I thought it would be fun and instructive to share stories from our engineers and consultants about how they found this niche career of fire protection engineering. I’ve included a brief synopsis of my own journey, as well, but if you’re interested in reading the full-length version of my story, please visit the first installment here:  How I Stumbled into Fire Protection Engineering – the Framework.

Jim TutenJim Tuten, Senior Fire Protection Technician, with Harrington Group for over 10 years: After many years as a contractor, I took a chance and approached Harrington Group. I had experience in the past with the firm, the most recent (at that time) was on a Flammable Liquids room protected with an Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) system. It was a challenging job for the contractor that I was working with and as Design Manager, I took the lead for the shop submittal review process, which required close collaboration with the engineers at Harrington Group. During the review, I realized that I had more in common with the engineering side of the process than I did with the contracting side. Soon thereafter, I reentered the job market and found myself on Harrington Group’s doorstep. After almost eleven years with the firm, I remain convinced that I made the right decision. I appreciate working with professionals who consistently get the job done with excellence.

Tina DannakerTina Dannaker, Senior Fire Protection Engineer, with Harrington Group for over six years: I stumbled into Fire Protection. I just so happened to be attending one of the few colleges (WPI) in the US that offers fire protection engineering as a major. I was in the Mechanical Engineering program and as part of the undergrad requirements, we had to complete a Major Qualifying Project or MQP. I had traveled abroad for my junior project and wanted to travel to Australia for my MQP. Jonathan Barnett was a fire protection engineering professor at my school and the co-founder of the WPI Melbourne Project Center. I approached him and asked him about traveling to Australia for my MQP. His response was, “Okay, but your project needs to be in fire protection.” So, I gathered a group of 10 other students, who also wanted to go to Australia and were willing to complete their MQP in fire protection. Four of us (undergrads in mechanical engineering) went to Melbourne, three (undergrads in civil engineering) went to Sydney, and the remaining three students (undergrads in chemical engineering) went to Newcastle. But, before we could venture to Australia, we had to apply to the combined five-year BS/MS fire protection engineering program and we had to take a few classes that were related to the major during the first semester of our senior year. I believe almost all 10 of us went on to finish the MS degree in Fire Protection. So in short – I wanted to go to Australia…….

Harrington, Jeff 2014Jeff Harrington, Founder of Harrington Group, Inc., est. 1986: As a sophomore student at WPI majoring in electrical engineering, I was engaged in my Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), one of the degree requirements. The project was working with the Worcester Fire Department (Worcester, MA) to help them build a new pre-fire attack planning system from the ground up. This had nothing to do with my EE major, which was perfect because that was one of the requirements of the IQP.

I spent many hours working with various firefighters at different levels throughout the WFD. I recognized a clear pattern in terms of the type of individuals that are drawn to serve in fire departments as firefighters, administrative personnel, trainers, etc.; and found that they care-givers, with their primary motivation being to serve their fellow human beings in need. Recognition of this had a powerful influence on me. I wanted to spend my career in engineering somehow associated with individuals like the fire department personnel I worked with in Worcester. I switched my major to mechanical engineering with a special emphasis in fire protection engineering. I graduated with a BS ME, with a minor in fire protection engineering. For my first job, I sought an opportunity that would provide me with the most hands-on training and field experience in fire protection engineering, and have not looked back.

Want to learn more about our engineers and consultants? Tune in next week for part 2 of this series.