CNS employees blaze through certification exam

Posted: December 17, 2015 - 5:01pm

CNS has made remarkable progress in fire protection this year with 17 CNS employees earning certified fire protection specialist credentials by passing the CFPS exam administered by the National Fire Protection Association.

The exam is designed to test candidates' knowledge and proficiency in protecting facilities from fire and is based on the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, which covers every aspect of fire protection. The certified employees work in various divisions of Mission Assurance; Mission Engineering; Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services; the Uranium Processing Facility and Y‑12 Operations.

"Ensuring a high level of fire protection for our sites is critical. One way we can do this is by providing our staff with opportunities for continuing education and training, as well as professional certification. By becoming certified, these employees have demonstrated their commitment to fire protection and CNS," said Y‑12 Fire Protection Engineering Manager David Greer. "We were fortunate to have the exam review course and test given on site."

For 15 of the candidates, the exam was given at New Hope Center specifically to accommodate Y‑12 and UPF project employees. Typically, candidates must travel to an authorized testing center, but CNS arranged to have the test given on site because of the large number of candidates. CNS also offered employees the opportunity to attend an on-site exam review class, as well as the fire protection engineering courses offered through the University of Tennessee program.

Austin Smith had wanted to take the exam for a long time and appreciated the convenience of taking the test at New Hope Center. "On site testing was more appealing than taking the exam at a testing center. I didn't have to schedule time to go to a testing center and take the test in a cramped, three foot cubicle," he said.

Pantexans Russell Bainbridge and Tony Lance are other CNS employees who have earned the certified fire protection specialist credential. After completing all qualifications to become a licensed professional engineer last year, Bainbridge set his sights on becoming a CFPS at Lance's encouragement. As graduates of Oklahoma State University's fire protection program, both spent three months studying the CFPS material together during lunch in preparation for the exam, which Bainbridge described as "extremely complicated and hard." In May, they traveled to Nashville for a CFPS exam review course, and that same week, both passed the exam. This past summer, Bainbridge took several UT fire protection engineering courses in Knoxville.

The 3-hour, 100 question, multiple-choice test was open book; however, the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook is two volumes of 3,500 pages divided into 211 chapters. "The exam asks anything and everything. You have to know how to navigate the handbook, and you have to know the nuts and bolts of fire protection," said Smith, who studied at Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection and Safety after serving in the Navy. His internship at Y‑12 led to a full-time position upon graduating, and he recently took four fire protection engineering courses at UT, as well as the CFPS exam review course.

Andrew Tinsley, who joined CNS in July, said, "I was taken aback by the test — it was tough. The book has so much information that if you don't know the material you won't know where to find it. I felt it was a great opportunity to demonstrate and validate our knowledge within the field." Tinsley is a UT graduate who wrote his doctoral dissertation on structural engineering as it relates to fire. He taught fire protection courses at Eastern Kentucky University and served with a local volunteer fire department.

"This effort was a success for CNS and a benefit to the employees who participated. I'm proud of the fire protection staff who earned this credential and thrilled that we now have several certified fire protection specialists working throughout the plant in other roles. Fire education has been expanded at both of our operating plants, as well as at the UPF project, and a number of our staff has earned an internationally recognized qualification. This makes me confident that we will see dividends paid back in orders of magnitude over the investment," said Ken Keith, director of Y‑12 Engineering.