Each year, NSPE’s Federal Engineer of the Year Award honors engineers employed at US agencies. This year, LCDR Christopher McDowell, P.E., a member from Panama City, FL was announced as top 10 finalist. The top 10 finalists exemplify the best and brightest federal engineering talent.
Panama City, FL
LCDR Christopher McDowell, P.E.
U.S. Department of the Navy
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Southeast)
McDowell serves as public works officer for Naval Support Activity Panama City (Florida). In that capacity, he recently guided 90 personnel in the quality execution of $35 million in new construction and $41 million of maintenance activities that support $600 million of infrastructure. Following Hurricane Michael’s devastation in Panama City and surrounding Bay County in October 2018, McDowell developed a plan within two days that allowed essential personnel to remain on base, while securing temporary utilities and life support. Then within a three-week recovery period, he supervised NAVFAC engineers, Seabees, contractors, and local utilities in restoring base accessibility and repairing essential utilities — an unprecedented achievement. Additionally, he served as production officer for NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic where his efforts directly enabled the $100 billion Columbia-class submarine program to be delivered on schedule.
The Florida House has amusement ride safety on its agenda with a potential PE role in the permitting process. A bill (H.B. 1275) seeks to require permit applications for temporary amusement rides to include an affidavit executed by a professional engineer or qualified person stating the ride has been inspected and meets state requirements.
NSPE supports the introduction of this legislation, and we need you to contact your legislators to end this exemption.
A day or evening out at a carnival or state fair shouldn’t put anyone at risk of death. Yet, recent fatalities and injuries caused by deteriorated or malfunctioning amusement rides have sounded the alarm—states need to seriously consider a PE role with ride safety inspections.
In 2017, the opening day of the Ohio State Fair turned tragic when the “Fireball” ride broke apart midoperation. Eighteen-year-old Marine recruit Tyler Jarrell lost his life and seven others were injured in the incident, blamed on excessive corrosion.
In November 2019, “Tyler’s Law” (H.B. 189) was signed into law following two years of advocacy by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers. The law makes a number of changes for amusement ride safety, such as strengthening inspection standards, and places a professional engineer on the Ohio Advisory Council on Amusement Ride Safety.
In 2017, the Kansas Amusement Ride Act was amended to include licensed professional engineers as “qualified inspectors” in addition to establishing registration and inspections requirements, and other rules and standards for the operation of amusement rides. This action was prompted by the death of a 10-year-old on a water slide at a Kansas City waterpark in 2016. The Kansas Society of Professional Engineers supported changes to the law.
Access PE’s July/August 2018 feature article on amusement ride safety and PE involvement, “Hidden Dangers?”
As Florida aims to reduce regulatory burdens for occupations, Florida AEC firms are no longer required to apply for a certificate of authorization.
As of October 1, firms will be required to register their businesses with the Florida Board of Professional Engineers and be qualified by having a professional engineer licensed in the state on their staff. The board, however, is prohibited from charging a fee for qualifying a business organization.
Prior to this change in law, engineering firms had to renew their certificate of authorization every two years and pay a $93.75 fee. Engineering firms applying for a certificate of authorization for the first time had to pay a $125 initial application fee and a $100 initial fee. There was also a $5 unlicensed activity fee.
Firms that are current and active holders of a certificate will be transferred to a new registry.
If a firm’s qualified licensee leaves the firm, the board must be notified within 24 hours. If the licensee was the only qualifying licensee with the firm, the business must stop offering engineering services in the state. If the firm wants to continue offering services, another qualified engineer must be brought into the firm within 60 days.
The registry will also apply to out-of-state firms that want to provide engineering services on a temporary basis.
Learn more about certificates of authorization and other topics associated with managing firm licensure in the white paper “Licensing for Profitability, Agility, & Growth: Meeting the Challenges of Small and Mid-Sized Engineering Firms.”
Albert Hernandez, P.E., has joined HNTB Corp. as aviation project director and vice president. Based in the firm’s Miami office, Hernandez’s duties include leading HNTB’s service to aviation clients in South Florida, managing large-scale projects, and serving as a client liaison. He was previously assistant director for the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works for 14 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Miami and a master’s in business administration from Florida International University.
In June, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that will allow for early taking of the PE exam and improve licensure mobility.
The legislation (S.B. 616/H.B. 827) revises the prerequisites for an individual to take the PE exam and establishes other standards of practice and responsibility rules. Licensure candidates will be allowed to take the PE exam prior to gaining four years of engineering experience. The candidate will not, however, be eligible to earn a PE license before gaining the required experience.
In 2005, Nevada became the first state to allow the early taking of the PE exam. The following states have followed suit: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
The legislation eases licensing mobility by allowing an individual with an out-of-state PE license who has not taken the FE exam to be able to practice in Florida if they have been licensed for 10 years (reduced from 15 years) and have 15 years of continuous engineering experience (down from 20). An individual who has not taken the PE exam but is licensed in another state can qualify for licensure in Florida if he or she has maintained the license for 20 years (reduced from 25) and have 25 years of experience (reduced from 30).
A pathway to licensure for individuals who graduated from approved engineering technology programs prior to July 1979 is also provided by the legislation. The individual must take the standard examinations and have at least six years of engineering experience that indicates competence to be in responsible charge of engineering.
For business licensing, engineers will no longer have to obtain a certificate of authorization for their engineering firm, and out-of-state firms will be allowed to obtain temporary registration.
The legislation also addresses the responsibilities of a PE who serves as a “successor engineer” on a project. It defines “successor engineer” as a licensed engineer who is using or relying upon the work, findings, or recommendations of the engineer who previously sealed pertinent documents. If this individual wants to reuse documents previously sealed by another licensed engineer, he or she will assume full professional and legal responsibility for the work by signing and sealing the documents. The documents will be treated as if they were the successor’s original work, and the predecessor will be released from any professional responsibility or civil liability.
- Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Florida. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.
When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.
NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.
Read the full report from NTSB.
- The NTSB has issued the final report on the pedestrian bridge failure at Florida International University. Read the full report. You can also join the conversation currently discussing the report on NSPE Communities.
A BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Florida.
Read the synopsis of the report.