Monday, June 20, 2016

The Art of ARFF (part 7) - The Army on the March

Read others in the series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6.

A sure path to defeat on the battlefield, and the fire ground, is lack of disciplined personnel.  Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a discipline deficiency is the first step to ensuring victory with your personnel. This is the subject of section 9 of Sun Tzu's, Art of War. In this section of verses we see four signs and symptoms of discipline deficiency, and we see the four cures for this deficiency.  Upon seeing the first glimpses of these signs and symptoms the department heads should seriously examine the department and personnel and make needed corrections.  

If there is disturbance in the camp, the general's authority is weak.  If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary...The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file.  --Sun Tzu

4 Signs of a Discipline Deficiency

  1. Disturbance in the camp
  2. Angry officers
  3. Shifting of banners and flags
  4. Small huddles and subdued tones

Disturbance in the camp. If it seems that the daily operations of the shift just do not go smoothly, or it seems that there is always an 'issue' or 'problem' being caused this is a sign of weakened leadership.  The men feel that they do not have to follow the leaders commands.  This is the source of the disturbance.  Instead of just doing what is asked, the officers and personnel feel that they have the right to question every decision, and treat every order as 'optional'.

Shifting of banners and flags. In war banners and flags were used to send signals and messages on the battlefield. Shifting of banners and flags indicates that someone else is sending the signals.  The troops are following another's orders. Though, the leader by title (lieutenant, captain, chief, etc.) has given the orders, the troops are carrying out the commands of another.  This other individual is the person the troops trust, and believe to have their best interests in mind, regardless of formal title.

Angry officers.  If the troops are tired, weary, lack motivation, every task becomes a major undertaking, every command is met with resistance.  This will quickly wear on the officer's patience. The officer has a command to fulfill, he needs his men to accomplish the goal, when they are not working cohesively it makes the job doubly hard.  The officer just wants his people to do the job they are supposed to do.  The troops, however, are not at the peak of their performance.  They are tired or weary.  Their minds are not clear or focused.  This is also tied to the point above, if the officers do not have real authority, the men are following the cues of someone else, the officer will feel defeated.

Small huddles and subdued tones. The disgruntled troops will start to form groups (we might refer to them as 'cliques') with those who share the same complaints.  They will start to separate themselves from the larger department body. These groups can be like cancer to a department.  They start with a few minor complaints,  then spread their negativity and bad ideas to everyone else. Often times the disturbance in the camp, is a result of these small huddles. 

These four symptoms work in a type of loop system and each is connected to another.  If there is a disturbance, a complaint, an uneasiness, a lack of cohesion, the troops start to look elsewhere for leadership.  They are looking to the one that can bring the troops, or shift, back together and establish order.  The troops see the disturbance as a failure on the officers part, and do not follow his commands.  They break away and start to form their own groups and spread their discontent. 

Troops in this condition, that demonstrate these symptoms will not be successful on the battlefield, or on the fire ground. Lack of discipline among the troops, will lead to sure defeat. 

Sun Tzu, does not just tell the symptoms, he provides the cure.  He share 4 cures to having disciplined personnel that will lead to victory.
If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless.  If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless.  Therefore, soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory.  If in training soldiers commands are habitually enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad.  If a general shows confidence in his men bu always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual. --Sun Tzu

4 Cures for Discipline Deficiency

  1. Treat men with humanity; control with discipline
  2. Habitually enforce all commands (even in training)
  3. Show confidence in the men
  4. Insist on orders being obeyed

Treat men with humanity; control with discipline. Treat your personnel well. Make sure to care for their needs. Earn the trust and respect of your people. However, discipline must still be maintained. Ensure that personnel understand the goals of the department, and expectations of its personnel.  When personnel act inappropriately or do not follow orders punishment, and corrective action, must be handed out. Rules, policies, procedures, must be enforced.  When they are not, the trust and respect earned, begins to erode. 

Habitually enforce all commands.  Discipline must be maintained at all times.  Consistency is what is needed.  Even in training, with limited risk, discipline must still be enforced.  When officers let things slide during down times and training, it is believed that the officer will always let things slide.  The officers leadership will then be compromised.  And as long as, personnel feel that they will not be disciplined for disobeying order, or freelancing, then the whole company is at risk.

Show confidence in the men. Trust your personnel.  Do not micro-manage, let them do their job.  Also, do not be quick to discipline, have confidence that your personnel did not deliberately disobey an order, policy, or procedure.  Investigate then discipline.

Insist on orders being obeyed. In today's society people seem to get their feelings hurt easily, they want explanations for everything, and they feel entitled to share their opinion on all matters. As the leader, the commands and orders that you issue must be obeyed.  Hurt feelings, explanations, and other's opinions do not change this fact.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Testing Integrated Fire Systems

Integrated fire systems are those fire protection and life safety systems that "are required to operate together as a whole to achieve overall fire protection and life safety objectives." An example of an integrated system might be a fire alarm, fire sprinkler, elevator recall, and smoke control. When a fire is detected each of these items has a specific code required function to perform.  Integrated testing ensures that these systems all work flawlessly together. Integrated testing is to be completed as outlined in NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing.  Integrated system testing is also a function that should be part of the building commissioning plan.

This integrated testing is to be supervised and managed by an Integrated Testing Agent (ITa).  The ITa is responsible for planning, scheduling, documentation, coordination, and implementation of the integrated testing for all systems.  The ITa's first responsibility is to create a test plan.  The integrated testing plan provides guidance, direction, and time-frames for all systems personnel. 

This integrated test plan must include the following components:

  • Verification of proper installation per design documents
  • List of each system that is installed and is to be tested
  • All documentation for each system (as required by that systems code or standard)
  • List and contact information for all members of the integrated test team, their responsibilities, and a denotation of which individuals are required to be present for testing
  • List of all equipment required for testing
  • System input and output function matrix
  • Final system drawings and diagrams are to be listed and referenced in the testing plan and available on-site
  • Narrative description of test scenarios and procedures, and documentation and approvals for the AHJ
  • The extent of systems and system functions to be tested
  • Testing schedule
  • Future integrated systems test frequency

A thorough and complete integrated testing plan will keep everyone moving toward the same goal.  The plan will ensure that all items are properly tested, will work together, and all required documentation is accounted for.

Need an integrated testing agent or test plan? Want to be coached through the integrated testing process? Looking for more information?  Visit the TCC Solutions page, or contact me directly.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The 5 Documents Commissioning Requires

The purpose of commissioning as stated in NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, is a "process that will ensure fire protection and life safety systems perform in conformity with the design intent".  To make this possible there are 5 required documents that must be created and referenced during the commissioning process.

  1. Owner's Project Requirements (OPR)
  2. Commissioning Plan
  3. Basis of Design (BOD)
  4. Operations and Maintenance Manuals (O&Ms)
  5. Closeout Package

NOTE: If you are not familiar with the commissioning process, I recommend you first read, Commissioning New Occupancies.

Photo from,

The most critical of these documents is the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR).  This is the driving document that all design, construction, testing, and operational decisions will be based on. The OPR should be created with input from the owner, building managers, and key stakeholders. The OPR should include:

  • Infrastructure requirements (roads, utilities, etc.)
  • Facility type, use, and dimensions
  • Occupancy classification, anticipated load and expected operations
  • Future expansion requirements
  • Codes and standards that apply to the facility (local, state, national)
  • Specific user/owner requirements
  • Training requirements
  • Warranty, operations, and maintenance information
  • Integrated system testing, installation, and maintenance requirements
  • Specific performance criteria that will be expected
  • Any "third-party" requirements

The Commissioning Plan provides the framework  for the building projects commissioning process.  The Commissioning Plan provides an overview of the project and outlines the process, system, and schedule to be followed.  All the required commissioning reports, inspections, and documentation will be included as part of this plan.  NFPA 3 recommends the following Commissioning Plan structure:
  • Introduction - an overview of the plan
  • Commissioning scope - identifies which building components, structures, and systems will be subject to, and included in the commissioning process
  • General project information - overview of the project, focus on key information, expectations, and deliverables. This should include references and overviews of the OPR and the BOD
  • Team contacts - contact information of all commissioning team members
  • Communications plan and protocols - provide direction as to the projects organizational structure and communication channels to be utilized
  • Commissioning process - detailed explanation and outline of commissioning and project tasks to be completed for all phases of the process
  • Commissioning documentation - listing of all documentation that will be required and utilized throughout the process
  • Commissioning schedule - specifies the sequence of operations, and outlines the timeframe, dates, and duration of commissioning and testing events

The decision-making process and an explanation of all systems and components are described narratively in the Basis of Design (BOD). The BOD should be created and included with the the project plan submittal to the AHJ.  A useful BOD will include the following components:

  • Applicable codes, standards, laws, and regulations (NFPA, OSHA, ADA, ASHRAE, etc.)
  • Building description
  • Fire protection/life safety system objectives and decisions
  • Alternative or performance based design, means, and methods
  • Testing criteria
  • Equipment and tools required

Operations and maintenance manuals (O&Ms) are to be provided to the building owner.  These O&Ms must be reviewed to ensure that they meet the OPR.

At the end of the construction phase, prior to the occupancy phase, a closeout package should be delivered to the building owner. The closeout package should include the following documents:
  • Compiled list of all deficiencies and resolutions
  • Operation and maintenance manuals
  • All test results, documentation, and certificates
  • Plans and drawings
  • Warranties and warranty information
  • Spare parts and supplier listings
  • Recommissioning plan
  • Sequence of operation
  • Software for systems should be installed and delivered

The provision of these documents is only one, of many, benefits of the commissioning process. Engaging in the commissioning process can minimize human error during construction and maintenance, identify problem areas, prolong a structures lifespan, and save money over the long-term.

Need a commissioning agent? Want to be coached through the commissioning process? Looking for more information?  Visit the TCC Solutions page, or contact me directly.

Related Posts

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Art of ARFF (part 6) - Variation in Tactics

Read others in the series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5.

Sun Tzu states that there are five faults that lead to an army being overthrown, its leader slain, and a victory lost.
  1. Recklessness
  2. Cowardice
  3. Hasty temper
  4. Delicacy of honor
  5. Over-solicitude for his men

Recklessness leads to destruction.  Recklessness is the result of going to battle being ill-prepared and unaware of the opposition. One commentator states, "...he who fights recklessly, without any perception of what is expedient, must be condemned." To go into battle, to attack a fire or crash scene, without any prior preparation or knowledge will result in loss. The way to prevent recklessness is to be always ready, always prepared. Recklessness can be eliminated by constant and evolving training, by fire prevention and pre-planning efforts, and by networking and learning from those that have gone before.

Cowardice leads to capture.  The translation of the Chinese word for 'cowardice' used here refers to "the man whom timidity prevents from advancing to seize an advantage".  With the fire departments emphasis on safety, it seems that the "timid" firefighter is becoming more common.  Though we must act safely, we must also remember, that we have not chosen a 'safe' career.  People are counting on us to do the hard things, to take the risks, that nobody else will. Timidity leads to hesitation which leads to death.

This idea was best stated by FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack during his keynote speech at the 2009 FDIC. In his address Lt. McCormack stated that the fire service needs a "culture of extinguishment not safety".  Due to the "constant barrage" of safety messages, the fire service is at risk of losing its identity and effectiveness.  If firefighters stop taking the risks necessary to save lives, who will do it?  Who will step in to save these lives?

If you follow the rules outlined by Sun Tzu, victory and safety can be obtained.

Hasty temper.
A hasty temper can be provoked by insults. This passage speaks to the importance of self-control. Destruction and loss will surely come to those who cannot control their emotions. When emotions are allowed free reign all perspective, reasoning, and logic disappears. In anger and selfishness we are prone to poor decision making, speaking things which should not be said, and taking part in inappropriate actions. There have many careers lost due to letting emotions take-over, and not being kept in check.  

Delicacy of honor.
Delicacy of honor is sensitivity to shame. This is not to say that honor is a negative quality in a leader. The meaning of this phrase is the victorious leader must be thick skinned.  There is no room for sensitivity to outside judgments, slanderous reports, or opinion.  Leaders stand by their decisions, and understand what they are ultimately responsible for, regardless of what others may say. A Sun Tzu contemporary stated this sentiment as, "They who seek after glory should be careless of public opinion".

Over-solicitude for his men.
Over-solicitude for the men, will expose them to worry and trouble.  The Marine Corps primary objective is, mission accomplishment. Their secondary objective is, troop welfare.  At first glance, this may seem out of order.  Since troops are needed to complete the mission, shouldn't their welfare be first?  The answer is no, and here's why.  If we put troop welfare first, then the mission would fail based on the attitude, feelings, or ideas of each man.  However, with mission accomplishment being the primary objective, personal feelings, ideas, and discomfort are not a hindrance to victory. 

The good leader, or company officer, does not neglect the care of his personnel.  He does, however, understand and emphasizes the primary objective of mission accomplishment.

Sun Tzu introduces these five faults with the idea that he has expressed throughout his writing, prevention and preparedness are key to victory. He states, "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."