Fire Banner

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Defining the Future of Fire Safety Engineering Education

The 2011 LRET/UoE Global Technical Leadership Seminar in Fire Safety Engineering

Last year, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh secured a major grant from The Lloyd's Register Educational Trust (LRET), to hold a series of three annual week-long intensive seminars ("think tanks") in areas related to Fire Safety Engineering.

This series of seminars was motivated by the need to have a new generation of leaders in Fire Safety Engineering that can drive the field through the drastic transition it is currently experiencing. An ever evolving construction industry, drastic changes in regulatory environment, multi-disciplinary drivers for innovation, and ever increasing demands for the fire service require a new face of leadership. The seminars are intended to bring together selected leaders of today with the leaders of the future to define a coherent path for different areas of critical importance to the field.

The globally unique initiative was launched this year with The 1st Annual LRET/UoE Global Technical Leadership Seminar in Fire Safety Engineering. The seminar had the theme of "Education for the Future of Fire Safety Engineering," and was held in Scotland between 30 May and 3 June 2011. Participants were selected as key players in defining the future of advanced fire safety engineering as a professional/academic discipline.

The seminar was run as a five day retreat, delivered by the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at a residential venue close to Edinburgh. Each session began with a presentation to be given by one of the participants (see below). This initiated discussions on the relevant issues. A small group of undergraduate and graduate students, some of whose stuudies are also financially supported by The LRET, were also competitively selected to join the seminar, bringing the total number of participants to approximately 20.

The University of Edinburgh further funded a dedicated PhD student (Michael Woodrow) to support the seminar. Along with Edinburgh staff and the seminar participants, Michael will compile the outcomes of the seminar and disseminate these (with the approval of the participants) to the relevant stakeholders. Dissemination activities will include the publication of a "white paper" based on the seminar's discussions and outcomes.

All of the participants felt that the event was a great success and will lead to a number of important changes, actions, and significant progress for fire safety engineering education globally. Feedback icipants has been very positive thus far, and several participants have formulated specific personal action items within their own organizations.

Participants pose for a group photo outside the Seminar venue, Archerfield House Estate, near Gullane, Scotland. From left to right: Sarah Higginson, Michael Franklin, Ieuan Rickard, Eduardo Maciel, Michael Woodrow, David Crowder, Bjorn Karlsson, Jose Torero, Luke Bisby, Peter Johnson, David Mallin, Kathleen Almand, Chris Lawless, Thouria Istephan, Peter Sunderland, Angus Law, Agustin Majdalani, Paul Jenkins, Cristian Maluk (not shown: Neal Butterworth, Maria Garlock)


The venue for the 2011 seminar was Archerfield House Estate, in Gullane, Scotland. The participants are listed in the table below, in alphabetical order:

The programme for the seminar was built around presentations on issues around fire safety, delivered by selected seminar participants. A list of the presentations is provided below:

“Why The LRET Funded this Programme”
Michael Franklin (Director, The LRET)

“The State of Fire Safety Education”
Jose L. Torero (Director, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering)

“The Current Needs of Industry/Consultancy”
Peter Johnson (Arup Fire, Australia)

“The Current Needs of Architects”
Thouria Istephan (Foster + Partners, UK)

“The Swedish Model - How Sweden Implemented Change”
Bjorn Karlsson (Director, Iceland Construction Authority)

“Societal Barriers to Technological Knowledge Transfer”
Chris Lawless (Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, University of Edinburgh)

“The Evolution of Codes and Standards”
Kathleen Almand (Director, Fire Protection Research Foundation, USA)

“Introduction to the Scottish Fire Services College and Firefighter Training in Scotland”
Gary Stewart (Programme Manager – Practical Skills, Scottish Fire Services College)

“How do we train people in the fire service today?”
David Mallin (Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade)

“Tomorrow's Needs of the Fire Service given Current Evolution in Building Design and Regulatory Processes (Knowledge, Training, and Changes in Practice)”
Paul Jenkins (London Fire Brigade)

“Structural Engineering/Architecture/Fire Safety –How are People Educated at Princeton?”
Maria Garlock (Princeton University)

“Fire Protection Engineering Education in the USA”
Peter Sunderland (University of Maryland)

“Learning Lessons from Fire Incidents”
David Crowder (BRE Fire & Security)

“Proposals for the Way Forward”
The LRET Scholars (University of Edinburgh students)

“Conclusions and Discussions on White Paper”
Michael Woodrow (PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh) and Luke Bisby (Reader, University of Edinburgh)


Seminar participants were exposed to one full day of training and presentations at the Scottish Fire Services College, in Gullane, Scotland. Activities included introductory breathing apparatus training, hands-on flashover and flame cooling training, and a smoke movement demonstration and training exercise. This unique, practical experience was the first time that most of the participants had participated in such activities, despite most being global leaders within the fire safety community, and was a real eye-opener for everyone involved. On the back of this collaboration between the BRE Centre and the Scottish Fire Services College, discussions are underway to launch additional collaborative and joint training programmes. The most recent issue of the Scottish Fire Services College Newsletter highlights this (see link).

Seminar participants get first-hand experience at tackling real fires in buildings (training activities and photograph graciously provided by Gary Stewart of the Scottish Fire Services Training College, Gullane, Scotland)


The discussion and ideas generated during the Seminar are being distilled and summarized in a “white paper” on fire safety engineering education. This work is being led by PhD student Michael Woodrow, in collaboration with Dr Bisby and Prof Torero, and it is expected that this will lead to the publication of an archival journal paper. Once published, this work will be circulated widely both within and outwith the fire safety engineering community. It is expected that this will catalyze further discussion on the important issue of education within the broader fire safety community.

Feedback from the applicants has been uniformly positive (see below), and in general there is a clear consensus that the Seminar provided a unique and productive opportunity to think deeply about the significant issues facing the Fire Safety Engineering discipline generally, and about the education of Fire Safety Engineers specifically.

Spontaneous correspondence and communication has occurred between several of the Seminar participants, and independent dialogue is now occurring around the issue of fire safety engineering education. The intangible benefits and possible outcomes of such ongoing communications are difficult to quantify but can only cause positive change within the fire safety community.

The International Association of Fire Safety Sciences has recently reinvigorated its Education Committee under the part leadership of 2011 Seminar participant Prof Björn Karlsson, and it is expected that the seminar outcomes will influence the actions of this committee.


“I want to say how stimulating the week at Archerfield was to me, and how beneficial it will be to the entire community of Fire Safety Engineering. It is a rare pleasure to have people from such diverse professions come together for a common cause. I learned more than I ever could have imagined. Thanks for including me in this week of stimulating discussions. I have never experienced anything like this before. It was a great experience for me and everyone there. Our entire field will be the beneficiary.”
- Dr Peter Sunderland, University of Maryland

“It was a fantastic week. Very valuable time. I think we are all very grateful to Michael (Franklin) and The LRET for the opportunity. And of course we all loved the fire training, for which we are most grateful to David (Mallin)... I think we all started to learn about the real challenges of fire fighting. Many thanks to you Luke, Jose, and all from the University of Edinburgh for all the organization. An excellent time.”
- Peter Johnson, Arup

“I want to thank you for everything you did during and before this week, I am so glad that you included me in this event. I had a great time, and I had the chance to meet great people. I want to do something in Mexico about (creating) fire engineering courses after I spend a few years learning and getting more experience in Europe, but I think this week helped me to have an idea at least on where to start and where to look for information.”
- Jorge Eduardo Maciel Franco, LRET MSc Scholar

“Thanks again so much for the opportunity to be a part of this workshop. I found it very valuable!”
- Maria Garlock, Princeton University

“Very thought provoking, the process turned my ideas on education around quite a few times and I feel more informed on the subject as a result. The company was wonderful and the surroundings too.”
- Prof Björn Karlsson, Iceland Construction Authority


The BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering would like to extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust for making this unique event possible, and to its Director, Mr Michael Franklin, for his enthusiastic and active participation in the week’s activities and discussions; it is indeed rare to find a patron with such a demonstrated interest in The BRE Centre’s work.

Many thanks to all those who attended!!

Planning is already underway for the 2012 LRET/UoE Global Technical Leadership Seminar... more information will follow... stay tuned...

No comments: