For Dave Fuller, the new manager of FM Approvals fire protection group, the commute to the hydraulics laboratory in West Glocester, Rhode Island, USA, feels like déjà vu. Fuller spent five years at the hydraulics lab, from 2000 to 2005, as the manager of the sprinkler and extinguishing group before departing for his last role working in fire prevention.
“I’ve spent my entire career in loss prevention and fire protection, kind of reinventing myself and learning new things with each new position,” notes Fuller, who took a position as a field engineer in 1990 just weeks after graduating from Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, USA) with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. His three years as a field engineer was “a great opportunity for a new grad to see many different industries in a relatively short period of time.”
Fuller served as an account engineer for seven years before accepting his first position at the FM Approvals hydraulics lab. “Account engineering provides a very different perspective,” he explains. “You’re working at the account level and responsible for managing the engineering services for individual accounts as opposed to geographic regions. It involved significant travel as well. I like to say you become the engineering quarterback for those accounts.”
While in his last position working with loss/fire protection, Fuller earned his master of science in fire protection engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Mass.). “The transition from working with engineering standards to FM Approvals fire protection group has been relatively easy for two big reasons,” Fuller notes. “First, I was already familiar with the group, having worked there 10 years ago. Sure, there have been lots of changes over 10 years, but a lot of what we do is still basically the same. Secondly, the staff and managers we have in our group are very professional and understand their jobs extraordinarily well. I have total confidence in our ability to execute and do the right things for our customers.”
What are some of the biggest changes he’s seen in FM Approvals over the last decade? “The globalization of FM Approvals has been dramatic,” he observes. “When I was last here, we made occasional trips overseas and had little or no foreign-based staff. Now, we have offices and local technical staff in many areas of the world, including Asia, Europe and South America.”
And the most exciting developments in fire protection in that period of time? “Just when I was leaving hydraulics in 2005, there was talk of developing a program for flood mitigation products,” Fuller notes. “Today, we have the world’s leading certification program for flood abatement products—Standard 2510—and FM Approved flood control products are now available.”
Flood control falls under the fire protection umbrella because flood products require water-based testing by hydraulics experts. As Fuller puts it, “We have the pumping capabilities, the water storage, and we’re used to dealing with issues such as leakage rates. In the end, flood control and fire protection belong together.”
Fuller looks forward to the challenge of managing the fire protection group as it continues to innovate and grow on a global scale. “Ten years ago, frankly, certification was a hard sell in many countries outside of North America and Europe,” he says. “Today, the FM APPROVED diamond is recognized as a quality mark in many new regions and that recognition is growing every day.”