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 project partner, Dick Hopkinson, and I developed an approach to evaluate the sprinkler system for our MQP.  It was graphical and statistical – and remember – this was way before the use of computers was common.  We were doing everything by hand!  We created what we called “bubble diagrams” to help us with the various statistical assignments for each of the elements in the evaluation process.  Then, we would mathematically combine all of those elements and come up with a probability of success for the entire sprinkler system.  The question we were trying to answer was:  if we have the expected fire in a certain area of the facility, what was the mathematical probability that the fire would grow to the next room – or to the next fire compartment?

We were evaluating the effectiveness of the sprinkler system in terms of its ability to suppress the fire and reduce the probability that the fire could spread to the next room.  Bob Fitzgerald praised the work we developed for the MQP in an email he sent me right before a WPI Fire Protection Engineering Program reunion event six months ago.  He shared with me how a lot of the work that we had created for the project had since been used by many other fire protection engineering students at WPI.  Once we graduated, I had no idea that he had structured new MQP projects using our work as the foundation.  They built on it, and apparently, it went on for years.  Until Bob’s email – I had never heard this before.  Here I am fifty-five years old and all this time later, I find out how much our work impacted the fire protection engineer program at WPI.  Cool!

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