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Fire Safety & Emergency Response Manager Adam SwiftWhat is your position at UNC-Chapel Hill, and how long have you been associated with the University? 

I am the Fire Safety and Emergency Response Manager (University Fire Marshal). I have been with the University since December 2011 and have worked my way up through Fire Safety over almost 13 years.

How did you initiate your career in this field or what led you to your current position? 

I studied Fire Safety Engineering at UNC-Charlotte. While I was going through the process of trying to be a firefighter, I took a job as a technician with a suppression system company focused on kitchen suppression systems and fire extinguishers.  I saw an opportunity at UNC as a Fire Safety Technician, which managed the fire extinguisher program for the University but also focused on inspections and fire prevention which is what most of my college courses focused on. I took that position and have loved it ever since. 

 Which sectors of the University does your role impact, and in what ways does it contribute to those areas of work?

Fire Safety is one of those groups that works with every sector of campus. We are involved with construction and look over the plan reviews.  We work with Facilities to correct deficiencies found during inspections, test life safety equipment such as fire alarms, work with athletics for sporting events, and the performing arts shows. We work closely with UNC Police on calls around campus and conduct trainings for all groups across campus whether it be fire extinguisher or CPR/AED. There is not a single building or department that we do not interact with in some way.

Describe what you love most about your job.

What I love most about my job is every day brings something different.  One day you could be conducting building inspections and the next may be out training or doing walkthroughs with Chapel Hill Fire Department. Another day you could be planning for the UNC/Duke basketball game and figuring out a plan for when we win and fans storm Franklin St. We do all of this while we are also on call and ready for a chemical spill or some type of odor to pop up. For me, I grew up playing basketball, so the most fun and interesting aspect of the job is getting to be around athletic events. It is really cool to see people you grew up watching on tv playing and as you are working, you see them walk right past you. I love the collaboration between many different groups that come together to plan the different sports events in order for them to run smoothly. Then when its gameday and you stand inside the arena/stadium, the energy you feel just can’t be explained.  That feeling of fun and excitement makes the job worth coming to work every day.

What advice do you have for those interested in entering a career in your line of work?

My advice would be to take classes to learn about fire codes and regulations which focus on inspections and compliance with fire and safety codes. Learning about the technical side of fire safety systems like fire alarms, extinguishers, sprinkler systems, smoke evacuation, etc. will help you become more versed in becoming a fire safety professional. Being open to learning new information in the field is important as things are always changing.