SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering

Since 1988, the text has evolved and paved the way toward legitimizing a necessary discipline.

Many times in my career I have been asked, “What is a fire protection engineer?” I am sure many of FPEs out there, who have been in the business for a while, are familiar with this question.  

For more than half a century, FPEs have been struggling to have fire protection engineering recognized as a legitimate engineering discipline.  

I was a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers for many years, and each year when I renewed my membership, it bugged me to have to check the “other” box on the form query about engineering discipline. 

This lack of recognition for our field began to change with the publication of the first edition of the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering in 1988. 

Understanding an important need of our profession, a group of FPEs, led by Philip DiNenno, came upon the idea for this handbook. DiNenno became the editor in chief of the first editorial staff, which also included Craig Beyler, Doug Walton, Dick Custer and Jack Watts.  

In the preface of the first edition DiNenno wrote: 

Fire protection engineering is at a threshold in terms of technical development. Substantial progress has been made in developing a theoretical and analytical foundation for the profession. These scientific underpinnings have for the most part not been integrated into daily practice. This dichotomy is due in part to the fact that much of the recent research work has been published in a wide variety of reports and journals spanning many different engineering and scientific disciplines and has not been readily available to the design professional. One of the primary objectives of this handbook is to facilitate the integration of theory and practice by providing this information in a readily accessible form.

In 2016, the fifth edition of the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering was published. This edition is dedicated to Philipp DiNenno, who passed away in 2013.  The dedication notes: “No other single event had as significant an impact on establishing the profession of fire protection engineering as the publication of (the first edition of this) handbook.”

Later in this dedication: “Phil contributed the leadership, vision and motivation necessary to develop the handbook, and he did so using entirely volunteer resources. This would be an incredible accomplishment for anyone. Phil did it before he turned 35.”

The year 1988 certainly represented a major step on the way to establishing our profession. Subsequent editions of the handbook have helped to advance the ball.  The second edition was published in 1995, the third in 2002, and the fourth in 2008.  These four editions were published as a joint effort of the SFPE and NFPA. 

The fifth edition was prepared with a new editorial staff and publisher. The editor in chief is Morgan J. Hurley, and the others on the editorial staff are Daniel Gottuk, John R. Hall Jr., Kazunori Harada, Dr. Eng., Kyoto University, Erica Kuligowski, Milosh Puchovsky, Jose´ Torero, John M. Watts Jr. and Christopher Wieczorek. Springer International Publishing is the new publisher.

The first edition had 54 chapters and more than 800 pages. The fifth edition contains 90 chapters and more than 3,500 pages.

Both hardcopy and e-book versions are available from Springer. The three-volume hardcover is available to SFPE members for $299, the non-member price is $1199. The e-book version is available to SFPE members for $299, and the non-member price is $959, worth the price of SFPE membership to get that discount. Those interested in only certain chapters can purchase separate chapters from Springer for $29.95.

The fifth edition truly represents the state-of-the-art-and-science for the fire protection engineering profession, and should be within arm’s reach at the desk of any serious practicing fire protection engineer. 

Samuel S. Dannaway, P.E., FSFPE, is a licensed fire protection engineer and mechanical engineer with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering. He is a past president and fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. He is vice president of Fire Protection Technology at Coffman Engineers Inc., a multidiscipline engineering firm with over 360 employees across eight offices. Dannaway can be reached at dannaway@coffman.com.

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