Engineering a future at NFPA
NFPA Journal®, January 2006
By John Nicholson
As a fire protection engineer, Christian Dubay brings a sense of tradition to his new Vice President, Codes and Standards and Chief Engineer position at NFPA. The graduate of the Fire Protection Engineering program at the University of Maryland is very proud of the association and its ability to reach many varied people and organizations with its life-safety message.
“NFPA is a great place to work because of our mission. I feel good about going to work and what we do as an association. I can do what I am passionate about from the technical standpoint while working towards our mission,” he says.
Dubay is a recognized expert in the fire sprinkler field. He is former chair of the American Water Works Associations Fire Protection Committee and is a former Board Member of the International Water Mist Association. Within NFPA, he was staff liaison for the automatic sprinkler technical committees and served as editor of The Automatic Sprinkler Systems Handbook and The Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems Handbook.
Dubay first came to NFPA in 1995 as an Associate Fire Protection Engineer. He was promoted to Fire Protection Engineer (FPE) in 1997, Senior FPE in 2002, and Principal FPE in 2006. As Vice President, Codes and Standards and Chief Engineer, he now oversees all of the Codes and Standards development operations at NFPA.
“I like to be challenged all the time. It motivates and energizes me. Obviously, this new position is a big challenge that I am eager to meet,” he says.
James M. Shannon, president and CEO of NFPA, announced to members the appointment of Dubay as Vice President, Codes and Standards and Chief Engineer in early December. “During the search I was very pleased with the quality of the candidates both from within NFPA and from outside. I interviewed and considered candidates who are experts in their field and who were attracted to the position because of the reputation of NFPA and its excellent engineering staff. Chris Dubay has the reputation, the energy, and the commitment to NFPA’s mission necessary to lead the NFPA Engineering and technical staff and be Chief Engineer,”
Dubay applied for the position shortly after Art Cote, another respected sprinkler expert and
“I believe in the NFPA Codes and Standards process, in what NFPA stands for and in the objectives and mission of our association,” Dubay says. “While I am an engineer at heart. I like the challenge of working at a management level to further the advancement of NFPA’s mission.”
As the Chief Engineer, Dubay is technical advisor to Shannon and the lead technical expert for NFPA. He expects to accomplish these two tasks by relying on those at NFPA with the most technical experience in each specific area, he says. “The technical staff at NFPA is unquestionably one of the most respected groups in the world. Whether it is electrical, fire protection, life safety or public fire protection, our technical experts represent some of the best minds and strongest voices in their respective areas.”
For Dubay, one of the greatest differences between his previous position and his new role as Vice President, Codes and Standards and Chief Engineer is the breadth of management activities. He now oversees five divisions: Electrical Engineering, Fire Protection Applications and Chemical Engineering, Public Fire Protection, Building and Life Safety, and Codes and Standards Administration.
“Prior to this, being responsible for the automatic sprinkler systems project, there were two main areas. One was dealing with all the technical committees, managing those projects, and insuring that everything was processed according to NFPA regulations. And, serving as the technical voice for NFPA on automatic fire sprinklers,” he says.
As principal engineer, he set policy and worked closely with various groups such as the American Fire Sprinkler Association and the National Fire Sprinkler Association. “I served as the voice of NFPA in those venues and with those constituent groups. There much similarity there to what I will be doing now,” he says.
He is also proud of his ability to work with others and believes that will assist him when it comes to projects within NFPA. Dubay also believes his years of work on NFPA’s highly successful sprinkler project and his oversight of the key NFPA 13 technical committees will prove invaluable.
Unfortunately, he says, he will no longer be involved in seminars and the teaching of sprinkler-related programs. Dubay’s time spent instructing will be replace with more time at NFPA’s headquarters working with all the technical staff. “In many ways that will be more exciting as we look at where we are going and what we have planned,” he says.
“Not only are we changing but everything around us is changing. How do people use our codes and standards? How are they applied? How do we produce them (codes and standards)? What type of training are we offering? All this is changing. We need to be constantly looking ahead. One of my goals is looking out several years and trying to figure out how do we keep getting better,” Dubay says.
Although change is anticipated, Dubay hopes to meet it with a consistency that maintains the integrity of NFPA’s consensus process. “The consensus codes and standards process is key to who we are,” he says.
Dubay plans to take his standing in the fire protection engineering community and further elevate NFPA’s position among the many organizations NFPA collaborates with on life safety issues. “While other organizations work differently, I will constantly be looking for ways we can work together to accomplish our mission,” Dubay says.
One of the exciting parts about the new position, he says, is his exposure to new constituent groups. “One of my strengths is meeting and working with other groups. I enjoy working in a collaborative way and seeing first hand how together we can advance the goals of each group.”
Not a replacement
“It is an honor. It is exciting, but it is also intimidating. Art is an icon in the industry. Several people have said to me that I have big shoes to fill. You can’t do it. You can’t fill his shoes,” Dubay says. “You develop your own career and your own history. What I hope to do is build on what Art has established and continue down the path that he has set for NFPA. That is part of what attracts you to a job. The people who have the job now and the legacy they have established. It motivates you to push yourself to develop both personally and professionally.”
JOHN NICHOLSON is the executive editor of the NFPA Journal®. He can be reached at email@example.com.