Preface: How I Stumbled Into Fire Protection Engineering is a series of blog posts tracing the roots of my current career. From stumbling upon fire protection as a college student through starting Harrington Group as an entrepreneur, I hope you enjoy the story of my journey into Fire Protection Engineering. I would also like to encourage you to post comments of the moments in which you realized your calling. Thank you for reading and sharing.

My new found interest in Fire Protection Engineering was perfectly timed. Bob Fitzgerald, my academic advisor from my IQP with the Worcester Fire Department, was developing expertise in applying systems engineering techniques for building fire safety problems.  At the time, he referred to this as a goal oriented systems approach to fire protection engineering. He’s since written a books on it, which is publicly available. He was also the head of the Civil Engineering department at WPI and a PhD in Civil Engineering.

After being in touch with him for my project, I realized, in a nutshell, he was a genius. While being the head of the Civil Engineering department, he had become a renowned expert in fire protection engineering. A completely separate field of engineering that was emerging at the time. Fire protection was his part-time passion.

My IQP with the Worcester Fire Department fell into one of the many pieces of his puzzle in developing new ways for fire protection engineers to think and work.  He was creating momentum towards something of real value and he needed guinea pigs.

He said, “You know, if you don’t want to do electrical engineering, and you like fire protection, you should change your major to mechanical. If you do it next semester, you will have just enough time to meet all of the degree requirements for mechanical. You’ll also have time to fit-in two civil courses, take structures 1 & 2 (courses that used a text book that he wrote), and you have time to do some project work in fire protection. We can do your major qualifying project (MQP) and focus it on fire protection.”

Eight of us ended up going through this new fire protection engineering program he was creating on the fly.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.