Best of the Blog 2013

Here are the top 10 posts of 2013:

  1. Understanding Pre-Action Sprinkler Systems
  2. 13 Changes to NFPA 13
  3. How to Conduct NFPA 80 Inspections
  4. What in the HDPE is going on?
  5. Building Fire Stations
  6. Wind Turbine Response
  7. Electrical Safety
  8. Protecting Your Pets - Understanding NFPA 150
  9. From Mall to MegaChurch
  10. Building a Car Wash

What was your favorite post?  What would you like to see more of?

What to expect for 2014:

Expect webinars.  We will host our first webinar in January 2014 with plans for additional webinars each month.  We have been reviewing various platforms for hosting these, and have decided to utilize Google+Hangouts On Air, so get a head start and create your free Google account now, if you do not already have one.

Expect more free resources.  We will be creating and providing more downloadable free tools and resources to enable you to do your job more effectively and efficiently.  What are some tools that you are looking for? How can we help you?

Expect a new video segment.  We will be creating a short video segment each month entitled, "Two Minute Terminology". This segment will briefly define and explain one of the thousands of definitions encompassed by NFPA and other code bodies.

I hope you have had a great year in 2013. Looking forward to spending 2014 with you all!  Have a Happy New Year!

I want to leave you with this thought from Seth Godin
My most popular blog posts this year
...weren't my best ones.
As usual, the most popular music wasn't the best recorded this year either. Same for the highest-grossing movies, restaurants and politicians doing fundraising.
"Best" is rarely the same as "popular."
Which means that if you want to keep track of doing your best work, you're going to have to avoid the distraction of letting the market decide if you've done a good job or not.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! 

Firefighters Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the town,
The fire siren echoed blaring its sound.
The firefighters came running from far and from near,
And raced to the trucks quickly donning their gear.

And I in my bunkers, my boots and my hat,
Jumped to the engine to see where the fire's at.
Down at the corner of Fifth and of Oak,
The dispatcher informed us of a house filled with smoke.

Smoke poured from the sides, from up and from down,
Yet up on the roof there was none to be found.
So up to the rooftop we raised up a ladder,
And climbed to the top to see what was the matter.

I came to the chimney and what did I see,
But a fellow in red stuck past his knees.
Well we tugged and we pulled until he came out,
Then he winked with his eye and said with a shout.

"These darn newfangled chimneys they make them too small,
For a fellow as I, not skinny at all."
With a twitch of his nose he dashed to his sleigh,
and called to his reindeer, "AWAY now, AWAY."
As we rolled up our hoses he flew out of sight,
Saying "God bless our firefighters" and to all a good night!

Key West Fire Academy 2014

Check out the below post and information from Paul Bryant, fire strategist, engineer, author, and owner of Kingfell.

Following the publication of my book Fire Strategies-Strategic Thinking, my plan was to set up specialist fire strategy workshops around the US and elsewhere. However, after setting up a second home in Key West and meeting a number of enthusiastic fire professionals there, we realized that setting up a series of workshops in "Paradise" could be an attractive alternative.

What type of workshops?
The idea is to bring the world of new and innovative fire engineering thinking to US fire professionals and to anyone who can take out two or three days to get there. Initial subjects will include the concept of strategic thinking when preparing a fire strategy. Other subjects will be structural fire engineering developments, fire engineering for transportation hubs and tunnels, and fire training techniques. Speakers will initially be from the UK, Egypt, Germany and Ireland. This will increase as the Academy develops. 

The venue?
Workshops will be held in the Firehouse Museum in the centre of old Key West.

Next steps:
The website is being set up which will provide more information on courses and speakers. We are also seeking NFPA accreditation for each of the courses.

Join the Key West Fire Academy LinkedIn group:

Commissioning New Occupancies

NFPA 3:Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safey Systems, was created to give clear guidance to the integrated testing of fire systems, and
provide a reliable means of ensuring that all active and passive fire and life safety systems work as they are intended to.

What is commissioning?

Fire and Life Safety Commissioning(Cx) is defined as, “a systematic process that provides documented confirmation that fire and life safety sytems function according to the intended design criteria set forth in the project documents and satisfy the owner’s operational needs, including compliance with requirements of any applicable laws, regulations, codes, and standards requiring fire and life safety systems.”

Who can provide commissioning services?

Although, NFPA 3 does not require any type of certification for commissioning agents, it does outline knowledge and skills that a commissioning agent should posess.  The Fire Commissioing Agent (FCxA) is the person or entity who leads, plans, schedules, documents, and coordinates the fire protection and life safety commissioning team, implements the commissioning process, and ensures that integrated systems testing is appropriately conducted.  

With this as the primary objective a FCxA should possess the following:
  • thorough knowledge of the recommendations of NFPA 3 and general industry practices
  • be capable of providing an objective and unbiased perspective
  • advanced understanding of the installation, operation, and maintenance of systems to be installed
  • ability to read and interpret drawings and specifications
  • capable of analyzing and facilitating resolution of issues related to system failures
  • clear written and verbal communication, report writing, and conflict resolution skills

How is commissioning conducted?

Fire and life safety systems commissioning takes place in 4 phases: planning, design, construction, and occupancy.  The below information provides an overview of each of these, however, NFPA 3, chapter 5 provides in-depth direction for each of the phases.

During the planning phase the owners project requirements are layed out and developed, the fire commissioning agent is selected and the commissioning team is put into place, the commissioning plan is created, all planning documents and regulatory codes are reviewed and analyzed, and the commissioning plan is put into action.  

The fire protection/life safety commissioning team can vary in size and mat include the owner, contractors, manufacturers representatives, insurance representatives, design professionals, facilities personnel, the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), and others.  Each team member must meet the minimum requirements as listed in NFPA 3, chapter 4.

The OPR, or owner’s project requirements, is the document which will form the basis of all design, construction, testing and operational needs, and will drive the decision-making process.  This document should include such vital information as infrastructure requirements, occupancy use and classification, future expansion requirements, applicable codes and standards, and any other special needs or specific requirements.  This can be a dynamic document that should be updated as necessary throughout the 4 phases of the building life cycle.

The basis of design (BOD) is the focal point of the design phase. This is a driving document that should clearly show the concepts, ideas, decisions, codes, regulations, and standards required to meet the owner’s project requirements.  It is in the design phase that fire protection/life safety system drawings should be reviewed, commissioning procedures outlined and scheduled, and all documents verified to ensure that they comply with the BOD.

It is in the construction phase that all systems are delivered, installed, and tested.  During this process the fire protection and life safety commissioning team should closely monitor the construction process as they will be responsible for maintaining the commissioning schedule, ensuring that all materials and their installation are in accordance with the BOD, confirm that all work is being conducted by properly licensed and qualified professionals, performing all testing and inspections, and document all actions and any issues.  The final action of the commissioning team in this phase is final acceptance testing and turning over all close-out documents to the facility owner.

The occupancy phase is the final stage of the commissioning process.  It is at this point that all “loose ends” should be tied up, all final inspections conducted (and passed), all test and inspection reports completed, and system maintenance and product manuals turned over to the building owner.  It is important that the owner and other related personnel are adequately trained on the functions, operation, and maintenance procedures of the system.  Every effort should be made to ensure that this training is complete and high quality, as education is a key component in continued effectiveness of any fire protection or life safety system.

This article provides just a brief introduction to and overview of the commissioning process.  We have created a special “4 Phases of Commissioning” checklist, that outlines what must be done throught each step of the commissioning process.  It is our hope that this will be a valuable tool that will be utilized, in conjunction with the forms provided in the annex section of NFPA 3, to make the road to commissioning easy to navigate.


For more information on NFPA 3 and the commissioning process please check out these other articles and related links from around the web.

Related Links

Cultivating Accountability

A common issue that arises among personnel and leadership is the problem of accountability.  As I was reading through the NIV Leadership Bible I came across the following scripture and accompanying article.

Galatians 6:7 says, "A man reaps what he sows."  If we want to reap a workforce of service, performance, and excellence, then, as leaders we must demonstrate those qualities and also hold others accountable for meeting this expectation.  Theo Gilbert-Jamison gives the following five steps for holding employees accountable.

  1. Clearly define the expectation or standard - often times in the workplace when accusations are flying and goals are not being met, it is related to an incorrect or ill perceived expectation. Sometimes it becomes necessary to communicate the expectations of each individuals part on the team, so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to realistic expectations, and maintaining the standard. "People cannot be held accountable for what they have not been informed of."  
  2. Involve staff in efforts to raise the bar - after the expectation and standards have been set, allow all personnel to comment on, discuss, and voice their opinions or concerns on the new standard.  If everyone is talking about it, then you can be sure that it is understood and achieve buy-in.
  3. Integrate the new standard - Gilbert-Jamison says, "...expectations must be fully integrated into every aspect of the work environment to include the training and development process, performance review criteria, and all applicable systems and work processes."
  4. Set up measurements to quantify success - establish measurements and indicators to assess the effectiveness of the new standard, and ensure that it is being followed or implemented properly. This is a primary use for accountability, it allows this assessment to happen naturally.
  5. Recognize success and coach for improvement - accountability reveals our strengths and weaknesses. When we identify these, we can then focus our coaching and development efforts where they are most needed.