Monday, November 13, 2017

Home Fire Extinguisher FAQ

An important component of many Community Risk Reduction programs are home visits, conducted by fire department line personnel. NFPA 1452 serves as a guide for how fire departments should conduct these CRR home visits. Part of this guide refers to the presence of home fire extinguishing methods such as fire extinguishers. Many homeowners may not be aware of the value or use of these tools. It is important that firefighters know the answers to common questions regarding household fire extinguishers.
  1. What type, rating, and how many extinguishers are needed?
  2. How much will an extinguisher cost?
  3. Where should fire extinguishers be located and mounted?
  4. How are fire extinguishers operated and maintained?
NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers provides the answers to these questions.
What type, rating and how many are needed?
NFPA 10, chapter 5 outlines the requirements for the “selection of portable fire extinguishers”.   Selection should be based on the following:
  • Type of fire most likely to occur (based on classifications, below)
  • Size of fire most likely to occur
  • Hazards in the area where the fire may occur
  • Energized electrical equipment in the vicinity of the fire
  • Ambient temperature conditions
Type of fire most likely to occur will determine the classification of extinguisher that is needed.

How much will it cost?
Homeowners can expect to pay $20 - $50 for a suitable fire extinguisher.  These can be purchased at retail stores or online at sites like, Home Depot, Walmart, or Amazon.
Where should fire extinguishers be located?
Extinguishers should be located in areas that have the greatest potential for fire, such as the kitchen, garage, and laundry room.  Extinguishers are to be mounted on the provided bracket at least 4” from the floor, but no higher than 5’ to the top of the handle.  Extinguishers should accessible, visible, and within the normal path of travel to an exit.
How are extinguishers operated and maintained?
Extinguishers should be visually inspected, at least monthly, to determine that the unit is in its appropriate location, is accessible, and the gauge is within operational limits.  The manufacturers inspection/testing/maintenance recommendations should be followed.
Extinguishers can be operated using the P.A.S.S. method.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Five Systems for Effective Fire Department Management

Photo courtesy of LAFD Photo | Harry Garvin

The two standards that address the organization of fire departments and provision of firefighting services, NFPA 1710 (career) and NFPA 1720 (volunteer), outline five systems that must be in place for effective fire department management.

Safety and Health System. An occupational safety and health program must be provided. This program must meet the requirements of, and be established in accordance with, NFPA 1500.

NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program,  specifies the minimum occupational safety and health program requirements for organizations that provide fire, rescue, and emergency medical services.

Incident Management System (IMS). The incident management system is a crucial component of all fire department operations, as it provides the foundation for all operation types.

NFPA 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System and Command Safety, defines the roles and responsibilities of command functions and describes the essential elements of an incident management system.

Training Systems. Having a training system in place ensures that all members are trained for, and competent to, execute the fire department's stated responsibilities.  Training programs should be based on the communities hazards and risks, and the minimum criteria stated in the following code sections:

Communications Systems. All emergency services organization must have a reliable communication system. These are essential for the prompt delivery of fire, rescue, and EMS services.

NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems, provides guidance and requirements for facilities, equipment, staffing, and operational procedures  for emergency communications centers.

Pre-Incident Planning. A communities structures, hazards, and risks, should be identified and potential emergencies planned for.  A priority for pre-incident planning are those facilities considered to be target hazards.

NFPA 1620, Standard for Pre-Incident Planning, should serve as a guide in developing plans that will assist in managing incidents and protecting lives and property. Elements of pre-incident planning should include,  fire protection systems, building construction type, building contents, and facility functions and operating procedures.

For successful fire department operations and the safety and security of your community these five systems must be in place. With the overwhelming amount of responsibilities, tasks, and requests that need to be addressed,  keeping these five critical systems in mind, will keep your department focused and on the path of forward progress.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Why Did Your System Fail?

In his book, Normal Accidents: Living With High Risk Technologies, Charles Perrow provides a framework for analyzing risk and argues that increasing system complexity makes failure inevitable.  

In this book he introduces the acronym DEPOSE, to investigate and explain conventional accident cause.  This tool can be applied to determine fire protection system and incident response failures.

D - design

Was this design appropriate? What design may have worked better? How could a different design prevented the incident or failure?

E - equipment

Did the equipment function as it should? How should the equipment have worked? What better equipment should have been employed?

P - procedures

Was a standard procedure in place? Was the operating procedure clearly communicated and understood? How can the procedure be improved on, less steps, easier to understand, etc.?

O - operators

What condition were the personnel in? Have they been properly trained? Do they have all the necessary equipment, tools, and support needed? 

S - supplies and materials

Is there an adequate inventory of supplies and materials? Are these the correct supplies, material, and parts for the system on-site?

E - environment 

What was the environment like at the time of the failure? Is it possible to protect against the adverse environment? Has the system or equipment been designed to work within this environment?

For more on understanding and solving fire protection problems you might be interested in, The Guide for Fire Protection Solutions.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Staffing for ARFF Departments

Osan airmen by DVIDSHUB

For those departments having airport rescue firefighting NFPA 1710 references NFPA 403, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting Services at Airports for minimum staffing requirements.

ARFF operations should be minimally staffed according to the index rating of the airport, as shown in these tables from NFPA 403.

Staffing above these minimums should be determined by the performance of a task analysis.  The task resource analysis is conducted in six stages and based on the needs and demands of the airport. The task and resource analysis model is outlined in Annex D of NFPA 403.

Stage 1: State the goals and objectives of ARFF services and tasks.

Stage 2: Identify potential incidents. These should be worst-case scenario based on event history, fire data, and facility statistics, and a risk assessment.

Stage 3: Identify types of aircraft most commonly used at the airport.

Stage 4: Identify worst-case scenario incident locations or possible areas of incident occurrence.

Stage 5: Combine Stages 2, 3, and 4 - correlate accident types with possible worst-case scenario locations.

Stage 6: Based on the scenario in Stage 5, conduct a task and resource analysis to determine minimum ARFF personnel. This analysis should be conducted as a table-top exercise in real time and in sequential order. Elements should include:
  1. Receive call, dispatch ARFF units.
  2. Respond to scene, operate ARFF vehicle.
  3. Apply extinguishing agents and deploy equipment.
  4. Assist passenger and crew evacuation.
  5. Access aircraft for firefighting, rescue, and other operations.
  6. Support and sustain continuing firefighting and rescue operations.
  7. Support and sustain water supply.
  8. Replenish foam supplies.

NFPA 1710 further requires that aircraft incidents have a dedicated incident commander.  Any airport fire department with structural fire protection requirements should meet the staffing requirements of NFPA 1710, section 5.2.2.