Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fire Prevention Blueprint

Attention, Fire Prevention Professionals!

Build an Effective and Efficient Fire Prevention Organization!

Create an effective fire prevention organization by:
  • Identifying essential fire prevention and life safety functions
  • Understanding how to utilize effective systems and processes
  • Creating a plan of action for building or restructuring a fire prevention organization
Are you a fire protection professional - inspector, engineer, safety director, fire marshal, or AHJ - that is faced with the challenge of doing more with less? Are you tired of being reactive instead of proactive in your prevention efforts? Do you feel overwhelmed by the tasks that can never seem to get accomplished? Do you wonder if your team is focusing on the right functions and activities? Is your vision for your department unfulfilled? You need a clear plan of action. This is your action plan!

Identify the seven disciplines for effectiveness and efficiency.
    Based on historical context, current needs, best practices, published standards, and successful fire prevention programs, the Fire Prevention Blueprint identifies seven disciplines critical to the effectiveness of any fire prevention organization.
  1. Know your community.
  2. Have a plan.
  3. Enforce the code.
  4. Conduct plan review and field inspections.
  5. Investigate fire incidents.
  6. Educate the public.
  7. Be adequately staffed.
Describe the key functions, features, and components of these disciplines.
    The Fire Prevention Blueprint  addresses the most important questions and highlights the major features of these seven disciplines.
  • What are the key elements you must know and understand about your community?. 
  • What is a strategy? How can you create one for your community and fire prevention organization?
  • How often should you be inspecting the various structures within your community?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of  the functions and benefits of plan review? Are you fully aware of your role on the building commissioning team?
  • Do you know how to maximize the data gathered from origin and cause investigations?
  • Are you providing the most needed, in-demand, and valuable public education programs? 
  • Why do people want to work for your organization? How can you attract them? How can you keep them?
Apply practical guidance to implement each discipline. 
    Application of the Fire Prevention Blueprint will enable you to effectively establish, organize, and manage, the fire prevention functions of your organization.  You will be empowered to implement these seven disciplines by:
  • Understanding where to get data from, and how to use it.
  • Learning how to structure a fire protection and life safety strategy for your community, and form a long-range plan for your fire prevention organization.
  • Properly categorizing facility inspections based on hazard risk, operations, and construction features.
  • Building an integrated testing plan.
  • Following a simple 6-step process for fire scene investigation.
  • Knowing the 10-step process for selecting public education programs
  • Learning the basic skills for public speaking and teaching.
  • Applying Peter Drucker’s 3-step process for time management to your fire prevention organization.
  • Following the NFPA recommended 5-step process to determine and justify staffing needs.

Utilize multiple tools, resources, and references for further study and application.
    The goal of  Fire Prevention Blueprint is to provide a basic framework on which to build your organization.  There is an abundance of resources available on each of these seven disciplines and their subtopics. The best tools and resources are referenced in this guide:
  • Via footnotes in the text.
  • A bonus annex section. 
  • A website with direct links to all referenced tools and documents. 
It has taken me more than a decade in this industry to clarify this system for fire prevention organization operation. When I sat down to write this book, I simply wrote down the information I wish I would have had over ten years ago, when I started out on this fire prevention quest!

Kindle - $1.99
Print - $6.99

Still not sure if this is right for you? Learn more and subscribe to the mailing list at,

Monday, April 16, 2018

How to Build an Effective Fire Prevention Organization

The fire service is an organization that has become known for doing more with less. Less tools, less equipment, less personnel, and less money. Many fire prevention organizations have too few dedicated fire prevention personnel to cover the many square feet of space or miles of geography within their communities. Fire prevention organizations are responsible for the tasks of life safety inspections, fire protection system inspections and testing, plan reviews, investigations, public education, and myriad administrative tasks. All this while also being expected to stay abreast of new technologies, code developments, legislative changes, and planning for the future of the fire prevention organization and its role within the community.   

This workload creates a reactive environment.  One in which fire prevention organization and personnel are functioning only to respond to the most emergent issue, “what needs to be done now”.  These organizations run the risk of being able to only accomplish the minimum required tasks, or less. These conditions can lead to critical fire protection and life safety issues that are allowed to develop until they become a major incident, which results in loss of property or worse, loss of life.

Fire protection professionals - inspectors, investigators, engineers, building safety directors,  the Fire Marshal - did not get into this field to barely get by, or to race to the bottom, or to just work to meet “minimum” standards, or “try their best”, or to do things “the way they’ve always been done”, to simply maintain the status quo. You entered the field because you had a vision to change your world or community by protecting property and saving lives from fire loss.

With the many tasks, responsibilities, and requirements of the fire prevention organization how can this vision be realized? How can the fire prevention organization and its personnel be best utilized to  ensure that they are functioning at optimal effectiveness? Can they know that they are focusing on the right tasks and activities? The solution is a clear plan of action that identifies and provides for the most effective and efficient methods for performing essential fire prevention functions.

With the right plan of action and a laser-like focus on essential tasks your vision for your community and organization can be realized. Your organization can be transformed from just getting by, doing the bare minimum, trying to stay “afloat”,  into a purpose driven, forward advancing, progress making, community changing, organization!

The Fire Prevention Blueprint is your action plan! This book reveals the seven disciplines of effective and efficient fire prevent organizations, and provides practical guidance and resources for their implementation. Fire Prevention Blueprint: Seven Disciplines for Building Effective Fire Prevention Organizations accomplishes this by identifying essential fire prevention and life safety functions, understanding how to utilize effective systems and processes, and providing the framework for creating a structured and organized plan of action.

Don’t let your community become the next mass fire casualty or large fire loss headline. Buy the Fire Prevention Blueprint and transform your fire prevention organization into your vision of what you know it can be!

For more information, resources, and to order the book, visit:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fire Protection Requirements for Rack Storage

What are the requirements for rack storage? Are in-rack sprinklers required? How can rack storage sprinkler requirements be determined?

Fire protection requirements for rack storage are addressed in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.  

  • Chapter 13, Protection of Miscellaneous and Low-Piled Storage
  • Chapter 14, Protection for Palletized, Solid-Piled, Bin Box, Shelf, or Back-to-Back Shelf Storage of Class I through Class IV Commodities
  • Chapter 15, Protection for Palletized, Solid-Piled, Bin Box, Shelf, or Back-to-Back Shelf Storage of Plastic and Rubber Commodities
  • Chapter 16, Protection of Rack Storage of Class I through Class IV Commodities
  • Chapter 17, Protection of Rack Storage of Plastic and Rubber Commodities

To determine which chapter to go to for fire protection requirements, there are three questions that must be answered:
  1. What is stored?
  2. How is it stored?
  3. How high is it stored?

“What is stored” refers to the items hazard and commodity classification. “How is it stored” refers to the storage method, or medium (pallets, bins, etc.), and container type (wood, plastic, etc.).  “How high is it stored” refers to the height of stored items.

If the stored items are classified as miscellaneous or low-piled, refer to Chapter 13 for fire protection requirements. “Miscellaneous storage”  does not exceed 12 feet and is incidental to the occupancy (see, 13: for additional requirements). “Low-piled storage” is storage that is up to 12 feet in height.  Storage medium for low-piled storage can include, solid-piled, palletized, rack storage, bin box, and shelf storage. Fire sprinkler design requirements are outlined in section 13.2.

If the stored items are classified as a Class I through Class IV commodity, and palletized, solid-piled, bin box, shelf, or back-to-back shelf storage Chapter 14 requirements apply. Fire protection requirements will vary based on height of stored items. Sprinkler design requirements for storage up to 12 feet is outlined in section 14.2.3. Storage over 12 feet is defined in section 14.2.4. It is in Chapter 14 that we first see “encapsulated” storage. This refers to items that are wrapped in plastic sheeting, or pallets that are covered with plastic sheeting. If encapsulated storage is utilized and it is between 15-20 feet, the sprinkler design requirements of section 14.2.5 should be followed.

If the stored items and rack shelving are classified as plastic or rubber commodities, and palletized, solid-piled, bin box, shelf, or back-to-back shelf storage Chapter 15 requirements apply. If the plastics are Group A and do not exceed 5 feet in height then the protection requirements of Chapter 13 can apply. For all plastic or rubber commodities that exceed 5 feet in height, section 15.2.2 outlines the fire protection requirements. For clarity and protection requirements the decision tree provided in figure of this standard should be referenced.

If the stored items are a Class I through Class IV commodity and on rack storage the protection criteria of Chapter 16 shall be met. If these commodities are stored up to 25 feet in height the sprinkler requirements or section 16.2 are to be met.  If the they are stored over 25 feet high, section 16.3 should be followed for protection requirements and design criteria.  If the overhead sprinkler system does not meet the minimum design requirements for protection of the commodity alternate provisions and options are provided in section

If the stored items are plastic or rubber commodities and on rack storage the protection requirements of Chapter 17 shall be enforced. This section has a decision tree that must be followed based on the group of plastics being protected, as well as alternate provisions for systems that do not meet minimum design requirements. If plastic or rubber commodities on rack storage is encountered, this chapter should be closely examined.  The plastic or rubber commodity should be further broken down by answering the original three questions: what type of plastic is stored? How is this plastic or rubber stored? How high is the plastic or rubber stored?  Fire protection requirements and design criteria will differ based on the answers to these questions.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why "Loads" Matter

A night that started out with fun, partying, and dancing, ended in tragedy. On July 17, 1981, 100 people were killed, and nearly 200 injured, when an elevated walkway collapsed at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City.

The 40-story Hyatt Regency had opened its doors only one year before this incident. The defining features of the structure were the elevated walkways that were suspended from the ceiling.  Each walkway was about 40 yards long, and weighed 63,934 pounds. These walkways were configured in such a manner that the second and fourth level walkways were in line vertically.

The original design for these walkways was that they would be suspended from the ceiling with continuous threaded rods and secured with nuts. Contractors and the manufacturer had concerns regarding the installation and workload required to install and secure four-story long threaded rods, and then rotate nuts two stories into place. So, a decision was made to hang the fourth floor walkway from the ceiling, and suspend the second floor walkway from the fourth with a different set of rods.  This design change was approved without a detailed review, or revised calculations.

This configuration doubled the load on the main supporting beams (from which supported the fourth floor walkway).  The added load caused the welded seam beams to fail and allowed the nuts to pull through. This caused the fourth floor walkway to “pancake” onto the second floor walkway beneath.

The full investigative report is available here, from NIST.  

Primary contributing factors identified in the cause of this collapse, include:
  • Design changes
  • Poor communication
  • Improper testing of the new design
  • Poor, or no, load calculations of the new design
  • General negligence

Monday, March 19, 2018

Guide to NFPA 13 Occupancy and Commodity Classifications

Perhaps you are conducting a fire inspection or survey and you notice that the hazard or commodity classification on the hydraulic calculation plate at the riser seems odd for the actual contents of the structure.  Or, you are sitting down to do a plan review, the occupancy hazard and commodity class is listed. Are these classifications correct based on the use of the structure?

NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, chapter five defines occupancy hazard and commodities classifications for the design and installation of sprinkler systems. In book form, this information can sometimes be difficult to recall. This slideshow presentation can be utilized as a reference to quickly review and confirm occupancy and commodity classifications.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

8 Factors for Avoiding a FF Close Call

In the January 2018 issue of Firehouse Magazine, Billy Goldfeder shares “a simple list to help you consider some of the key factors in avoiding a firefighter close call, line-of-duty injury or line-of-duty death".

This article is recommended reading for all members of the fire service, and can be accessed here.

Eight critical factors discussed are:

  1. Learn about fire behavior
  2. Conducting a size-up
  3. When, how, and why to perform ventilation
  4. Getting water on the fire
  5. Rapid-intervention crews/teams
  6. Love your apparatus, tools, and equipment
  7. Clear fireground communication
  8. Deployment staffing

Firehouse Magazine, January 2018, Close Calls: New Year, New Lessons: 8 Critical Fireground Factors, Billy Goldfeder.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Five Lessons from, "A Message to Garcia"

It is not a “millenials” problem, it’s a people problem. We seem to constantly hear the millenials getting blamed for a poor work ethic. However, a book published in 1899 shows that the problem of poor work ethic and lack of quality in workmanship has been a people problem throughout the history of humanity.

A Message to Garcia, has long held a place on the Marine Corps Commandant’s reading list.  Written by Elbert Hubbard, this is short parable of a man named Rowan who must get a message to a man named Garcia. The parable presents the lessons learned through Rowans diligence and success in accomplishing the task he was assigned and agreed to complete.

The opening paragraph sets the scene:

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.  Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastness of Cuba - no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The PResident must secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do!

Someone said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can....”

“...The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

This short booklet provides a wealth of value into the insight of human behavior and work.  All people entering the workforce would be well served to read and observe the statutes presented within its pages.  This booklet serves as a great reminder and motivator of the importance of the work we do, and why we must strive to be the best at what we do.  

Here are 5 lessons learned about work from, A Message to Garcia:

Attitude -- “If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and and stand by the institution he represents.”

Competence -- “...but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best - those who can carry a message to Garcia.”

Motivation -- “...He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.”

Demand -- “Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything wuch a man asks shall be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go.  He is wanted in every city, town, and village - in every office, shop, store and factory.”

Accomplishment -- “It is not book learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing.”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

MGOSIPs for Fire Proof Homes

Innova Eco Building System manufactures ready-to-assemble panels made with a magnesium oxide board (MGO).  These MGO panels are made with magnesium skins which are stronger and have a more superior fire ratings than fiber cement and OSB SIPs panels. These are being used to replace concrete block and wood framing.  These panels are 60% lighter than masonry block and concrete, do not rot or mold, are not subject to destruction by termites, are toxin free, can withstand 200 mph winds, and are fire resistant.

Have you seen these?
Are these in your community?
Are there any specific firefighting or construction challenges that they may pose?

Monday, March 5, 2018

ARFF Operations at Air Shows

"Waddington Air Show 361" by Alan Schoolar

The 2018 edition of NFPA 403, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Services at Airports, includes an added section (Chapter 10, Special Events) for ARFF services at air shows.  Though it is a short section, it provides needed minimum guidance for ARFF departments tasked with hosting these events.

  • ARFF units must be able to respond and deploy agents within 60 seconds, within the aerobatic box.
Aerobatic box: airspace at an airshow where aircraft are authorized to perform aerobatic maneuvers.
  • Firefighter shall have full PPE donned during the period of air show waiver.
Air show waiver: FAA document that authorizes certain aircraft operations to deviate from a regulation

  • ARFF apparatus must continuously have their engines running.
  • A pre-plan must be created and shared with fire department personnel.
  • At least (1) Firefighter from each ARFF apparatus must meet with the pilot-in-command to discuss the following items:
    • Emergency extraction
    • Canopy release
    • Fuel shutoff
    • Master on/off switch
    • Aircraft lift points
  • The fire department must meet with air traffic control tower operators, air show operators, and air boss to determine:
    • Standard radio communications
    • runway/taxiway clearances
  • Incident Commander (or a Liason) should be stationed with the air bos throughout the air show.

Air boss: individual with primary responsibility for air show operations

Monday, February 26, 2018

Preserving Main Street: Fire Protection for Historical Buildings and Cultural Resources

By SebasTorrente - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Historical buildings or structures, deemed so by local, state, or national preservation organizations, are to be protected by the provisions of NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures. Culturally significant items and collections such as those found in museums, libraries, or churches are to be protected by the provisions of NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship. These are two standards that may not regularly be encountered by jurisdictional fire inspectors, but instead, are in the realm of the special experts who are charged with the care and maintenance of these historical buildings and cultural collections.

Boston University produced this training video to raise awareness of fire risks to cultural properties and to provide technical information about fire detection and suppression systems including sprinklers, gaseous agents, and water mist. Also shown are examples of institutions that have sensitively installed appropriate devices.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Effectiveness of Company Level Inspection Programs [SURVEY]

I am conducting research for a white paper to be published regarding the effectiveness of company level inspection programs.  This research primarily deals with fire department size and company level inspection function, duties, and training. 

If you have 10 minutes to spare please take the survey below.  The survey is composed of 14  multiple choice or fill-in questions.  All responses are optional.

Company Level Inspections Survey:

Thank you for assisting with this.  If you would like more information on this study, would like to discuss further, or are interested in receiving the survey results, please contact me at,

Monday, February 19, 2018

What is a company?

NFPA 1710 provides guidelines on the number of personnel required to staff a fire department. It further requires that these personnel be “organized into company units”. When we have our personnel, we then must organize them.  But what is a “company unit”?

I first learned of a fire company from the IFSTA Essentials of Firefighter, 4th edition. This basic fire academy curriculum defined a fire company as “the standard operating unit of a fire department...a group of firefighters assigned to a particular piece of apparatus or to a particular station. A company consists of a company officer, a driver/operator, and one or more firefighters.”

Essentials provides a great general definition. However, NFPA 1710, more clearly defines what a fire company is. A company is a group of fire department members who:
  1. Are under direct supervision of an officer
  2. Are trained and equipped to perform assigned tasks
  3. Operate with one piece of fire apparatus, or multiple apparatus assigned and dispatched together, and under control of a single fire officer
  4. Arrive at the incident scene on fire apparatus
These fire companies must be organized and identified. Companies are organized by task and are commonly identified as: 
  • Engine company
  • Ladder company
  • Rescue company
  • Squad company
  • Multi-functional company
Chapter 5 of NFPA 1710 defines the makeup of each of these company types. This section also requires that “each company shall be lead by an officer”. 

Engine Companies. Responsible to pump and deliver water, and perform basic firefighter functions.  Staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel. More personnel may be required based on call volume or high hazard target areas, up to six on-duty personnel.

Ladder Companies. Responsible for forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, overhaul and salvage, and a variety of other truck work. Staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel. More personnel may be required based on call volume or high hazard target areas, up to six on-duty personnel.

Other Companies. Provide specialized equipment and apparatus to assist engine and ladder companies. These are provided and staffed in accordance with the risk/hazard analysis as required by the AHJ and department SOP’s.

Related Posts: