Challenging + Interesting career of a fire engineer – Who are they? (by Fire Division)

Design for life safety in fire emergencies is a crucial part in every engineering project over the world. Professionals, who take up this duty, are often known as Fire Engineers. The word "Fire" may be highlighting one of most frequent disasters in built environment. Fire Engineers are therefore professionals who are committed to protect people by means of scientific and engineering principles. With such ambition, Fire Engineers should be equipped with a wide spectrum of knowledges in fire protection systems, fire dynamics, materials, human behaviours, fire safety legislations, computer simulation, risk analysis etc. Fire Engineers, who serve in various roles as engineering consultants, building operators, builders, fire fighters, and developers, strive at different corners to make the city a safer place to live and work in. In response to the growing demand for fire engineering professionals, The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) established the Fire Discipline in 2005 and formed the Fire Division in 2008, which is now an important platform to gather Fire Engineers in Hong Kong to face challenges in fire safety.

What did they do?

Even though Fire Engineers are a group of specialists, it does not mean that they are far away from everyday life. You can easily find a product of fire engineering in the city and will likely be amazed at what they did under various circumstances.

Fire Engineers have played an important role in creating Hong Kong city's skyline, and  addressing challenges in designing fire and life safety plans associated with skyscrapers.  For those who have seen the movie "Skyscraper", you would understand the difficulties to evacuate people from a 100-storey building and the challenges the firefighting crew are facing during firefighting and rescue. From this perspective, Fire Engineer is pretty "cool".

The integration of event space and shopping mall has motivated Fire Engineers to figure out solutions for smoke control and fire suppression in large atrium, like what you can see in Langham Place at Mongkok and the huge space in the airport terminal of the Hong Kong International Airport. Without a fire engineering approach, it is not possible to realise the accommodation of one of the longest escalators in Asia in the "un-compartmented large open space" in Langham Place or one of the best airport terminals in the world.

The hustle and bustle of the city demands extension of metro system deep underground. Fire Engineers had to tackle the difficulties in upward evacuation from Sai Ying Pun Station of West Island Line.  

The appreciation of heritage requires Fire Engineers to develop fire safety strategy with minimal modifications in the process of revitalisation, and so the historical buildings in Tai Kwun can now be turned into a museum and open to public.

There are a lot more we can find in our city that Fire Engineers have contributed to society, and this will definitely be continued in our future.  

What's next?

Fire Engineers continuously confront new challenges brought about by various changes, pursuit of innovative architectural design, need for sustainable development and demography etc.

The lack of land supply is always one of the key issues in Hong Kong, and the Government would have to explore alternative supply options such as cavern development. Cavern fire safety is therefore a new challenge to fire engineering professionals. 

Sustainable development in built environment has become a major topic for engineering professionals globally. Fire engineering professionals have not been left behind in conducting relevant researches since a decade ago, such as fire concerns in using timber structure and concerns related to ageing population using inclusive design approach. 

Catastrophic fires also remind fire engineering professionals not to stop acquiring knowledge and better ideas, as Fire Engineers ought to be well-prepared to face unprecedented matters and events. With the London Grenfell Tower fire, facade fire prevention has become a subject of research for the entire fire engineering industry. The world has entered into the 5G era. Digitalisation, that is machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data etc has much enhanced our daily communication. Hong Kong is committed to becoming a smart city. The fire engineering industry therefore is moving towards  digital transformation. The use of digital platform for fire safety management, the employment of fire big data analysis for fire safety design etc., are becoming the hot research topics in fire engineering.

The desire for improvement, which becomes a requirement and new skill development, is now the everyday task of Fire Engineers. However, this could be an enjoyable task for engineers, who always explore new things and find answers to new questions. That is why many fire engineers keep conducting researches and eager to work out better solutions to different challenges.

Hong Kong fire engineering professionals would not limit the contribution only to Hong Kong, but also offer their help to countries in the South East Asia, which are still in an early stage in developing their fire engineering disciplines. 

By Ir Anny IP from the Fire Division of the HKIE

We use cookies on this site to facilitate your ability to login for technical reasons. Cookie Policy