Monday, August 22, 2016

The Art of ARFF (part 10) - Conclusion


In the final chapters of The Art of War, Sun Tzu discusses the use of fire as a weapon, and the utilization of spies to bring victory. In war, fire was used  to burn soldiers in their camp and destroy supplies, fuel, and weaponry. Sun Tzu makes the point that, in order for fire to be a useful tool, the supplies for creating fire must always be kept available.
In order to carry out an attack, we must have means available. The material for raising fire should always be kept in readiness. -Sun Tzu
In the modern fire service we have many tools available to us.  Tools for the suppression of fire, prevention of fire, and the rescue of victims. However, for these tools to be most effective they must be available and ready to use.  As firefighters, it is our responsibility to be aware of the most current tools and tactics for the completion of our tasks.  We must know what tools are available.  Those tools must be kept ready.  The knowledge for using the tools must be kept sharp. 

Do we know what tools and equipment is available? Do we know what tools and equipment our specific department/unit has available?  Are those tools properly maintained and ready to be deployed when needed?
The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources. -Sun Tzu
The act of pre-planning and being aware of the needs of your operation and community, will allow the "ruler" to ensure that the proper tools, equipment, and resources will be available.  It is the leaders responsibility to plan and prepare, not just for the current needs of the community and department, but also for the future.  The leader must take time to examine and reflect and get a sense of where the community is headed and what its needs will be. 

To "cultivate" is to prepare and use, and acquire and develop. We must be cultivating tomorrows resources today.  When tomorrow comes, with its emergencies and needs, it will be too late to prepare and plan, obtain equipment, or train personnel.  The leader must look forward and prepare for tomorrow's unseen emergency, right now.
Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. - Sun Tzu
The more we know about the communities we protect, the better prepared we can be. The time to learn about new technology, new industrial processes, or new structures or building methods, is not when we respond to it for the first time, but well in advance, in the pre-planning stages. 


A key to gaining foreknowledge in our communities is in the relationships that we build.  Sun Tzu lists 5 kinds of spies that must be utilized if victory is to be obtained. These 5 types of spies can be applied to the types of relationships that we must foster.

Local spies. Foreknowledge of a community and its coming needs can be found by understanding the communities history.  Building relationships with long-term residents and community leaders is essential.  By understanding its history and the goals a picture of the future of the community can be formed. From this picture, plans for future department needs can be determined.

Inward spies. When it comes to new technology, processes, or materials, the representatives and users must be consulted.  As leaders we must be secure enough to humble ourselves and know that we do not know every detail about everything.  We must turn to the experts in the technology, process, or materials.  These experts are passionate about their product, and can tell you every nuance about it.  It is the firefighters job to apply the product knowledge to practical application of fire prevention or fire suppression.

Converted spies. The fire service must look outside of itself in order to adequately plan for the future.  We must work collaboratively with other organizations (non-profit, law enforcement, engineering, mutual aid departments, etc.).  What do these organizations see in the future? How does the fire department fit into their plan? How do they fit into the fire department plan?

Doomed spies. There are those individuals who seem to have given up.  These are the ones who have seen the history, seen plans made (or not), and still experienced failure.  These may be the disgruntled ones.  In talking to these individuals much can be gained by understanding their mindset, and what they have seen.  The 'exit interview' is critical component of human resources.  Every leader should engage leaving employees in an exit interview.  It is in these exit interviews that the employee will potentially be most honest.  The feedback received will show current areas of weakness in the department, and allow proper future plans to be put into place. 

Surviving spies.  In magazines, books, conferences, and classes the fire service has a wealth of knowledge to draw from. By knowing the stories and lessons learned from those who have experienced what we are experiencing or have been where we are planning to go we can establish foreknowledge of what to expect. It is from these "voices from the future" that we can adequately plan, prepare, and cultivate the resources that will be needed. 

The five keys to victory in fire ground leadership, that we can garner from Sun Tzu and this series of articles are:

  1. Prevention - the truest victory is in avoiding the battle
  2. Leadership - the leader must do the hard task of leading his troops
  3. Training - the troops must have access to needed resources and pre-planning and train and exercise their use
  4. Tactics - quick victory is key, and can only be achieved through the use of proper tactics
  5. Responsibilities - everyone has a role to play, it takes everyone doing their specific function to be victorious

Other articles in this series:









Monday, August 15, 2016

Building a Fire Prevention Organization: Introduction to NFPA 1730


Effective June 15, 2015, the inaugural edition of NFPA 1730, Standard on Organization and Deployment of Fire Prevention Inspection and Code Enforcement, Plan Review, Investigation, and Public Education Operations, was published.  This standard serves as a manual for the establishing, organizing, and managing the fire prevention functions of a community, fire department, or other organization.

The stated purpose of NFPA 1730 "is to specify the minimum criteria addressing the effectiveness and the efficiency" of a fire prevention organization. This document outlines:
  • Organization, structure, and administration
  • Community risk assessment
  • Common fire prevention activities
    • Existing occupancies
    • Plan review
    • Investigations
    • Public education
NFPA 1730 bases the practices and tasks required of a fire prevention organization on the conduct of a community risk assessment (CRA).  A completed CRA will show what risks exist in the community.  The data gathered from the CRA will identifybe implemented into the community risk reduction (CRR) plan.  The CRR outlines programs and activities required to reduce or eliminate risk and ensure compliance.  

The CRA and programs required in the CRR plan will determine the amount of personnel and resources that a fire prevention organization will need. NFPA 1730 provides a 5-step process for determining staffing needs.  This process is an invaluable tool for departments to use in the justification of funds for personnel. 

Due to the incredible value of this standard, we have created an NFPA 1730 resource page. This page contains information, blog posts, links, articles, and other resources to better enable individuals to apply the standard.





Monday, August 8, 2016

How to Implement a Sprinkler Impairment Program


"Out of Order" by deglispiriti

A sprinkler system impairment occurs when "a fire protection system or unit or portion therof is out of order, and the condition can result in the fire protection system or unit not functioning in a fire event".  An emergency impairment can result from a water line main break, sprinkler piping break, jammed valve, or internal piping blockage.  A preplanned impairment occurs when the system is out of service due to planned work such as revisions to the water supply source, changing a main line,or adding and adjusting the sprinkler pipe.  In either event, NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, requires that an individual be designated as the impairment coordinator to implement and manage required impairment procedures.

NFPA 25 outlines the required components of an impairment program.  There are 9 action steps that must be taken to provide for the protection of life and property throughout the impairment period.

Step 1. Determine the extent and duration of the impairment. 

Step 2. Inspect the areas affected by the impairment and document the increased risks that may be present.

Step 3. Provide risk mitigation recommendations to building owner, manager, or other responsible party.

Step 4. If the impairment will last for more than 10 consecutive hours one of the following options must be implemented:

  • Evacuation of the affected area
  • Implement a fire watch
  • Establish a temporary water supply
  • Eliminate potential ignition sources and limit fuel sources

Step 5. Notify the fire department.

Step 6. Notify the insurance carrier, fire alarm company, property owner/manager, and any other stakeholders.

Step 7. Notify supervisors/individuals within the affected space of the impairment.

Step 8. Tag the affected area or system.

Step 9. Prior to shut-down, ensure that all tools and materials are at the site.  

Here is an impairment notification template that you can customize for your use --> Download Impairment Notification Template.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Art of ARFF (part 9) - The Nine Situations


Sun Tzu states that there are three areas that must be studied in order to ensure victory in battle. 

  1. The different measures suited to the nine varieties of ground
  2. The expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics
  3. The fundamental laws of human nature
firefighter through smokeIn Chapter 11:The Nine Situations, of his book, The Art of War, Sun Tzu lists nine varieties of ground, or situations, and describes the appropriate tactics and how human nature will want to respond to each. Though Sun Tzu speaks of these in relation to troops in battle, they aptly apply to firefighters emergency response and firefighting tactics. The nine varieties of ground, or situations that personnel may find themselves in are:
  1. Dispersive ground
  2. Facile ground
  3. Contentious ground
  4. Open ground
  5. Intersecting highways
  6. Serious ground 
  7. Difficult ground
  8. Hemmed in ground
  9. Desperate ground
Dispersive ground. "When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground."  Sun Tzu refers to this as dispersive ground, because the troops are fighting close to home and human nature wills them to back down from the fight, return to their homes, and take care of their own. 

We see this played out in the fact that many fire departments will not assign personnel to stations that live within their first-due response area.  In South Florida, we can see this tendency demonstrated during an impending hurricane landfall.  We must take care of our own homes and families, however, we may not be with them during the storm.  We must report to work to serve our communities, as we have promised we would.

In these situations the tactics should be to "fight not".  Avoid battle, and shore up a strong defensive position. The leadership should drive and inspire the personnel with unity of purpose.  Remind the 'troops' why they serve, the oath they have taken, and their value to the community as a whole.

Facile ground. "When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground." This is the point where the troops are getting into the "thick" of the battle, but have not made a full commitment. They have a "facility for retreating".  The point of no return has not been reached.  Perhaps this best applies to the start of a large structure fire.  The attack begins, but suddenly seems overwhelming and pointless. The tactics employed in this situation should be aggressive, fire service would refer to this as an offensive attack.  Do not stop the operation, continue on.  The key for victory in this situation is to maintain close connection between all parts of the troops and command.  Maintain open communication.  Sun Tzu states that this will "prevent desertion" and guard against "sudden attack".  When all personnel are watching each others back and maintaining open communication there is no room for any one to fall back. Working together the goal can be achieved.

Contentious ground. "Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground." This is ground to be contended for.  It is in the contentious ground situation that the few and weak can defeat the many and strong.  These situations dictate a more defensive posture, "attack not". The tactic used should be first to occupy an advantageous position, hurry up the rear so no stragglers are left behind, and advance with speed without hesitation.  In ARFF, fewer personnel (maybe only 1 man and truck) are expected to extinguish large fires and save lives.  This can only be accomplished by viewing these situations as contentious ground and applying the advice given here, by Sun Tzu.  Know what positions are the most advantageous (staging areas, approaches, etc.) and get to them before the incident does.  Use all your resources and work quickly.

Open ground. "Ground on which each side has liberty of movement."  On open ground do not attempt to block the enemies way. This will expose the troops to risk.  Take up a defensive position and monitor the defensive tactics in progress.  No fire department tries to stop an advancing fire by standing directly in its path. Think especially of a wildland fire. Instead, they defend and protect surrounding exposures, forecast the fires behavior, and adjust tactics accordingly.

Intersecting highways. "Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states, so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his command, is a ground of intersecting highways." The first force to occupy the ground gains command and control.  This refers to the formation of alliances and consolidation of forces. Fire departments practice this with the use of mutual aid agreements, and utilization of the Incident Command System (ICS) on large incidents.  It is only through these mutually beneficial partnerships and alliances that we can increase the resources available to defend our communities in a time of crisis.

Serious ground. "When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground."  The troops are in the heart of enemy territory, surrounded by the enemy. Sun Tzu says the troops should forage and plunder to maintain a continuous stream of supplies. This creates an aggressive/offensive position. Maintaining a steady stream of resources is vital to any emergency operation. When working in a fire, maintaining an adequate water supply is critical.  When responding to some natural disaster, maintaining a steady supply of items essential to life (water, food, medical care, etc.) is critical to maintaining order and preventing chaos.  If the resources fail to make it to the troops, the enemy gains ground, the troops fall back, and victory is lost.

Difficult ground. "Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens - all country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground." In these situations keep steadily on the march, do not stop or encamp.  Keep pushing along the road. Difficult ground requires and aggressive offensive tactics. It will be nearly impossible to restart, once the forward momentum is stopped. I am taken back to the physical agility test (or, CPAT) for entrance into the fire academy.  By the end of the physical routine, exhaustion was setting in.  However, those who stopped before completion, rarely were able to complete the test.  The key was to keep pushing, through the exhaustion, all the way to the end. 

Hemmed in ground. "Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed in ground."  These are dire situations that require creative strategies and plans to be devised. Troops must not be permitted to retreat.  When the troops start to fall apart the enemy will advance and destroy.  Training is critical to the fire service. The way to be ready for hemmed in situations is to train creatively for all types of situations. Firefighters must be aware of the most current firefighting techniques, and self-rescue/survival strategies.

Desperate ground. "Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground." Desperate ground differs from hemmed in ground in that escape is not possible. In a military situation, this can occur when troops advance into unfamiliar territory, and become blocked by the surrounding terrain, structures, and advancing enemy forces. All that can be done in this situation is, fight. The use of local guides can prevent troops from getting into these positions.  Conducting pre-plans, utilizing experts (such as facility managers or subject matter experts), creating and exercising emergency plans can prevent fire department personnel from encountering desperate situations. 

We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country - its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides. -Sun Tzu
In these nine situations we see reiterated the 5 themes throughout the book - preparedness, training, tactics, leadership, and responsibilities.

firefighter faces fire