the PE Prep Series is typically close to the raw score on the actual PE Exam. Meaning - if someone has averaged a 7.5 out of 10 on the PE Prep Series questions, they tend to score roughly 75% on the actual exam.
Historically I've connected these points from examinees who have reported their scores back and matched it up with the different data points taken in the PE Prep Series.
In general, exam day will feel closer to a new PE Prep Series exam or the full-length exam in the Prep Guide than it will to the 4-hour review exam or the 8.5-hour review exam in the Prep Series. In both of those longer online exams, the questions are review-only and you've already seen content that is the same or similar. There's a noticeable boost to your score on those review exams that aren't reflected in the PE Exam.
Also, just because we typically see a matching range on average Prep Series scores to the actual exam doesn't mean that it is always the case. There are always exceptions here both ways (people scoring much higher than the Prep Series, and people scoring lower).
All that to say - regardless of how you've tested so far - don't be discouraged by your scores. Go into exam day with confidence that you're going to give it your best effort and just see what happens from there.
Oh, where has Joe been for the last few months? Other than question writing and posts on the Daily Forum page - I've been working on an awesome project that has just debuted - if you haven't seen it check it out here.
My hope in the coming weeks as the PE prep settles down is to hop right back in and continue to work on some new tools and tool improvements around the website going forward.
Hope you and yours are safe and healthy and that you have a great week.
Awhile back I mentioned there were some big projects in the works around here. This has been Number 1 on my list for over a year now.
Last summer I threw out an idea that took hold, and since last November I've been thrilled to be a part of a project that I think will be a major help for industry professionals.
The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has published informal opinions on everything fire sprinklers for longer than I've been alive. Their Expert of the Day program answers real questions to the 'gray' areas of code with practical advice from leading industry experts.
While these opinions have been collected and published monthly for decades, up until now they've never been assembled, organized, and published into a single resource.
I'm thrilled to announce that this collection of expertise is now complete; the NFSA Expert of the Day Handbook is a two-volume, hardcover set of over 1,300 pages covering nearly 2,000 questions on over 585 topics relevant to fire sprinkler systems, standpipes, water supplies, inspection, testing, maintenance, codes and standards.
Why am I so thrilled about it? I had the pleasure to work with NFSA by collecting, converting, and organizing all the expert inputs into these volumes. This was a concept I really wanted to see happen - and after sharing the idea of compiling the years of content to NFSA they were happy to fold me into the team on this project.
It's now available for pre-sale with shipments starting in just a few weeks (late August / early September).
If you are a sprinkler designer, engineer, inspector, installer, plan reviewer, code authority, or work in and around the fire sprinkler industry, then this handbook was built for you.
Just in the eight months of reading and compiling the information I saved days of code research (thousands of dollars in billable hours) by having quick access to these expert opinions. Just as it is part of the mission of this site, I am wholeheartedly excited to see how these handbooks help promote best practices and share expertise with the industry.
Check out more about this two-volume 1,300 page set and get a copy today.
Questions? Comments? Shoot me a line at email@example.com.
I recently had the joy of recording a podcast episode with the Fire Protection Podcast. Host Drew Slocum and I talked about writing on technical topics, digital products, designing in Revit, my backstory of getting started online, and more. Check it out here and subscribe to the Fire Protection Podcast by clicking "Subscribe" below.
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Joe Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer out of St. Louis, Missouri who writes & develops resources for Fire Protection Professionals. See bio here: About