We ran an open-ended study about the why and how fire protection professionals get into the industry and the roles they are currently in.
This is our fourth dive into that data. In the upcoming week or two we’ll summarize and offer tips for business owners, recruiters, and HR professionals on where to look for future talent and how best to “make the pitch”.
WHY EXPLORE THIS
For one, we need more talent in the industry. More quality people mean better overall advocacy for the industry. We will never be recognized at a major discipline if there are far too few people to speak up for fire protection, much less if there’s hardly anyone to do the work.
So then, if we’re actively looking for help and looking to spot future potential – how do we “make that pitch?”
WHAT'S THE ALLURE TO THE INDUSTRY
What should we celebrate about the industry to people that don’t know about it?
Well, like we explored before, the best way to answer that is looking backwards at why we got into the industry in the first place.
We asked - as an open-ended question – why did you go into fire protection?
We received 297 unique responses to this question.
Many cited multiple reasons for entering the field. In total, we received 655 cited reasons why our group of 297 people entered the industry.
Now before we get to the full breakout, I’d like to offer a few special shout outs to unique reasons why some people got into the fire protection field. Here are a few of the favorites and important ones as well:
I went into fire protection because...
... of the TV Show “Emergency”.
... I wanted “to put the fire department out of business.”
...“of the beautiful receptionist at the company, whom I later dated.”
... “I visited an engineering firm and the engineers bored me to death. I didn’t want to go down that road so I checked into fire protection.”
... “after I broke up with the bosses daughter, I figured it was in my best interest to find other employment.” That’s why I got into fire protection.
Aside from unique causes, there are more noble ones that became a theme:
“I wanted to contribute to safety for the people I was really passionate about, the elderly and kids.”
“It was very interesting and is beneficial to society.”
“I wanted to feel good about the work I did.”
“Wanted to make a difference.”
“I saw it as the way to make the greatest impact and least harm among other engineering disciplines.”
“I wanted a career that matters.”
There were plenty of ‘nerdy’ responses (I say this being a part of that crowd):
“I enjoyed hydraulic calculations.”
There were reasons related to people in the industry:
“FPE students had a spirit of cooperation that was nonexistent in electrical engineering.”
“The family, community spirit” of the industry.
There were also tragic reasons:
“When I was 8-years old the house down from us burned down and a great family lost their home.”
“Lost a brother and father to fire-related deaths.”
“Our house burned down.”
In all, we could generally categorize each response in one of thirty categories. Many responses cited multiple reasons, so we categorized those under both.
Here are the top 15 reasons why people went into fire protection, broken down by the different industries.
ARCHITECTURAL & ENGINEERING
143 Responses; 229 reasons "why" they went into fire protection.
Top 15 Reasons Why Professionals in Architectural and/or Engineering Firms Went into Fire Protection:
178 Responses; 238 reasons.
Top 15 Reasons Why Professionals in Contracting Went into Fire Protection:
If you recall back to the first couple parts of this study, you can see the influence of family (24%), friends (19%) as reasons people first heard about fire protection. If that’s a big contributor for awareness of the industry, then it would also jive that many in contracting got into the industry because of these same influences. "Because of Family" ranked as the #6 reasons why those in contracting got into fire protection, which didn't show up at all in Architectural and/or Engineering firm circles.
AHJ & GOVERNMENT
64 respondents, 178 reasons.
Top 15 Reasons Why AHJ & Government Roles Went into Fire Protection:
#1 Wide-Range of Responses
I think my favorite part of combing through this was seeing the variety of reasons why people went into fire protection. I would have guessed that the reasoning could have been categorized in maybe five or six reasons, but it's much more nuanced than that.
In reading through responses, things like "the challenge" versus "learning something new" and "sounded interesting" are very much in the same vein, or similar source, but they're different and a little more nuanced than that.
Things like "job security" and "job stability" can be tied together, they're very related, but many people cited how the industry is "unique", "niche", and "specialized". That's different than saying the industry is "diverse" or "has a wide range of work".
What were the others reasons that didn't crack the Top 15 lists? They were:
#2 Many Motivators Other than Money
To be honest, I thought career potential, salary and benefits would rank a whole lot higher than they have. Job benefits didn't crack the Top 15 reasons for any group, and Money / Pay only ever reached as high as Reason #5 why people entered fire protection. I would have guessed it to rank much higher.
#3 Think about "The Pitch"
Think about the opportunity you might have to talk to someone new about going into fire protection.
What 'angle' do you take?
What reasons resonate for you? Do those reasons match up with the majority?
If you're looking to craft your reasoning why someone should hop into fire protection - wherever that happens to be - consider first where you are (what type of organization you're in), and then check out the top reasons. Chances are if you can quickly cite those top three-to-five reasons why people go into fire protection, then you may have that 'hook' that helps your case.
I hope this has been interesting. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below with your own thoughts & takeaways.
10/12/2022 10:42:49 am
I went into fire protection because ...“of the beautiful receptionist at the company, whom I later dated.”
10/13/2022 07:29:52 am
11/1/2022 01:36:16 pm
Thank you for sharing your experiences and highlighting this important point. I agree with you wholeheartedly: fire protection is an amazing field, but it is still in the engineering/construction industry, which desperately need more diversity, inclusivity, and faaaaaaaaaaaaar more basic training to create and maintain safe work environments for all. I had been fortunate and privileged enough not to experience it first hand since stating my professional job, but I certainly remember how bad it was at times while I was still in school. (for context, I'm transgender and now present as a man, but while in school I was still being perceived and treated as a woman... the "bro"y culture in engineering spaces can be disgusting at time, to put it mildly.)
12/28/2022 10:00:50 am
It’s tough to be a female on the office/engineering/mngmt side of contracting. Fire Pro is still a male-dominated industry. I have also experienced varying degrees of sexual discrimination.
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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