The Value of International Collaboration: FPE Continues to Put People First

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Image: Jim Milke (center), Kenneth Isman (right of Milke), Tanvir Manzur (left of Milke) and the rest of the BUET engineers.

The Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) at the University of Maryland, the only accredited fire safety program in the U.S., provided an intensive short training course for six faculty members from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). The course, which was conducted January 3-25, 2017, was designed to give BUET engineers basic information on fire safety and train them on where to find additional information and resources independently.

The idea for the training was in response to a series of factory fires that have occurred in Bangladesh over the last seven years, many of them fatal (e.g. a 2013 fire claimed over 1,000 lives). These factories – which make textiles for corporations such as Walmart, Target, H&M and Gap, Inc., to name a few – contain numerous safety hazards such as lack of fire exits, fire doors and sprinkler system; and insufficient smoke alarms, in addition to electrical safety risks.

“This training program is a continuation of research we’ve been conducting in Bangladesh since 2015. Representatives from UMD, NFPA, and Fire and Risk Alliance reviewed Bangladeshi building code and the additional manufacturer's standards in order to provide opinions on whether they were achieving a minimum level of life safety and fire protection,” said FPE Clinical Professor, Ken Isman, an expert on water-based fire protection systems. “We also sent a team out to evaluate conditions in some of the factories. These activities identified a fundamental gap in knowledge regarding the design of buildings (and systems within the buildings) for life safety and fire protection.”

Shortly after the initial evaluation, an agreement was reached to send a team of BUET engineers to UMD for a month of training. The idea being that the team would return to Bangladesh and run training programs for larger numbers of people based on what they learned at UMD. Tanvir Manzur, a professor with BUET’s Department of Civil Engineering who attended the training, said the ultimate goal of the workshop is to “build a state-of-the-art Fire Safety Institute at BUET, which will act as a center of excellence for fire safety related training, education, and research in Bangladesh.” Additionally, the BUET team plans to develop a post-graduate curriculum on fire protection and safety designed to accommodate local needs.

“This extensive training program is anticipated to be the first of many areas of collaboration between UMD and BUET. As BUET develops their own FPE program, I expect that UMD faculty will stay engaged to provide assistance in course development and identifying equipment for a laboratory,” said FPE Professor and Chair, Dr. James Milke. “There is also the prospect for faculty and graduate student exchanges between the two institutions.”

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which was formed in 2013 to improve safety in Bangladeshi textile factories, sponsored UMD’s initial visit to, and subsequent research in, Bangladesh. UMD, USAID, and NFPA are partners of the Alliance.

Course instructors include James Milke (FPE Professor and Chair), Arnaud Trouvé (FPE Professor), Kenneth Isman (FPE Clinical Professor), Bill Koffel (Principal at Koffel Associates), Justin Geiman (Fire and Risk Alliance), Noah Ryder (Fire and Risk Alliance), and Morgan Hurley (Jensen Hughes) – all, except for Dr. Trouvé, are FPE alumni.

For additional information, please contact Dr. James Milke ( 

Published February 10, 2017