A few times each month I get questions about various parts of the website. This week I thought I'd introduce myself and the process around here a little more with the most commonly asked questions about the site:
Who Does the Sketches?
Originally when I started the website I did all of the illustrations posted on the blog. I started sketching during our architectural studio courses in college and even still run an online art shop selling minimalist sketches on Etsy.
Starting in late 2017, however, I realized I was able to focus more on blog content if I hired help for the illustrations, which was when I brought in an artisan Diana who is both an architect and an illustrator. She does most of the fantastic illustrations you see around the website now.
An example of one of the sketches by Diana, an illustrator and architect who compiles many of these images.
How are the Illustrations Completed?
The illustrations are simply created using a tablet and Adobe Photoshop.
The typically thick outlines with thinner interiors is fundamentally a method used in architectural renderings that is commonly taught in architecture school. The color function is typically a combination of digital brushes that offer texture to the piece, and the font used in all of these illustrations is actually a custom font I created many years ago based on my handwriting (a far more tedious and difficult process than I ever would have guessed).
How Much & When Do I Work on the Website?
A couple months ago I met a client for lunch who received a blog post via email as I was in the parking lot walking up to meet him. He laughed and asked if I pressed the send button while parking.
Fortunately, the blog content, daily questions, toolkit updates, and just about everything else on this site doesn't have to be posted live. I get up between 5 and 5:30 am every day of the week to write and develop resources until my kids wake up around 6:30. All in all it's roughly 6-8 hours a week to put together what you see here, and certainly not written and sent at 11:00am while I'm working my day job.
Why Do MeyerFire?
First, fire protection is way too important of an industry to take casually and not care about. You didn't get into this field to be a casual observer and neither did I - people in fire protection are regularly far more passionate about the trade than what you'll find in other disciplines like mechanical and electrical engineering. Not a knock on them - but us fire protection folk or a pretty tight-knit and passionate group.
I'm fortunate to have experience working for large and small companies, and I've found that overall the fire protection industry is comprised of many small outfits - contractors, engineers, designers - and one of the best ways I can bring value and positively impact the industry is by connecting smart people and good ideas. That's what this website is all about.
I once heard a presentation on more regulation and oversight will rule out bad fire protection design & installation. I don't think the problem is with regulation - I think it's with education. The more resources and helpful material we can share around the industry the better off we'll all be. As JFK said, "a rising tide raises all boats."
How Long is MeyerFire Going to Continue?
You got it, this site is going to self destruct in August.
Just kidding - I have long-term and sustainable plans to continue writing weekly while continuing PE Prep material as well as developing improvements to the Toolkit and other resources. Being that I've scratched about 5% of my list of future ideas, there's plenty of work still to be done.
Is it Profitable?
There was a local SFPE golf tournament last year where I had the privilege of golfing with a local colleague who had purchased a PE Prep Guide in the prior year and passes the PE Exam. I was excited to meet him in person and he felt the same - however he said he was disappointed that (1) I was younger than he was and (2) I didn't roll up in a Mercedes with how expensive the book was.
Despite the high cost of the PE Prep Guide, most of the profit I use to roll forward and invest into development of other tools. I still do all of the website editing, tool development, writing for the Prep Guide, and blog development, but I hire help for illustrations, industry research, software development, and marketing. For all of the time I put in "blogging" has paid about or a little less than my day job on an hourly basis, but the impact of this endeavour has been far more valuable than just the financials.
Also, despite working with contractors in a land full of Ford F-350s, I drive a Corolla.
Who is Joe Meyer?
I used to say I'm just a guy typing away in his basement in the wee hours of the morning.
Fortunately I got a major promotion a few months ago and now type out of the first floor office. The best part of this story is that this office is also not in my parent's house. I live in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, with my beautiful wife, three kids and a dog. We have a four-year-old, two-year-old, and a four-month old - so as you can imagine our home is very lively.
I first became interested in fire protection engineering while studying architectural engineering at the University of Kansas. A guest speaker came into one of our freshman introductory courses and the industry sounded very appealing - good career prospects, expertise in a niche, and most important fighting to help save lives. I turned that piqued interest into a couple different fire protection internships and later studied under the University of Maryland's Master of Engineering in Fire Protection program.
After school I worked at a large MEP firm in Kansas City, Missouri, with a leading group of 40+ fire protection engineers and designers. I've since moved to run fire protection design for a small 35-person MEP, Structural and Fire Protection firm in St. Louis.
My experience and education to date does not make me an expert in the field. I believe there's something to learn from everyone every single day. For me, this blog and website are about two things - the first is to connect & empower people in the industry so that all of us in the industry benefit, and the second is to chart some of my own journey in trying to understand more about fire protection all the time. Thank you for supporting this effort!
Meetup at the NFPA Conference & Expo
If you're attending NFPA's Conference in San Antonio in two weeks (June 17th-19th), be sure to stop by booth 460 and say hello. Some great colleagues at Engineered Corrosion Solutions (also headquartered in St. Louis) have graciously allowed me to hang out in their booth during the Expo so that I can meet people like you.
Let me know you'll be there by dropping a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or commenting here.
"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." - William Butler Yeats
This site is built to start a discussion.
You see, I'm not a 30-year industry veteran, standard committee member, or organization technical expert. I'm perhaps a mediocre engineer, average illustrator, novice website developer and author. Perhaps the thing I'm best at is Microsoft Excel, but as the son of two accountants - that's just in my blood.
The only real unique angle I have is a combination of those items that I've used to compile these online resources.
In the end, though, that might be all it takes to start the discussion.
What is Wrong
I've seen fire protection that could be better and you probably have too.
I've seen design documents where fire protection is completely not-addressed, where even a "provide sprinkler heads throughout" would have been an improvement. There's bad installations, a lack of resources to review drawings & calculations, and educational resources that exist but aren't great.
Who We Are
Fire protection is a niche market.
You don’t need me to tell you that – far and away the majority of designers and engineers in the industry are comprised of small design outposts. It’s not the Jensen Hughes of the worlds that make up most of the industry – it’s the mom and pop contractors, freelancers, MEP firms, insurers, building owner’s engineers, and small fire protection consultants that make up the majority of fire protection design, installation and review in the US and abroad.
How do I know? I interact with these people all the time. People that are far smarter and more experienced than myself. The resources I’ve just started to share are not new – they’re just shared publicly across corporate borders for perhaps the first time.
You may already know - in fire protection we're the lone-gunners.
Mechanical and electrical engineering are massive industries. For every newly licensed fire protection engineer, there are 14 newly licensed electrical engineers and 17 new mechanical engineers. And that’s despite the tremendous growth we’ve seen in fire protection engineering in the last couple decades.
We're already on a small island compared to those disciplines.
We do have something that those massive fields don’t – we have the fire (pun intended). Fire protection designers, engineers, installers, and reviewers in my experience are far more passionate about this field than the average mechanical, electrical, plumbing or structural engineer.
We’re a niche market and I'm told constantly a "rare breed" (I think that's a compliment...). Being niche in addition to understanding the importance of what we do is part of what makes so many people in fire protection so passionate about our careers. It's the niche market and that passion that makes the community aspect of what we do so important.
I had lunch with a new colleague I admire last week who had previously worked in other fields and he specifically mentioned that the community within fire protection is a major differentiation for our industry.
Importance of Independence
I’m not a product manufacturer, I’m not a tiered membership organization, and I’m not a design standard. Believe it or not unless you’re one of about three people following this blog I’m also not a competitor to you or your company.
Independence on the part of this website may be the most important perspective I can create to offer something meaningful for the industry.
Why? Because if there’s something that the industry could use, I want to create it. If there’s a better, faster, leaner way of helping people like us do fire protection better, then this website is built to be right at that intersection.
The tools here are not limited to representing one manufacturer's products.
The articles here are not so high-level that you can read three full-page spreads and have nothing to apply to your workflow. I don’t write with the hope of sounding sophisticated.
A Rising Tide Raises All Ships
I’ve been asked before about why I’d consider sharing tools and resources I’ve used, when it’s essentially "training the competition".
As mentioned earlier; I’m really not a competitor. But more importantly, how much better could the industry be if there are greater numbers of people who are passionate, sharp, and involved in fire protection?
If we’ve all witnessed a lack of concern for fire protection, how could offering up the small things we learn as we go not help us all out in the end?
I still come across architects who had yet to work with or weren't familiar hiring a fire protection design team. How much better could the industry be served if fire protection were considered early in project development the way mechanical, electrical, structural and plumbing design is?
How much better could fire protection be if bid documents contained water supply information, well-established design criteria with the building owner’s involvement, and basic coordination such that the sprinkler installer isn’t the bad guy when he installs a main?
How much better could building owners be served if sprinkler contractors didn’t have to take on so much risk with bidding empty documents?
How much better would it be for review authorities if someone else was looking out for code compliance, and they didn’t have to be the bad guy every time?
Our past culture of minimal fire protection involvement early in project development doesn’t have to be our future.
With a basic set of competent specifications, contractors can actually give building owners what they want while making profit even in competitive bid scenarios – all while review authorities can receive better documents and better results.
Getting there isn’t a matter of mandating FPE involvement, forcing continuing education or ramming more requirements on the industry. In my opinion doing better fire protection is getting knowledge and tools into the hands of people that can use it. The more tools and help we can create, the better we're all served in the long run.
The Future of MeyerFire
This website is here for the long run.
I have been so thrilled to meet and hear from such a variety of sharp and passionate people after developing this basic website. My hope is that this website is a conduit that helps bring people to the industry, help share knowledge and help share resources that little by little move us all forward and up.
It's all about the movement towards better fire protection.
The tools posted here are literally about 3% of the ideas others have shared and I have down in writing for future development. There's so much to create and share, and it's just getting started.
This summer (July 11th) will see the launch of the Toolkit, which is a printable, savable, downloadable software package incorporating all of the tools on this website. For Weekly Exam users, July will also have an on-demand practice exams, offering unlimited runs of questions you've faced but with different inputs & solutions to extend your prep ability.
Later this summer and into the fall I'll be working towards new design tools & resources to add online and to the toolkit, while also helping support the ongoing community in the MeyerFire Daily space.
Between following the Blog, the Daily Questions, beta testing the new software package that will debut two weeks from today, or using the PE Exam Tools, thank you for being a part of the movement towards better fire protection.
[Sign up for these free articles here]
As promised I've been busy developing all of the tools available from this site into a downloadable software package, where you can quickly run calculations, save, and print your work. I'm calling it the MeyerFire Toolkit.
Here's the info page about the MeyerFire Toolkit.
The Toolkit is a downloadable software package with an assortment of basic tools for the fire protection professional.
I have the software to a point now that I'd love to gather feedback from you - if you're interested.
If you'd like to beta test the software (try it out and poke around for free), please just reply to this email or shoot me a quick email at email@example.com letting me know you're interested. I'll send a link for a trial version of the software.
While it would be great to get a gauge on where the software is now, I'm far more interested in where it can go in the coming months and couple years. I've been very encouraged by the interest and support to date and I think what these tools are now hardly scratches the surface of what could be developed to help fire protection professionals like you work faster and smarter.
If you'd like to give it a try, all I ask is that you let me know your thoughts about it - usefulness, ways it can be improved, your level of interest - anything that might help build a better resource going forward.
See more about it all here: MeyerFire Toolkit. Thank you!
Showcase your job opportunity to our active community of fire protection professionals (designers, engineers, inspectors, review authorities, and more).
Our emails are read over 3,000 times monthly, and our site regularly brings over 35,000 page views each month (38,485 in August and 40,693 in September), all reaching professionals in the fire protection industry. This offers a great opportunity to reach a tremendous audience with your job opportunity.
We're excited about this new outlet where we hope to serve both job hunters and suppliers. As a launch offer, the first 15 subscribers who checkout using coupon code JOBS2017 will get a free listing. Post your job opportunity and find more information here.
You can also see all job listings with us here: Job Board.
We are very excited to announce that we are launching new platform for Daily Discussion!
Starting Monday of next week, we will anonymously post open ended-questions that you submit. The technical questions will be distributed to our active community just as the PE Problems are now, and anyone willing to share their expertise will be invited to partake in the discussion. Our hope is that over time we provide opportunities for experts around the country and around the world to weigh in on and learn from the active discussions surrounding the daily questions.
We've kicked around various forms of the concept ever since we debuted the daily PE Problems a few years ago, but the interest and feedback gathered since we started has encouraged us to find ways to bring new content and better engage with the sharp, engaging audience that we hear from regularly.
Ready to submit a question? They can be anything in fire protection, from fire alarm to sprinkler, life safety to passive fire protection, theory to application. All questions are published anonymously:
Do you follow our Blog, but not the daily questions? You can update your subscription to include both our Weekly Blog posts as well as our Daily Questions here:
Know a colleague who might benefit or be interested in this? Recommend us to a friend.
Welcome to a new industry source for Fire Protection Engineering tools, references, and visuals. I hold a passion for fire protection and through this assembly of information I hope to pay forward helpful and informative tools not found elsewhere.
Please don't hesitate to contact me should you have any comments or suggestions for site improvement. Thank you for your time and interest.
Joseph Meyer, P.E.
Fire Protection Engineer
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.