Fighting a fire will help A&M students ‘smoke’ those final exams


COLLEGE STATION – Want to smoke your final exam? A Texas A&M safety engineering class gets you up close and personal with actual flames as part of your studies.

Students enrolled in the “SENG 422 / 677 Fire Protection Engineering Concepts for Industrial Facilities” course get a chance to be a firefighter for a day — donning bunker gear and fighting a fire at Brayton Fire Training Field, the largest live-fueled fire training facility in the United States.

The course is taught by subject matter professionals with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which operates the 297-acre emergency service training campus with its full-scale props for firefighting, hazmat and rescue training.

Most of the 35 students enrolled in the class this semester are pursuing a certificate in Safety Engineering, which is offered through the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center and the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University. TEEX has offered the course since 2009 in collaboration with the Process Safety Center.

Students learn how to identify and mitigate fire hazards in chemical and petrochemical processing facilities. Topics covered include fire protection design concepts for processing facilities, with special considerations for fire hazard analysis, fire risk assessment, fire protection features, and emergency response. Students are taught by TEEX staff, as well as some of the leading industry fire protection experts.

“Exposure to the expertise offered by the TEEX team and observing fire behavior in an industrial setting is transformative for the students. There is no better teacher than the experience of feeling the heat, seeing the flame and hearing the roar to bring the fire protection concepts home,” said Dr. Jason Moats, Associate Director of the TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute and a faculty fellow with the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.

SENG 422

“Brayton Fire Training Field offers one of the best venues for these unique educational opportunities and some hands-on experience fighting a fire at one of the top fire training facilities in the country. It is the highlight of the course for the students,” said Moats, who teaches the course along with Howard Meek, Manager of Environmental Health and Safety at Brayton Fire Training Field.

“We teach the student that ‘safety is a way of life’ and that lesson stays with them throughout their career. Facing those flames definitely reinforces the safety message we are teaching them,” Moats added.

The course is offered in the Fall and Spring semesters at Texas A&M University and is cross-listed for graduate level credit toward a Master’s degree in Safety Engineering.