Circle of Safety - Does your organization have it?

Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.
They rush toward the danger.
They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future.
Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours
And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.
This is what it means to be a leader.
It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown.
And when we feel sure they will keep us safe,
we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life
and proudly call ourselves their followers.
-Simon Sinek, "Leaders Eat Last"

From, Leaders Eat Last:

The Spartans, a warrior society in ancient Greece, were feared and revered for their strength, courage and endurance.  The power of the Spartan army did not come from the sharpness of their spears, however; it came from the strength of their shields. Losing one's shield in battle was considered the single greatest crime a Spartan could commit. "Spartans excuse without penalty the warrior who loses his helmet or breastplate in battle," writes Steven Pressfield in his account of the Battle of Thermopylae (the battle upon which the movie 300 is based), "but punish the loss of all citizenship rights the man who discards his shield."  And the reason was simple. "A warrior carries helmet and breastplate for his own protection, but his shield for the safety of the whole line."

Likewise, the strength and endurance of a company does not come from products or services but from how well their people pull together.  Every member of the group plays a role in maintaining the Circle of Safety and it is the leader's role to ensure that they do.  This is the primary role of leadership, to look out for those inside their Circle. (pgs. 22-23)

Questions to ask yourself and apply to your people and organization:
  1. Do we feel safe?
  2. Do we trust our leaders?
  3. Why? Why not?
  4. What can we do personnally?
  5. What can we do as an organization?

Learn more at
Get the book Leaders Eat Last.

The Art of ARFF (part 2) - Waging War

Of primary importance to any war that is being waged  is that the cost be counted.  In, The Art of War, Sun Tzu provides guidance as to what costs of war can be expected. In Section II. Waging War,  he details how to count, maintain, keep these costs to a minimum.

Have we counted the real cost of a fire, crash, or incident at our facilities?  How much does it cost to shut down a runway for any period of time? How much could any "lost business" cost? What would be the cost and impact of a lost hangar or shut-down of a terminal? What is the cost of equipment and agent for successful fire extinguishment? What toll may be taken on the personnel (after the Asiana Flight 214 incident, San Fransisco experienced a 19% attrition increase)? What would be the economic, political, organizational, legal, or psychological impacts of an incident

Tanklöschfahrzeug Oshkosh Striker by Neuwieser

Sun Tzu makes the point that, when fighting, if victory is long in coming, the campaign lasts for a protracted amount of time, the "men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor dampened."  As leaders in the ARFF community how can we mind this principle? There are four areas in which our ARFF personnel could have "their ardor dampened" and limit their effectiveness.

Incident response.
     A major aircraft crash, or structure fire, will result in a prolonged response by firefighting personnel.  In the ARFF world this is sometimes easy to forget. Our training often consists of a couple hours of spraying water from the truck, deploying hand lines, conducting simulated rescues.  All done in a non-emergent environment.  The reality is, when a major incident occurs multiple operations will have to be conducted simultaneously, without rest, and with limited personnel performing multiple tasks:

  • exterior firefighting - initial knock-down and laying of rescue path
  • interior firefighting
  • interior search and rescue
  • medical care, treatment, and triage
Are our personnel aware of this reality? Are they physically prepared for this? Does our training adequately prepare them for this level of activity? Have we incorporated rehab into our emergency response plans?

Daily activities.
     Every department has the many required daily activities that must be completed, and 'routine' operations that must be conducted. These activities may include:
  • station clean-up
  • equipment inspections
  • data entry and paperwork
  • issuing of permits
  • aircraft standby's
We all understand that these are items that have to be done.  However, is everybody contributing to the completion of the work?  If the same few individuals are issuing all the permits, doing the station duties, cleaning up all the paperwork, shift in and shift out, eventually they will have "their ardor dampened", and the team environment will start to erode. On extended aircraft or medical standby's we need to be mindful of the time individuals are out. Perhaps it would be most beneficial to rotate personnel and units to ensure that, if needed, personnel are energized and ready to respond.

Work schedules. 
     We all have those one or two people that will always work when we ask.  So, it becomes easy to just ask those one or two first, and get the spot filled.  Are we aware of the hours our personnel are working?  We need to remember that the employee that is saying 'yes' to picking up extra hours, is also saying 'no' to some other activities that would require their time. As the leaders of these individuals it is our responsibility to sometimes say, "no, you can't work today, go home".  

Everyone seems to enjoy the various firefighter work schedules that abound - 24/48, 48/96, 24/72, etc.  Do we periodically evaluate these schedules to make sure they best fit our personnel and operations?

     Repetitive and familiar training material and scenarios can quickly cause our personnel to have "their ardor dampened".  With the rise of on-line training, it has become easy to assign our personnel to simply watch a video or read a slide show and mark it off as completed training.  Is this training alone adequate (see above under incident response)? Are our personnel truly learning and being stretched in their knowledge? Officers and personnel must be creative in their training. We need to develop probable scenarios and experiment with alternative approaches. It does take more effort to plan and prepare, but the reward and learning experience will be richer.

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.  Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.  -Sun Tzu

Other articles in this series:

What's your facilities S.C.O.P.E.?

Though I have conducted, and written about, extensive risk assessment processes, there are times and situations when a less extensive assessment may be more efficient. While our assessment process provides a detailed picture of a facility, sometimes an overhead, big picture, view is all that is needed.

Utilizing the S.C.O.P.E. acronym a facilities' features and risk can be quickly assessed.  The S.C.O.P.E. sheet is provides a one page overview of a particular building or structure.

Statement of activities
Provide a general narrative of the type of work and activities that are conducted within the structure or facility.
Construction type
Select the construction type as defined in NFPA 220.
Select the occupancy type and calculate the occupant load of the building.
This space identifies what fire protection and detection systems are in place.
The section outlines what is located on the surrounding sides of the building being assessed that may be impacted by a fire. This should also take into account how a fire in an exposure would affect the building being assessed.

Fire Prevention Organization [SURVEY]

I am conducting research for a white paper to be published regarding the organization of fire prevention personnel and functions.  This research primarily deals with fire prevention organization within aviation/ARFF environments. 

If you have 5 minutes to spare please take the survey below.  The survey is 20 questions, divided into 2 parts.  All responses are optional.

Fire Prevention Organization - ARFF, part 1:

Fire Prevention Organization - ARFF, part 2 :

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,

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