Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Prepare for Your AOI Audit

For organizations working with government aircraft under the control of the DCMA, Defense Contract Management Agency, they are subject to an annual Airport Operations Inspection (AOI) audit. This inspection most closely resembles the FAA, Part 139 inspection process that takes place at indexed airports.

For fire departments this audit will address the following critical areas:

  1. ARFF services
  2. Mishap plan/procedures
  3. Facilities

Traditionally, the documentation of these components have been maintained by using paper and a series of many 3-ring binders. With today’s modern technology, this information can be recorded and stored electronically.  Though, there may be other programs available we have found TargetSolutions software to be the most practical for this application.

TargetSolutions* is primarily a web-based training platform for public safety professions.  However, its customizable interface and ‘activities builder’ functionality allow it to be utilized for numerous applications.  

All of the required personnel training can be completed and documented within TargetSolutions. All certifications and credentials are input into the software, and notifications are sent when these are due to expire. We are also able to utilize the platform for all required inspections and checks.

Daily inspections:
  • Radio/communication checks
  • SCBA/air pack checks
  • Truck checks

Weekly inspections:
  • Fire pump run
  • Fire protection systems
  • Rescue tool exercise/inspection/maintenance

Monthly inspections:
  • Building/facility inspections
  • Valve exercise/inspections
  • Fire extinguisher inspections
  • PPE/turnout gear inspections

Annual inspections:
  • Fire doors
  • Ladder testing
  • Hose testing
  • Hydrant inspection/flow testing
  • Fire station safety assessment (NFPA 1500)

The primary benefit of the TargetSolutions platform is in its ease of use, and the reports that can be generated.  A report can be generated for all items (activities, credentials, training, inspections, etc.). This report is output in an organized, easy-to-read, excel spreadsheet. This clearly presented, and searchable, information format is preferred by the audit team.  They can easily digest the information, it can be accessed from one location (anywhere, at any time), and prevents the mad dash of looking for various binders and ensuring that none of the years worth of pages is missing.

The ‘File Center’ allows the user to upload files that can be accessed from any computer (with proper permissions). In preparation for the audit, and annual report is generated for all inspection components.  These excel files are then uploaded into a created ‘Audit Reports’ folder. Whenever the audit team arrives for their inspection, these files can be accessed and presented by any supervisor.

If you currently use TargetSolutions and are interested in any of the templates that we utilize, they can be requested from

Do you use a different system? Different software? What’s working for you?  

*not a paid promotion

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Art of ARFF

In his landmark work on battlefield strategies, The Art of War, Sun Tzu aptly outlines his strategy for victory in battle.  These strategies, when properly applied, will guarantee certain victory.  Sun Tzu discusses the process of war from laying plans, to tactics and strategies, to exploiting the enemies weaknesses.

The principles of, The Art of War, although written for battlefield purposes, can just as powerfully be applied to the fire service. Through a series of posts, I want to demonstrate how these tactics can be applied to achieve success in the fire service.

Sun Tzu opens by stating that the art of war is governed by five constant factors.  These five factors should be taken into consideration when "seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field".

  1. The Moral Law
  2. Heaven
  3. Earth
  4. The Commander
  5. Method and Discipline

Sun Tzu says, "the MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by danger".

This is the first essential that must be in place to ensure victory. If the firefighter is being led into "battle" by a chief that they do not trust, they will go there own way and experience loss.  Or, a new leader will rise up, one without the title, but others will follow him, then you have internal division, which will ultimately lead to destruction.  A firefighter who experiences a chief not acting in the best interest of his people will not be in accord with him.

Likewise, if our communities and the people we protect are not in accord with our department they will not support the work we do. We must get out, leave the stations, and walk among the community of people that we serve.  We must constantly be looking for additional opportunities to add value to our constituents. The most powerful to combat negative perceptions, is to create positive perceptions.

HEAVEN "signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons."  When Sun Tzu wrote of the heavens he was  considering  the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), the four seasons, the winds, and temperatures.  As a firefighter the "heavens" play a large role in containing and extinguishing a fire.  Knowing what is burning (wood, metal, plastics, etc.),  the wind direction, humidity, temperature, and time of day is essential in forming a plan of attack for fire extinguishment and rescue operations.

The EARTH is comprised of distance, danger, security, open ground, and the chances of life and death.  These are the things which are palpable.  That which is real and solid.  This is the firefighters equivalent to risk versus reward.  What are the risks involved? Does the potential reward outweigh the risks? Do we ensure that our policies and procedures are properly prioritized - life safety, incident stabilization, property preservation?  

Closely related to the moral law is the COMMANDER.  This has all to do with the character of the leader. The commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and self-control.  These are characterstics that any fire service leader, should stand for, and strive to instill in his subordinates.  Check yourself.  Which of these are you weakest in?  Which of these are you strongest in?  Cultivate these characteristics in order to be the leader of a victorious crew. See also: What makes a leader crumble? and How to Be a Weak Leader

The physical logistics of a department are summed up in METHOD AND DISCIPLINE.  This is understanding the proper rank structure, and chain of command, maintaining supplies and equipment, and controlling finances.  Without proper tools (and their maintenance) any army or fire crew will fail in its fight.  Without finances equipment falls into disarray, newest technology cannot be purchased, proper training is not affected,  and personnel are not appropriately compensated.  Beyond simply managing the available finances, a victorious leader must create new, and evolving streams of income. Typically, this can most effectively be accomplished by taking advantage of every opportunity to serve and provide a service.

"These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail." - Sun Tzu

Monday, January 18, 2016

WNYF - With New York Firefighters

WNYF - With New York Firefighters is the official training publication of the FDNY.  I recently became a subscriber to the quarterly magazine.  I am thoroughly impressed.  The quality, relevance, and applicability of the articles is first-rate.  The magazine is zero advertising, no frills, all training content.  It is the only fire service periodical that I read cover-to-cover.

The magazine features real, fire calls.  Each call is clearly described, and all actions taken on-scene are explained.  The incident articles end with a comprehensive list of lessons learned, and additional resources to consult.

The magazine features a profile of a specific section of the FDNY.  These provide administrative and operational insight that can be applied to your operation.

Recurring columns are Safety First, Learn from History, and Fire Prevention Matters. These address, respectively, functions of the incident safety officer, a historical New York City fire, and a hot topic in Fire Prevention.

At only $25 a year (4 quarterly issues), this is the most efficient cost to benefit expenditure that an individual or department can spend.  

5 Takeaways from WNYF 3rd/2015:

  1. The FDNY and the US Army have a training agreement which allows members of both organizations to receive cross training in fire fighting (from FDNY) and leadership (US Army).  What training partnerships can we develop? How can these partnerships be mutually beneficial?
  2. 'Taxpayer' definition (from the FDNY Probationary Firefighters Manual) - The term "Taxpayer" is not defined or recognized in the building code. The term originally referred to the practice of real estate investors who, while holding land for speculation, resorted to minimal investment in construction to produce income to offset the cost of taxes. These structures were usually of cheap and flimsy construction with little or no fire retarding features. Supermarkets and one story shopping centers of more recent construction do not fit the above description but contain many of the inherent hazards associated with taxpayers. A taxpayer building is commonly taken to mean a business structure one or two stories in height. Their areas vary from 20' x 50' to areas of whole city blocks, the most common size being approximately 100' x 100'. They can be built on one or more lots with adjoining structures of greater heights on three sides. These buildings are usually single structures commonly sheltering from one to as many as 15 different businesses with weak non-fire resistive partitions and no fire stops in the cocklofts.
  3. - resource for urban search and rescue and shoring operations
  4. KO Fire Curtain - tool developed by FDNY firefighters that allows personnel to control the effects of wind on and within a structure.
  5. Recommended resources for storage battery technology - Pv Magazine, Leveling Solar and Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide (book)

Get this resource.  You can subscribe at,

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fire Risk FAQ

Q: What is risk?

A: Risk can be defined as the combination of the likelihood of an accident occurrence and severity of the potential consequences.

Q: What is a risk assessment?

A: What is the likelihood of a fire event occurring within this space? What degree of loss (life and property) would be expected?  What scale would this be measured on? How can we reduce the possibility of a fire occurrence, and eliminate the chance of any life or property loss?  This is the information that a fire risk assessment will present.

A fire risk assessment is a tool used to assess the fire risks pertaining to a building or other structure. The assessment identifies the risks and present and provides actions and recommendations to mitigate those risks.

Q: How can risk be mitigated?

A: The first step toward mitigation is awareness. Know what the risks are, specific to your facility.  Following that, there are 5 categories that can be examined or applied to reduce that risk.  These categories are:
  1. Building construction type
  2. Fire alarm systems
  3. Fire suppression systems
  4. Building upgrades
  5. Water supply and reliability

Q: What areas of a facility pose the greatest risk?

A: When determining the areas of greatest risk we want to look at three factors:
  1. Ignition sources - What systems or processes create situations in which they may cause a fire or fuel to be ignited? Some of these might include: hot work operation (welding, cutting, etc.), cooking, or open flame processes.
  2. Fuel load - How much flammable and combustible materials are within the space? This can refer to the structure itself, stored items, or the buildings contents.
  3. Occupant load - How many people can potentially fill this space?  How many people actually operate in the space?  Are exiting and egress components adequate?

Q: What are the impacts of fire?

A: The United States Fire Administration has identified five impacts of fire:
  1. Economic impact - loss of production, loss of jobs, loss of organizational assets, increased insurance premiums
  2. Organizational impact - low employee morale and high turn-over, life loss of organizational leaders
  3. Legal impact - civil litigation and lawsuits, fines and fees
  4. Psychological impact - traumatic experience to those involved and witness to the incident
  5. Political impact - decreased property values, loss of respect within the community, increased regulation and regulatory oversight

Q: What are the critical components of a risk assessment?

A: The critical components of an assessment are the potential hazard factors and the risk reduction factors. The potential hazard factors are those items that pose the greatest risk of fire/life loss within a structure. The risk reduction factors are the items that can reduce the risk of fire/life loss.

Q: How is a risk assessment conducted?

A: We utilize a 3 step process to conduct risk assessments:
  1. Site visit and completion of the risk assessment field checklist.
  2. Input information into the digital pre-plan template.
  3. Completion of the fire risk assessment score-sheet matrix.

My book, Risk Assessment Guide for Aviation Facilities, is a complete reference manual for understanding risk, conducting a risk assessment, and applying assessment results to mitigate fire loss.

For free risk assessment guides, resources, and information visit the website -

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