London's Olympic Fire Protection

The 2012 summer Olympics in London are in full swing. The Games are taking place over 24 venues divided into 3 zones, The Olympic Park, The River Zone, and The Central Zone.  Four firms  (Arup, Buro Happold, Jeremy Gardner Assoc., Tenos) were contracted to provide fire protection/life safety consulting to these major developments.  Each of these firms brought there own engineering approach and code interpretations and applications to the table.

The venues fall into 3 categories for fire protection considerations:
  • New Permanent Venues
    •  built for the long term
    •  may require specific modifications for the Games
  • New Temporary Venues
    • built specifically for the duration of the Games (in place 1 year before, to be remove after)
  • Existing Venues
    • require specific modifications and change of use during the Games
The layout, site design, and construction of the Olympic venues are governed by the International Olympic Committee's specific guidelines.  In addition to the main 24 venues, there are also support structures and additional facilities required to run the Games and broadcast them around the world.  These facilities and equipment will be rented or contracted out and includes temporary structures, technical facilities, A/V cable runs, and specific required Olympic signage.  Other temporary elements contributing to the Games include tents, fencing, cabins, modular structure, scaffolding, and temporary power supplies.  Each of these need to be looked at separately, and as part of the whole, when evaluation fire protection/life safety hazards and code compliance.

As the site is governed by the IOC guidelines and standards, issues arise regarding meeting their standard and meeting fire/life safety compliance.  Some of these differences concern:
  • venue designs and layouts
  • access routes and entry/exit guidelines
  • distances to venues and seating locations
  • security and access control
  • queuing, loading, and exit times for various groups
Here, in America fire prevention and regard for life safety would have been an afterthought compared to response planning, however, in the home of Big Ben fire prevention and life safety is a primary concern.  The London Fire Brigade's Fire Engineers have been embedded in the planning stages for 2 years leading up to now.  A Central Fire Engineering Support Group maintained oversight of all planning applications and fire safety issues of major projects.  Fire safety support teams throughout the London area and associated boroughs provided input, advice, and guidance on everyday fire safety and protection concerns and issues.  Protection and prevention work stream groups were set up within the main structure of the London Fire Brigade Olympics Project work plan.

Fire protection and life safety is just one small part of the successful planning, preparation, and production of the Olympic Games.  Just this small part is made up of many groups and people, yet all working toward the same goal.  There is much to be garnered from observing this process of ensuring a fire safe Olympic community. We see a priority placed on proactive fire prevention rather than reactive response (though incorporated), a variegated command structure that required the creation of multiple groups for consistent oversight (a skeleton of the ICS structures that we are familiar with), every one with their own interests working together to do what needs to be done to ensure that the Games are successful. 

To read more, and see a breakdown of fire protection measures for each facility check out this presentation from Hemming Fire.

World's Fastest Pumper

Created for the Nurburgring race track in Germany, this Nissan GT-R can reach speeds of 193 miles per hour, and can lap the 13 mile track in less than 8 minutes.  Traditional fire engines were taking too long to respond to accidents on the track, so this car was especially outfitted for the job.

Features include:
  • 13 gallon water/foam tank (2 minutes of firefighting capability)
  • 65 foot hose, with reel
  • emergency radio communications system
  • equipment bay area

Fire Service Sun Tzu [Part 1]

Photo courtesy of Om Imaging
 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 "attack by strategem" and "tactical dispositions", 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. 

A community that is not in accord with their fire department (or its leadership) will not support it.  In fire prevention, our primary enemy is education.  We can talk all we want to attempt to educate - on fire safety, purpose of inspections, building construction, fire department practices - however, if there is no trust, if the community is not in "accord" with its public officials, the education battle will be lost.

However, as a community, sees its department and official going to bat for them, standing up for them, listening to them, trust will be built.  As this trust is built then the community will follow.

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.

In prevention, knowing the political climate, or understanding where people are coming from, or where there mentality is based plays a huge role in forming a plan of education and outreach.

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?

In overcoming fire prevention hurdles, the challenge (in order to be victorious), is to make the risk real to the community.  Make the community see the loss, and therefore, take action to prevent it.

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 charactersitics 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.

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 there maintenance) any army or fire crew will fail in its fight.  In order to stay ahead of the game, it is of utmost importance to control finances.  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, constant, and evolving streams of income.

"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

Pursuing Hobbies

It's important to have hobbies.  Most members of the fire service that I have talked to, do this job because they thoroughly enjoy it. They enjoy the camaraderie, the schedule, and even the actual work itself.  However, at times, this job can become stressful or worrisome.

It is important to pursue hobbies, and the things you enjoy as a way to relieve the stress, and forget about 'work' for a while.  Get a hobby - weightlifting, kayaking, photography, golf, boating, basket weaving - whatever you choose, pick something you love to do and pursue it passionately.

When I am not at work I enjoy creating, whether that be through writing (;, teaching, or videography.  Here is my most recent project, this is a music video we created for Linkin Park's "Burn It Down", this was produced for a video contest.

*see more of my video work at

Building a Car Wash

I recently was tasked with a plan review of an automatic car wash. This seems simple enough, however, there are some questions that need to be answered. What is the occupancy type? What are the hazards involved? How does the equipment work? What kind of chemicals are being used?

To start any review, one must first identify the occupancy type. The occupancy type is often listed on the plans, but the occupancy type might be different as related to the fire codes, based on occupancy use and what type of activities are going to occur there.

A car wash does not necessarily fit neatly into one of the occupancy categories of NFPA 101. However, it most closely identifies with a special-purpose industrial occupancy (101:

Special-purpose industrial occupancies shall include all of the following:

(1)Industrial occupancies that conduct ordinary and low hazard industrial operations in buildings designed for, and that are usable only for, particular types of operations

(2)Industrial occupancies that are characterized by a relatively low density of employee population, with much of the area occupied by machinery or equipment

The key construction factors that this occupancy designation will affect include:

Number of means of egress (101:40.2.4)

Arrangement of egress (101:40.2.5/Table)

Industrial equipment access (101:

Emergency lighting (101:40.2.9)

Since this occupancy does not completely fit into this category, it will be necessary to apply some of the principles of performance-based design (NFPA 1:5), primarily:

MSDS sheets for all chemicals used

Operations and Maintenance Manual (1:5.1.8)

Industrial occupancies allow a single means of egress “provided that the exit can be reached within the distance permitted as a common path of travel” (101: The table in NFPA 101:40.2.5 provides those common travel distances:

*Florida specific code only allows 20 ft. of travel distance for a dead-end corridor

The code allows for vertical rolling doors to be used as a means of egress (potentially eliminating the need for an additional side-hinged man-door), provided the space has an occupant load of less than 10 and the following is met:

(a)Such grilles or door assemblies shall remain secured in the fully open position during the period of occupancy by the general public.

(b)On or adjacent to the grille or door opening, there shall be a readily visible, durable sign in letters not less than 1 in. (25 mm) high on a contrasting background that reads as follows: THIS DOOR TO REMAIN OPEN WHEN THE BUILDING IS OCCUPIED.

(c)Door leaves or grilles shall not be brought to the closed position when the space is occupied.

(d)Door leaves or grilles shall be operable from within the space without the use of any special knowledge or effort.

(e)Where two or more means of egress are required, not more than half of the means of egress shall be equipped with horizontal-sliding or vertical-rolling grilles or door assemblies. [101:]

Most of the space for an automatic car wash (besides the car drive through) is taken up by equipment, tanks, and machinery. If any of this equipment is part of the means of egress (usually it is) it shall meet the clearance requirements of the table found in NFPA 101:

 Emergency lighting is generally required, however, it can be omitted from areas “without routine human habitation”, and “structures occupied only during daylight hours with skylights or windows “ that are properly arranged to provide adequate illumination to exits and exit pathways. The annex of this section, 101:40.2.9, states that the authority having jurisdiction shall review the facility, and will specifically designate where emergency lighting is required.

MSDS sheets should be submitted for review so that the proper hazard is assigned to the space and proper NFPA 704 labeling is provided.

The operations and maintenance manual, will provide the authority having jurisdiction, the information needed regarding operational hours, employees/occupant load, and any special considerations for equipment.

It is a good practice for any architect, owner, or contractor to establish a good working relationship with their local fire marshal. Contact your local fire authority prior to submittal to find out if there are any specific local ordinances or other requirements. It is also advisable to have your plan previewed by a third party to insure compliance with all federal/state/local requirements.

18 Ways to Project a Job Winning Image [SERIES]

A couple of weeks ago we started the series, How To Get Hired.  Here is Part 2.

When going into a job interview the natural emotion seems to be anxiety.  We tense up, we are unsure of what is about to happen, our stomach's flutter a bit.  We are nervous.  Don't let it show.  What you should exude is confidence, courage, and relaxation.

Follow these 18 tips to project a job winning image:
  1. Be natural - don't try to be something that you are not
  2. Get comfortable - sit in a comfortable position, without lounging or sprawling
  3. Don't wisecrack - skip the small talk, stop trying to pretend that you are a member of the "good ole boy" club
  4. Don't exagerate your abilities - be honest about your experience and skills, no need to embellish
  5. Personal connections - don't name drop, but if it comes up it is okay, you are also not trying to hide it
  6. Don't overpower - let the interviewers be in control of the interview, don't talk over them or dominate the conversation
  7. Be attentive - pay attention, be observant
  8. Don't interrupt - take your time, don't finish peoples questions, or start answering before the questioner is completed
  9. Understand the question - make sure you know what is being asked, it is okay to have the question repeated or ask for clarification
  10. Reply promptly - answer the question in a timely fashion, but don't rush through your answer
  11. Don't create answers - be real, don't answer questions only based on what you think the interviewer wants to hear
  12. Hold your ground - don't change your answer just to agree with the interviewer
  13. Admit error - don't be afraid to admit errors in judgement if you are shown to be wrong
  14. Don't dwell on your present position - answer questions succinctly, do not keep a focus on your present employment
  15. No anecdotes - don't bring in your extra comments or helpful analogies
  16. No slang - keep a clean mouth, and use only common english
  17. Leave your exhibits at home - this is often recommended, however, this sometimes works in getting the job (just know your interviewer, and feel it out)
  18. Don't flatter - people can tell when you are insincere; nobody wants to listen to this
Did you enjoy this article? Would you like to read more? Please take our survey and tell me how I can better serve you --> Solving Problems Survey

How Can I Solve Your Problem [SURVEY]

The goal of is to add value to you, your business (public sector or private), and your community.  To ensure that we are, in fact, accomplishing this goal, please take this brief survey.  This will provide me with  more guidance and direction as I continue to bring you great content!

Coffee With the Coach [EVENT]

When I started this blog over a year ago, the intention was (and still is) to add value to the readers, by educating the public on fire prevention issues, and by enhancing the fire service leadership in the community.  Based on reader statistics, this blog is effective in serving this purpose. 

However, a blog is, at times, impersonal, lacking a physical presence and connection.  One of the best ways to promote community education, and fire service leadership in the community is through physical presence, and productive discussions.  There is no better atmosphere conducive to discussion and relationship building than the local coffee shop.

On Saturday, July 21 at 8:30am, you  can come and hang out with me, at Hayes Gourmets in Jensen Beach, FL.  If you work in the fire service, this will be a great opportunity to discuss concerns, questions, or tactics.  If you are a contractor, business owner, or architect, this is a place to bring your fire prevention/life safety questions and issues.  I look forward to meeting you! By the way, the coffee's on me!

View Larger Map

14 Steps for Dealing With Angry Citizens

Residents, guests, and contractors to your jurisdiction are going to talk to there associates, friends, and neighbors.  Based on how well you handle there problem, determines what they will be talking about.  If you do a good job for somebody they will tell 3 people,  if you do a great job they will tell 10 people, if you provide bad service 25 people will hear about it, and if you get into an argument 50 people will know.

In the fire service we get angry "customers".  This is a more common occurrence in fire prevention. People don't like what they failed for, contractors are looking for there plans, deadlines did not get met, the list is endless.  Problems are going to happen, the difference is in how you deal with people through there problem.

Jeffrey Gitomer, in Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless, outlines 14 steps for dealing with unhappy or dissatisfied customers.
  1. Tell them you understand how they feel.
  2. Empathize with them (share a similar experience). Comfort them.
  3. Listen to the complete story. Ask questions to fully understand the situation.  Find out what they need to make the problem better.
  4. Agree with them.
  5. Take notes and confirm the situation.
  6. Be an ambassador for your department. Personally handle the situation.
  7. Don't blame others.  Take responsibility for correcting the problem.
  8. Don't pass the buck. No, "its not my job..."
  9. Respond immediately.
  10. Find common ground.  Establish rapport.
  11. Use humor if possible.
  12. Communicate and agree upon a solution.  Give choices if possible.
  13. Make a follow-up call.
  14. Get a letter.  Tell the customer you would appreciate a brief note on how the situation was resolved.