Jerry Back Wins the Prestigious Philip J. DiNenno Prize

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Jun 9, 2023

We are pleased to announce that Jerry Back, senior fire protection engineer at Jensen Hughes, has been awarded the 2023 Philip J. DiNenno Prize. Considered the “Nobel Prize of public safety,” NFPA’s DiNenno Prize is a distinguished honor recognizing pioneering innovations that significantly impact building, fire and electrical safety.

Jerry is one of four recipients being recognized for their invaluable contributions to the ground-breaking development and deployment of water mist fire suppression technology. Water mist technology emerged approximately 30 years ago in response to the need for a safer, more effective and environmentally sustainable fire suppression method. The technology has become essential for protecting places where traditional fire suppression systems could cause significant water damage, such as cultural heritage sites, art galleries, passenger rail cars, and commercial computer and data storage rooms.

Jerry is being acknowledged by the selection committee for his leadership and research in developing water mist technology applications for military vessels. Among his notable achievements is the creation of the "Navy" water mist nozzle, which the U.S. Navy adopted to protect machinery spaces. He also developed a model to predict the effectiveness of water mist systems in extinguishing hydrocarbon fuel fires in obstructed areas and conducted over 1,000 fire tests involving water mist technology.

Jerry Back’s Impressive Career

Jerry is one of Jensen Hughes’ top subject-matter experts in the field of fire investigation and prevention. Over the course of his nearly 40-year career as a fire protection engineer and certified fire/fire and explosive investigator, Jerry has been responsible for project management and administration of fire protection research, development, testing, and evaluation programs. He has conducted a significant amount of the fire protection research and development funded by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard and has worked on major projects and investigations for federal agencies (FAA, DOT/NHTSA, DOE), the military (U.S. Airforce, U.S. Army), and numerous private clients.

Jerry’s work within the last 20 years has been focused on assessing the capabilities of fluorine-free foams (i.e., AFFF alternatives) as well as the development of mitigation techniques for lithium battery hazards. He has performed thousands of full-scale fire tests, including evaluations of AFFF agents and systems, aerosols, high expansion foam systems, gaseous agents, water mist systems, and water spray/delude systems.

In addition, Jerry has published over 100 papers on fire protection related topics, is a member of seven professional associations pertaining to engineering and fire protection, and serves on more than 10 committees focused on fire safety and rescue.

Honoring Philip J. DiNenno

The DiNenno prize honors the memory of the late Philip J. DiNenno, former CEO of Hughes Associates, whose leadership in fire protection engineering and exceptional contributions to fire safety helped transform the profession. He is best known as the founding editor of the SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering, which he edited for four editions. A pioneer in the use of computer fire modeling, he also played a significant role in the development of no-ozone depleting fire suppression technologies, working with the industry, NFPA, EPA, the World Bank and the United Nations.

Over the years, DiNenno served SFPE and NFPA in many committee and leadership roles and received numerous awards. Honors included SFPE’s Guise Medal, the Paul C. Lamb Award for his leadership at NFPA, and NFPA’s Standards Medal for his outstanding contributions to fire safety and code and standards development.

DiNenno joined Hughes Associates in 1985 and was President/CEO from 1996 until the time of his death. Providing technical leadership throughout his career at Hughes Associates, DiNenno transformed the company into a highly respected, full service fire protection engineering firm with global presence. Hughes Associates later merged with Rolf Jensen & Associates to become Jensen Hughes.

The DiNenno Prize will be officially presented at the NFPA “Stars at Night” award ceremony during the annual NFPA Conference & Expo (C&E) in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 18.