There was a webinar a couple weeks ago on the storage occupancy chapters of NFPA 13, given by David Hague, Principal Engineer with NFPA. It was a great overview of updates to storage protection based on research by NFPA.
Changes to NFPA 13 - 2019 Edition
One of the interesting topics he brought up was the major change with the 2019 Edition of NFPA 13 - the re-organization of the entire standard.
The changes for 2019 Edition is intended to better assist casual or infrequent users of the standard.
For many of us that are very used to the traditional structure of the book, this major change feels awkward if not frustrating as our go-to sections are scattered in new areas.
That being said, I like the concepts behind the re-organization and I appreciate the committee's proactivity in making such a huge change happen for the benefit of the user - even if it's a disruption to those who use the standard all the time. Like David said in the webinar, I'm confident I'll appreciate the new layout in time with more use.
Adapting to the Updates with the 2016-2019 Edition Translator
For those that are still struggling with the changes like myself, I created a quick tool to bounce back and forth between the 2016 and 2019 editions of NFPA 13.
Just enter any code section below, and it'll then kick back the matching section from the other edition. It's a two-way tool so it also works by searching from the 2019 as well.
New Full-Version Next Week
I'm close to finishing an expanded tool as well, where you can lookup any section number and get back matching sections from the 1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 editions.
This expanded tool will debut in a Toolkit update next week. As you can imagine, this took a ton of research and I'm very excited that it is all finally wrapping up for your use.
Don't see the 2016-2019 tool below? Click here to see it.
Have a great rest of your week!
Following the interest and popularity of the ceiling-mounted obstructions tool, I've been working on some new tools that cover other obstruction situations which we often encounter. This week's post is a quick demo of the progress for one of these obstruction situations, which is the soffit against a wall condition.
One way NFPA 13 addresses soffits is by shifting a sprinkler away from the wall, which allows water from the sprinkler to throw below the soffit. With only two input values this tool will quickly determine the horizontal distance a sprinkler needs to be located away from a soffit in order to meet NFPA 13 Figure 126.96.36.199.2(b) (2016 Edition).
Give this demo tool a quick try and comment below with any concepts you'd like to see added to this tool or the site. Thanks in advance!
When I was six years old, I came home from school unexpectedly excited one day.
I ran up our driveway, pushed wide the door and yelled to my mom.
“You won’t believe it! There’s this place at school where you can go through shelves and shelves of books and pick out anyone you want –
and it’s free! They call it a library.”
It wasn’t one of my mom’s proudest parenting moments, but in our house, we never pretended to be great readers… or apparently even pretended to introduce kids to a library.
I guess I’ll just come out and say it… Both of my parents are accountants.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the accountants are where my well-rounded sense of humor comes from.
But there’s another big benefit to having parents as accountants –
and it’s having a love for spreadsheets.
I’m not sure if little excel formulas naturally run through my veins or whether it was every family calendar my parents ever created, but one way or another I thoroughly appreciate the power a spreadsheet has.
Even if your parents are not both CPAs, there’s a place for Microsoft Excel in your engineering life.
Excel isn't just made for your uncle accountant anymore - there's potential any engineer can love.
For one, Microsoft Excel is not called
the “Swiss Army Knife of Software” for naught. Excel is a blank canvas for any calculation you need to make. You can quickly create and repeat repetitive calculations to speed up and organize your workflow. You can complete reports, forms, create charts, tables, organize content, or use any of a myriad of highly powerful tools.
Here are a few of my most often used formulas:
That’s pretty much all of my secret sauce. About 95% of the tools created combine those formulas alongside mathematical operators (like max(), min(), sin(), sqrt(), etc.).
One of the best parts about using Excel is that you may already have access to it. If your company has a Microsoft Office suite (or what’s now their subscription model with Office 365), you already have access to these tools.
Creating helpful resources is what we’re all about, and Excel is the epitome of giving you, the rockstar designer or engineer, the ability to create and flourish with the tools you need.
You didn’t get into the industry to do poor, sloppy work. You came here to help save lives. We shouldn’t have to wait for programmers to create the daily tools we need to do great work. Excel is one way you can organize and validate the great work you do.
There came a point near the end of my undergraduate work and at the beginning of graduate school where I realized I needed to create a clean, organized method to show details within calculations. The method I slowly developed needed a single logic path, had to be easy to follow, would thoroughly explain the process, and had to allow the easy repetition of the work.
What’s resulted is the standard format that’s used in the PE Prep Guide and on many of the tools you’ll see around this site. Concepts are researched, painstakingly created, tested, refined, tested, refined, beta tested, and refined more.
Standard formatting for MeyerFire tools - note the equations and worked examples with references cited.
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you already know the blog, daily forum, and even the PE prep materials are all created to help foster discussion that leads to shared expertise and knowledge.
Outside of a few major players and organizations, the fire protection industry is comprised of thousands of thousands of small outfits that welcome this shared expertise. Our industry thrives on the contributions from a wide spread of individual parties.
Don’t let me or anyone else douse your enthusiasm to create resources that improve your ability to impact the industry.
Keep on keepin’ on.
Oh and remember to take your kids to the library.
A huge thank you to the nearly 300 respondents to the survey posted a couple weeks ago. I am very appreciative of the feedback provided by so many, and I can promise you I've read every single comment provided by you, and I've already started implementing some changes to the site that were suggested.
I mentioned I'd raffle a Toolkit & free 2018 PE Prep Guide (good as a reference book), and I decided to raffle a couple of each. The winners are:
If you're interested, there were a total of 296 respondents to the survey. 87.5% of readers either specify, approve, or recommend products in the industry.
Some common feedback for improvement include:
I am thrilled with these concepts and look forward to incorporating all of these in greater capacity going forward.
Should it be called "preparing" or "prepping" for the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) Exam?
If you've studied for the exam and spent hours and hours covering thousands of pages of material - it just might feel more like "prepping" for doomsday more than anything else. The required references for 2019 alone now cover 9 different books, 12 volumes and over 6,500 pages.
This week I'm covering a review of the 2018 exam and some updates to 2019 for the Fire Protection PE Exam.
Discouraging 2018 Results
The overall results from all 241 examinees came in December, and the results were not great.
Pass rates for first-time examinees fell to 56%, the lowest this decade. The pass rate for repeat takers also fell to 28%, the lowest rate since 2015. These results are published annually by NCEES.
4th Toughest Exam for First-Timers
We once again maintain a distinction for having one of the most difficult exams to pass. The 56% pass rate for first time examinees ranks 4th toughest of the 24 different PE disciplines, behind only software, civil (construction), and power systems.
The overall pass rate (first-time and repeat takers combined) isn't much better with fire protection having the 7th most difficult pass rate.
On a related note one of the adjacent fields where some people working in fire protection get their PE is mechanical and architectural. Architectural used to have an overall pass rate above 80%, but that appears to no longer be the case. The Mechanical PE on Thermal & Fluid Systems has an overall pass rate of 60%, higher than fire protection but not by a large degree.
Raw Cut Score about 70%
With the popularity of the Weekly Exam Series (a 20-week series of mini-exams for Fire Protection PE examinees), I've gathered significantly better analytics on the difficulty of the actual exam and how well studying translates to passing the exam.
We're now able to better estimate the raw cut score (the percentage of questions correct to pass the exam), and how the difficulty of the Weekly Exams compares to the actual exam.
From the 2018 exam, we've estimated an overall raw cut score of 69-70%.
MeyerFire User Pass Rates
The statistic I love and get asked about more than anything is what the pass rates are for people buying the PE Prep Guide and what the pass rates are for people doing the Weekly Exams.
In short, it is very difficult to calculate this value now that the Prep Guide has become so popular. Consider this - on the 2018 exam over 2 out of every 3 examinees had the 2018 edition in their hand when they took the exam. Many who didn't have the 2018 edition brought a copy of the 2017.
In concept, if nearly everyone has a copy of the book on the actual exam, then it becomes more of a prerequisite to taking the exam than it does a boost only to the person using it. Where I have found differentiation, though, is between examinees who get a copy, study early, and study thoroughly. Somewhat obviously - the best prepared tend to do better on the actual exam.
As for pass rates of the Weekly Exam - I'm trying hard to get those exact values. If you used the Weekly Exam Series in 2018, I would be very grateful to hear from you and how the test went.
While I've reached out to everyone, I still haven't heard from the following users: Pepe Sylvia, GingerSnap, RoundONE, JT, Ginger, AB, JDB Falcon, onebadshark, MAXCRYPT, Senior, Old Guy, Ryan, Tip Top, na, dot dot dot, and yeass. [if you can't tell, we have a lot of fun on the Weekly Exam Series]
If you're one of these people, please shoot me an email at email@example.com. Your input helps craft future editions and support success for others going forward.
A Checklist of Resources
Are you planning to take the 2019 exam? If so, you'll want to see our list of every resource we know to be available to you. The list includes formula sheets, practice exams, reference materials, Prep Books, Study Communities, and Courses. It's all here: https://www.meyerfire.com/pe-tools.html
Changes to the 2019 PE Exam
Once again the exam writers can't help but make tweaks between each edition of the PE Exam. While published articles as old as five years ago suggested a narrowing of required references down to just the NFPA and SFPE handbooks, the actual exam references have done anything but condense.
For 2019, there's a few notable changes from the 2018 Exam (as published by SFPE):
Here's the year to year changes, with edition, additions or subtracted changes highlighted.
The 2019 PE Prep Guide Release
Fortunately this year, SFPE released the required references earlier than in years past. As a result the 2019 PE Prep Guide, which usually would ship in June, will ship earlier. At this time I'm estimating a mid-may shipment of these editions for anyone who pre-orders a copy. Of course if you'd rather get a copy in your hands now, we still have the 2018 edition available.
Weekly Exam Prep Series
Back for a third year the Weekly Exam Prep Series will kick off June 3rd. If you're looking to get as much regular practice as is available anywhere in a fun exam-simulated pace, then this is for you. See where you rank and get access to over 400 questions with the Weekly Exams. Learn more about the Weekly Exam Prep Series here.
2019 vs. 2020 Exam
Big changes are ahead for the 2020 exam. Not only will the Fire Protection PE Exam transition to a computer-based exam, but the legacy of bringing in volumes and volumes of references will go away as well. As we understand it today, there will be a single, condensed reference book with formulas and charts that can be used on the exam - and that's it. It'll be a different delivery, different problem types, and a different reference.
It'll be a big change and without a doubt make 2020 examinees feel like guinea pigs in the sense of trying out something new to everyone involved (examinees, the exam writers, and prep material producers). That could be intimidating or could be an opportunity depending upon how you look at it.
Know someone interested in taking the PE Exam? Feel free to send them this article today.
Are you "prepping" for the 2019 PE Exam? Here's some related past articles on the topic:
A 2018 PE Exam Summer in Review
Updates for the 2018 Fire Protection PE Exam
Thoughts on the 2017 PE Prep Season
5 Tips to Crush P.E. Exam Prep
Fire P.E. Exam Ranked 3rd Toughest, 6th Overall
Collaborate with Others Studying for the PE Exam
Looking for an opportunity to turn a basic concept into a controversial one on a project? Great! This week I'm exploring the quick-response remote area reduction that's provided in NFPA 13.
Suppress Early, Suppress Less
The concept behind reducing the calculated hydraulically remote area in a fire sprinkler system is entirely based on fighting a smaller fire earlier in the development of the fire.
There's a handful of factors that contribute to the timing of sprinkler response (a good future discussion), which include the thermal sensitivity, sprinkler temperature rating, distance of sprinklers relative to the ceiling, sprinkler spacing, ceiling height, and dynamics of the fire itself.
The reduction in the hydraulically remote area is based upon comparative tests of quick-response against standard-response spray sprinklers. According to the NFPA 13 handbook, the tests demonstrated that the earlier the water is applied to the fire, the smaller the fire and ultimately the less number of sprinklers needed to activate.
Not Universally Accepted
While the remote area reduction has been included in NFPA 13 for years, it's not universally accepted. Many engineer specifications don't allow the reduction, and design standards for major organizations such as the Department of Defense (UFC 3-600-01) don't permit it either.
Why not accept the remote area reduction, if NFPA 13 includes it? Like other elements in hydraulic design for fire sprinkler systems, not using the remote area reduction provides an additional safety factor to the system.
Additionally, since the quantity of sprinklers relates to the quantity of water flowing in the system, main sizes are directly impacted by using or not using the quick response area reduction. Building owners may opt to not want to reduce the remote area to preserve reasonable (larger) main sizes and give themselves flexibility on building modifications and sprinkler system changes in the future.
Quick-Response Area Reduction Calculator
This quick calculator is in part a checklist of prerequisites to reduce the remote area on a fire sprinkler system, in part a method of showing your work, and in part a quick calculator on determining your final remote area size. Don't see it below? Give it a try here.
This site is all about helping you shine in fire protection. Want these weekly tools & articles? Subscribe here, for free.
A little earlier than this time last year I wrote an article covering how NFPA 13 addresses sprinkler protection underneath canopies, overhangs, and exterior projections on buildings. It ended up as one of my favorites and I've had good feedback on it as well.
With the big changes in re-organization to the 2019 Edition of NFPA 13, it is only appropriate to make a few updates to the flowchart and get it in your hands so you can do what you do best.
Here's a link to the original article in full. If you haven't read it, it might be worth a few minutes here:
Sprinkler protection for canopies & overhangs are an important part of the overall protection scheme for a building.
If you know someone who might find this useful, please send this to them and let them know they can subscribe to these free weekly tools & resources here.
I've heard from a handful of people to be sure to explore topics other than just fire suppression. I agree! There will be plenty more to come.
It only seems appropriate after discussing the fire suppression cheatsheet and the code call cheatsheet in the last few weeks to also compile the latest cheatsheet I have for fire alarm design.
Here's a blank cheatsheet and an example:
If you're already using the Toolkit this is now available for download with today's update. Just log in here to get it.
Along with having all of your design decisions documented for a project (or flagging the open items still left to figure out), perhaps the most important piece is how quickly you're now able to record your notes.
If you don't see the video recording below, click here for a YouTube video of how quick notes can be recorded.
MeyerFire was created to help you shine in fire protection. Know someone who might be interested in these tools or articles? Email a friend with a link today. Thanks for being a part of the effort towards better fire protection!
Unless you're tuned in as an AHJ yourself, you've likely made a few "code calls" to a code authority and asked a litany of questions to make sure your project's design meets the local requirements.
I'm not even sure if the term "code call" is a common term, but I've heard it enough that I suspect you already know what I'm talking about regardless of where you call home.
I enjoy this process now, but I didn't always. Fresh out of school I'm pretty sure I was visibly shaking the time I first made a code call. I was sure that within seconds my cover would be blown and it would be all too obvious that I had no idea what I was talking about. Despite my awkwardness (I make a good engineer, right??) nothing went sour and since then I've slowly learned and repeated many many times.
There was even one of my favorite code calls that I made about an elementary school to coordinate local fire alarm requirements. It was only right after the call late on a Friday afternoon that I found out that the fire marshal I just spoke with was hired onto our team and was starting the following Monday. They say fire protection is a small world, right? He turned out to be one of the most knowledgeable people I know and one of my favorite people to work alongside.
The Joys & Pains of Code Calls
Code calls also come in many different flavors.
Sometimes I'm just shocked by how friendly and helpful code authorities are. I once made a call at 15 minutes till 5pm on a Friday to a small town in Arkansas, thinking I would just leave a voicemail. After my questions, I asked if the department conducted flow tests, and while he said they did, he apologized that because of a prior commitment he couldn't do it then but would be happy to do it first thing Monday morning. I almost fell out of my chair. Very helpful and caring people in this field.
On the contrary, sometimes the hardest part about a code call is just finding the right person to speak with who is actually responsible for plan review of fire protection systems and getting a few minutes of their time. Not to pick on New York City because I love the people there and speak with a handful of you regularly, but if you're trying to get a hold of someone to verify or coordinate a few particulars of your system... well... good luck! Maybe it's because they knew I can't stand the Yankees.
I also sometimes get AHJs who simply say all they do is 'per code' and they aren't interested in talking specifics. The whole point of the call is filling in the gaps where a code or standard does not direct but rather defers decisions to the AHJ.
Want a siamese fire department connection with national thread, or a Storz-type? Either way is code compliant. As an engineer I can make either way work.
Is a wall-mounted FDC permissible, or does it need to be freestanding? Either location is compliant, but NFPA 13 says the location needs to be coordinated with the AHJ.
What I've gathered and refined over hundreds of code calls is my cheatsheet I currently use today. Just like the design cheatsheet, if you're using the Toolkit you can quickly highlight categories for your record keeping.
What's even better about this tool, though, is that you can quickly fill in the content (while on the call) and then right after save as a PDF and email to the AHJ themselves. Want them to have a record of the call and a quick way to verify your notes? Great! You now have a logged code call and the AHJ has an opportunity to review your notes.
The process of calling, taking notes, and composing the email used to take close to an hour total. This tool alone brings that total time to about 15-20 minutes. That's three-quarters of an hour you could save on every job you make the call!
A Radical Big-Picture Concept
One of my longer big-picture ideas to help the industry is to beta test and, if successful, open up a larger code-call database. I envision this as a database that brings designers and code authorities together to make local requirements clear and help jurisdictions get installations that reflect their preferences and mandates.
Want to know what hydraulic safety factor is required for sprinkler systems in Springfield, Illinois? Great - a quick query in the database reveals that and a clean list of other local requirements.
Want to know what type and location for FDC's that Tucson, Arizona requires? Great, we'd have that too.
This would clearly have a huge value for designers and engineers - but what I'm really curious about is how to incentivize code authorities to take the survey or help us populate the database. If you're an AHJ, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below about whether you'd be open to the idea of making your local requirements public in a database.
I would have to think that AHJ input would only help local authorities get installations that match their needs - but I also know that getting action out of anyone is only possible with mutual benefit and sometimes incentives.
Just like the Design Cheatsheet posted a couple weeks ago, this form is integrated into the updated version of the MeyerFire Toolkit ready for download today. Below is a blank and filled-in template.
If you're already a Toolkit user, you can download the code call cheatsheet today by logging in here. If you're not using the Toolkit, you might consider joining in on what's quickly becoming what some consider the best tool for fire sprinkler design under $200. See more about it here.
The Questions on My List
The current code call checklist I use today has had items added and scratched over years of finding out what's important and what questions always get the same answers.
That being said, there's no real one defined list that matches everyone's preferences. What questions do you ask that you feel are important to the design that's not explicit in code? Comment below.
Join the Cause
Our line of work in helping save lives and property is extremely important, but you already know that. This site is built to help you excel in fire protection. If you're not already subscribed to these free weekly resources & articles, you can do so here for free.
I had several long standing global concerns when I was in grade school.
It wasn't general anxiety or depression-related, but I certainly felt as though the weight of worldwide issues hung squarely on my small shoulders.
At the time in school there was a major focus on the environment (I would imagine there likely still is now). It wasn't just a hard-sell on earth day, it was the disappearance of rain forests, erosion due to overbuilding, overpopulation, oil spills, our reluctance to recycle, and the overzealous use of oil that would undoubtedly cause our planet irrevocable damage. It was our generation's tasks to make right what generations before had begun.
The gravity of the concern didn't feel just environmental either.
New media opened the front door to war, disease, and a myriad of reasons to be pessimistic about the future and the world our kids will someday inherit.
Now years later, as a father, I've heard similar sentiments prevail; "how could someone bring a child into the world today?" "I can't imagine how to parent with all the (fill in the blank) going on today." "Will there even be X around when our kids are old?"
I'm not going to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses for everyone. There are major geopolitical issues and wars and famine and poverty and disease. A great day for me could also be the worst day for someone else.
What I am hear to say is that when you adjust your focus from the immediate present and look out a just little more distant - there is so much promise in the world. And by so much promise I mean that the planet is getting healthier, cleaner, and the quality of human life is improving in ways that we've never seen before in human history.
There has actually never been a better time to bring a child into the world.
In Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's 2012 bestseller "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think", an author and engineer review historical data and trends that show how technology is achieving exponential improvements in computing, energy, and medicine.
This bestselling book details many eye-opening reasons for optimism with the trends our societies are experiencing.
These independent technology-based innovations have and will continue to drive major improvements to clean water access, food, energy, health care, education, and other facets of a first world standard of living for the planet's future nine billion people.
Not only does mainstream media not cover the positive trends in the world today, but the future of our planet is looking more urbanized, education, cleaner, and healthier.
Speaking of population, the United Nations recently released a DESA report projecting nearly 10 billion people in 2050 and over 11.2 billion people in 2100. Since this latest update there's been fairly widespread disagreement about these figures, with many researchers speaking out out about the projections that hinge on one major flaw: population growth rates are declining. Some countries have already peaked in population and are now in decline without immigration. Many expect that we, as a planet, will never reach more than 10 billion people.
This isn't news to you if you live in Europe or Japan, of course, but in the U.S. many of us seem unaware of this major global trend. Research shows that with urbanization and better education, couples have less children. This speaks to major positive impacts in using less resources and shaping a cleaner planet in the future.
Trends in Fire Protection
That's great Joe, but what does this have to do with fire protection?
First, as is my underlying theme in the whole website - engineering is going to save the world. I'm sure my wife would also suggest that scientists deserve some credit too, but this isn't her blog.
Second, don't be discouraged if you feel that the quality of our line of work is in freefall, that no one is entering the industry, or that we've lost all sense of pride in what we do. Big-picture trends in fire protection are very positive, with death rates due to fire steadily decreasing per capita over the last century. The unrelenting overall trend is that we are doing something right as fewer people per capita are dying now from building fires.
Fire fatalities have been and continue to decrease with advancements in code adherence, our knowledge of fire protection, and shared education of the subject. Just the last 30 years across Europe and the US there's been major improvements in fire safety:
Global trends in fire deaths have decreased over the last quarter-century as shown in this US FEMA study.
Third, if you've ever felt similarly barraged by the negativity in the media or fears that we're only one step away from global catastrophe, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to read or listen to the book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think.
There's no summary that I could put together that I feel would do the book justice.
Of the fifty-plus books I read last year this was without-a-doubt the most impactful. [On a side note, if you're wondering how I average 50 books a year - I cheat and listen on audible.com. You can actually get the book Abundance and another book, for free, with a free trial here]
If you've read Abundance, comment below on your impression. If not, I'd highly encourage you to read it and let me know what you think (shoot me an email at email@example.com). I promise the read will be worth your time.
If you've enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to these free weekly posts here.
Here's a few other book reviews:
Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903
Fahrenheit 451 & The Thirst For Knowledge
Triangle: The FIre That Changed America
Diamandis, Peter H. Abundance: the Future Is Better than You Think. Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Fire Death Rate Trends: An International Perspective. FEMA, July 2011, www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v12i8.pdf.
United Nations Population Division | Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations, www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/trends/population-prospects.asp.
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.