Master Planning Your Organization

Tim Cool, is the founder of Cool Solutions Group, a company that helps faith-based organizations with planning, development, and life-cycle management of their facilities. I always enjoy reading what Tim puts out.  I find that his books, articles, and blog posts have wide application to other industries.  Sections of his writing have practical applicability to what we do in our fire prevention and life safety organizations.

In his most recent book, Plan 4 It: The 4 Essential Master Plans for Every Church,  Tim details the essential elements for creating a Master Plan.  As I read, I found that the master plan process is something that should be applied to, not just facilities and structures, but to our organization and its development.

A Master Plan can be defined as, a comprehensive study of an area/facility/industry that usually describes the short-, medium-, and long-term development plans necessary to meet future demand.  Tim's three dimensions of Master Planning can be described as:

  • a programmatic study of current and long-range initiatives, and what facilities/resources may assist in accomplishing those plans.
  • A vision of the future, beginning with today's realities.
  • A clear and intentional big-picture view of the organizations future based on the hopes, culture, DNA, and desires of the organization.
When initiating a Master Plan process there are 4 plans that need to be created:
  1. Organizational Master Plan
  2. Financial Master Plan
  3. Facility/Resource Master Plan
  4. Sustaining Master Plan
Organizational Master Plan

This plan identifies who we are, why we do what we do, and how we do it.  The first step in the master-planning process is to know your organization, and be clear on what it provides or should be providing. There are 7 critical questions that can provide clarity and focus in this process.
  1. What is the vision for our organization?
  2. Who is our "target" audience/customer/client/people group?
  3. What is our DNA as an organization?
  4. How do we define "value" for our organization?
  5. What is our "story", and how should it be communicated?
  6. If space, resources, or finances were not an issues, what programs or offerings would be start, provide, or expand?
  7. If we do not start, provide, or expand the above service, what impact will that have on our community/customer/client?
Apply these to your organization and current situation.  Based on your answers to the above questions, is your organization where it needs to be?  What needs to happen for it to get where it should be?  What needs to happen so that the impact and value added will be improved?

Financial Master Plan

This plan allows you to determine the financial feasibility of your organizations short- and long-term vision and goals.  How will the Master Plan effect the budget?  Is the Master Plan and goals set, financially attainable?  What facilities, personnel, equipment, or resources will be needed to accomplish the Master Plan?  How can we ensure that the finances are available for the plan objectives?  Do we need to adjust the plan (for a more realistic objective), or adjust our current expenses? 

 Facility/Resource Master Plan

This step of the the master-planning process can help to determine if your existing structures, resources, and facilities are compatible with your long-term goals and direction, or if changes will need to be made.  Do we need new items for the Master Plan to work? Or can we utilize or re-purpose what we already have?

Conduct an audit of your current resources.  Do you have the tools, equipment, and facilities currently available to achieve the Master Plan objectives?  Can current and future programs and service offerings be supported?  What resources are needed to provide that support?

Sustaining Master Plan

To sustain is "to provide what is needed for something or someone to exist and continue to exist".  What is your plan for ensuring the longevity of your organization, its resources, and its programs? How will the organization be sustained financially?  Is the funding source or business model viable?  How much will updates for program resources, hardware, or software cost?  How will you sustain the personnel necessary to run the programs? 

This process is essential for the continued health of your organization, its personnel, and the benefits it provides. A comprehensive Master Plan will put your organization on the right track to make the largest impact in the community you serve.  Lack of a Master Plan will produce an organization that is just maintaining, and will eventually lead to failure for lack or preparation of the organization, and will completely diminish the organizations impact in the world.  Make the time to go through this process to evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there.

Related 'Tim Cool' Inspired Posts:

The Art of ARFF (part 3) - Attack By Strategem

Sun Tzu says, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."   Section III, of The Art of War, is dedicated to knowing how to accomplish this, how to know yourself and how to know the enemy. Sun Tzu summarizes his instruction in five essentials of victory.

"He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight."

To this point Sun Tzu provides two guiding principals:

"supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting"

"the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans"

In these statements Sun Tzu is suggesting a strategy of counter-attack and anticipation of the enemies moves.  If our enemy is a fire incident, our counter-attack is fire prevention. 

All firefighter's get excited about the fire incident and response. Bring up the topic of fire prevention or building inspections and the mood seems to drop. Fire prevention and pre-planning activities are the most important component of a successful incident response and fire extinguishment.

Sun Tzu states that the "next best [strategem] is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces". The goal of fire prevention is to keep the four components of the fire tetrahedron - fuel, oxygen, heat, chemical reaction - from coming together.   This is accomplished in engineering structures and plans review, fire inspections and code enforcement, and public education and training.

Knowing our facilities should be of primary importance. Conducting regular inspections and thorough pre-plans will help us identify potential areas of weakness, know what areas pose the greatest fire risk, and create plans for potential incident occurrences.  It is through fire prevention efforts that we can know and anticipate our "enemies" potential plan of attack. 

"He will win who knows how to handle both, superior forces and inferior forces."

At times your force will be greater than the "enemies", but at other times the "enemies" force may seem bigger. We can be victorious in either case by continuous learning of fire tactics and strategies. By understanding and training in tactics and strategies for all different incident types, sizes, and occurrences we can be prepared to defeat whatever may come. 

Does your training program consists of different types of training - hands-on, lecture, table top, online, drills, exercises? Do you train on various types of incident occurrences, or is it always the same 2 or 3 scenarios? Do you incorporate "unforeseen circumstances" into your training scenarios (i.e., primary apparatus is unable to respond, tools needed are not working properly, man-power is diminished, etc.)?

The Art of War commentator, Chang Yu, explains it like this, "The secret lies in an eye for locality, and in not letting the right moment slip."

"He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks."

Is your department and individuals all pulling for the same goal? Are you motivated to work together for a common task?  Do your people do whats best for the department as a whole, or is it every man for himself? Are the department goals and "same spirit" regularly communicated throughout the organization?

To get to a level where all are "animated by the same spirit throughout" requires intentionality of both, the individual and department leadership. 

3 Ways in Which a Ruler Can Bring Misfortune Upon His Army
  1. By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.  
  2. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldiers minds.
  3. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
Be fully aware of the "position" of your people, understand where they are and who they are. Take the time to learn each of your people's strengths, weaknesses, fears, ambitions, concerns, and needs.

In a fire scene situation, the IC cannot be in the thick of operations and continue to give orders, he has lost perspective. He must remove himself and see the "big picture", so as not to misjudge and give wrong orders. The fire scene is no place for politics, posturing, or hurt feelings. "You can't handle an army in kid gloves."

To be victorious the leader must put the right people in the right positions.  Commentators on this section state, "If a general is ignorant of the principle of adaptability, he must not be entrusted with a position of authority."  

4 People Every Crew Needs
  1. Wise man - delights in establishing his merit
  2. Brave man - likes to show his courage in action
  3. Covetous man - quick at seizing advantages
  4. Stupid man - no fear of death

"He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared."

Certain victory comes to those who are prepared.  Preparation comes by training, exercise, drill, and knowledge of facilities, aircraft, and equipment.  An attitude of "life long learning" and "continuous education" should be promulgated throughout your department and personnel. 

There is a saying that says, "When opportunity comes, it's to late to start preparing."  This can apply to the organization as a whole, and the individual.  It is only through continual preparation and improvement that we can be ready for what may come - large scale incident, natural disaster, promotions, additional responsibilities.

"He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign."

Are you operating in your designated role? Victory can be easily lost when people start to get involved in tasks and activities that are not part of their role or responsibilities. We each have a position to function in and a part to play.  It is when we are all working our part that the organization is in sync and great success can be achieved. 

Each individual must master his assigned role, before taking on other responsibilities. Too often, people want to skip parts in the middle to get the top.  These individuals never excel at any part, often fail to get to the top, and can be destructive to moral and the department as a whole.

"It is the sovereign's function to give broad instructions, but to decide on battle it is the function of the general." - Wang Tzu


  1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight - PREVENTION.
  2. He will win who knows how to handle, both, superior forces and inferior forces - TACTICS.
  3. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks - LEADERSHIP.
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared - TRAINING.
  5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign - ROLES.

Other articles in this series:

What to Expect When You're Expecting a 5-year NFPA 25 Inspection

The 5 year inspection for sprinklers and fire protection systems can be an agita inducing activity for facility managers and fire protection personnel.  This anxiety is related to the seeming complexity and involvement of this task, as well as, the cost and quality of the service. 

What items actually have to be inspected and tested? What level of testing must various components be subject to?  How much down time will be required for these inspections to take place? How can we know that everything is getting inspected and tested as it should be?

NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, sets the frequency, requirements, and guidelines for fire sprinkler inspection, testing, and maintenance.  Besides the 5 year requirements, this document describes all inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements for all system components including daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and other, as-needed requirements.  Wading through this information to find what will be expected for the "5 year" can be a daunting task.  However, we have done this work for you.  This post, and associated downloadable checklist, outlines and defines what system components you can expect to be inspected or tested during this process.

Sprinkler Systems

Obstruction and internal piping inspection - the internal sections of the piping are to be inspected for the presence of any organic or inorganic materials

Gauges - these are to be replaced or tested; must be accurate to within 3% of full scale

Sprinkler heads - applies to solder-type heads with a temperature rating of 325 degrees or greater, and sprinkler heads installed in harsh environments (i.e., corrosive atmospheres or corrosive water supplies)

Standpipe Systems

Hydrostatic test - manual and semi-automatic standpipes only are to be tested at 200psi for 2 hours

Flow test - Class I and Class III standpipes, to verify required flows and pressures are available at most remote hose outlet

Water Storage Tanks

Interior inspection of tank - to ensure that the interior is not becoming corroded or deteriorating

Level indicators - to ensure accuracy and that the indicator has free movement

Pressure gauge - are to be tested and calibrated, must be within 3% of scale of gauge

Foam Water Systems

Water supply flow test - this applies to the hydrants and water supply mainlines

Proportioning systems - ball-drip automatic type are to be dissassembled, cleaned, and reassembled


Alarm valve interior- all alarm valve components, strainers, filters, and restriction orifices are be internally inspected

Check valve interior - to ensure that all components work correctly, are freely moving, and in good condition

Pre-action/deluge valve interior - internal inspection confirms that all strainers, filters, orifices, and diaphragm chambers are in operational condition, and free of damage

Dry pipe valve interior - internal inspection confirms that all strainers, filters, orifices, and diaphragm chambers are in operational condition, and free of damage

Dry pipe valve gauges - these are to be replaced or tested; must be accurate to within 3% of full scale

Pressure-Reducing and Relief Valves

Sprinkler system pressure-reducing valves -  full flow test of each valve is required

Hose connection pressure-regulating devices - full flow test of each device is required

Hose rack assembly pressure-regulating devices -  full flow test of each device is required

NFPA 409 Hangar Specific Requirements

For aircraft hangars, NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars, requires the following, additional 5-year inspections.  These inspections and test are to be operational with an actual discharge.

Deluge valves
Hose stations
Foam concentrate pumps
Foam concentrate control valves
Foam proportioning devices
Monitor nozzles
High-expansion foam generators 
Floor drain systems and separators
Grounding equipment (functional test only)

4 Steps to Self-Publishing

Every day within our industry people are creating new programs, safer solutions, and more efficient means of completing tasks. These innovations and improvements, however, are confined to their specific organization. Often, this is not by choice, but just is.  You may hear about the new program if you see the individual at a conference and ask him about it, but other than that, you may never know of the tool or system that could improve your performance or enhance your operations.  

In the fire protection/life safety industry, we are better together.  We have gotten were we are today only by sharing what we have learned through solving problems. There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge that is being "left on the table" that could be beneficial to the industry at large. 

How can we get the word out? How can we effectively spread our ideas and innovations? The best way for your new idea, program, tool, system, or solution to spread is through the written word.  The internet has made it possible for anyone to self-publish and share their ideas. There is an abundance of tools and resources that make this process simple and affordable.

When you sit down to put your idea on paper there is a lot to consider. These considerations will range from developing the content, designing the book, formatting the text, technical issues, and selecting a publishing platform.  These thoughts can easily become overwhelming. 

Through my own trial-and-error I have established the following 4 step system for self-publishing.  These 4 steps will help to clear your mind, sharpen your focus, and serve as your guide through the process.

Content is king. The most important part of publishing for your idea to spread is the content itself. Make sure you are clear on what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Know your message and your audience.  Your message is what you are passionate about. This is what led to your idea in the first place.  Your audience will be those individuals that serve to gain the most from your idea.  

The first step in writing is to organize your thoughts.  Create an outline of your content and what you want to share.  This will become your table of contents.  The second step is to write the content for each of the sections or outline points.  You do not want to sit down with the idea to just write as much as you can.  Most will find that too difficult.  Simply focus on writing a small section at a time.  I like to use Google Docs for this as work can be recovered and accessed from any computer.

Once you have completed writing the content, assemble and organize the sections, add photos and references, and update your table of contents. Review the completed work and make any necessary changes.  You will see items that need to be changed, deleted, added, or re-organized.  After you have reviewed the material have a third party review, proofread, and make notes on your document.  After making any suggested changes, your manuscript is complete.

For more on how to write, or for the non-writer I recommend, The Book in a Box Method: The New Way to Quickly and Easily Write Your Book (Even If You're Not a Writer)

At this stage you will have to decide how you will want your book to look.  What size will it be? This will change the page count and book thickness. How will the pages be oriented? Landscape or portrait. This information is critical for the design of the book cover. 

In a separate document write your back cover copy.  What do you want the back cover to say? What are the important selling points of your back? What problems does it solve and how? The cover is what you book will first be judged by, so make it count. For more information on good book design I recommend,  Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book.

There are several options for cover design.  You can design it yourself, you can use pre-made templates that the publishing platform offers, or you can have it created for you.  I have tried, and do not recommend, the first two options.  I have had great success with using a semi-professional to design my covers.  I recommend, Fiverr ( for finding these designers.  Just search, 'book cover' and you will receive a long list of results. Look through their work samples and find a style that you like.  You can have a nice cover design for around $50. You will want the front, spine, and back cover.  You will want them delivered in .pdf and .jpeg files.  You will also want separate a separate file for each, front and back cover.

Note: You can also use Fiverr to find an editor that will review and correct your manuscript.

Will you want your final book to be digital only (e-book), print only, or both? This decision will be driven by how you choose to use the book and what your audience will accept. The best option usually is to make both available. There are several platforms for publishing in both formats. These platforms vary in cost (how much they take per digital sale, and how much they charge for printed copies). Research these to find what best meets your needs.  

Here are few sites to check:

Gumroad (digital products only)
Amazon - KDP (digital); CreateSpace (print)

Your book's content will need to be properly formatted so that it can fit within the page sizes that you have selected, so that it will be readable on digital devices (ereaders, kindle, ipad, etc.), and so that the table of contents will be clickable for navigation. If you are computer savvy you can do this. However, do not spend your time trying to figure this out (see how my first try ended up). I use Fiverr for formatting. Pricing is affordable and based on the number of pages.

We are now on the final stretch. Your manuscript is complete, your book cover has been designed, and you have selected a format for your book.  Now you have to finalize your decision on which publishing platform you are going with (see above options in 'Format'). Each platform offers step-by-step instructions for completing your book.  

For ease of use, sales, availability and pricing I recommend using Amazon. You will have to establish an account on Amazon KDP for your digital version, and an account on Amazon CreateSpace for the print version.  Simply upload the prompted files (cover, manuscript, etc.), insert the requested information, set your price and publish. Your innovation and idea is now published and available for all.  

The only thing left to do is share. Tell the world about your idea.  Show them what you have created.  Utilize your social media channels to spread the availability of your printed work.  Order print copies (CreateSpace makes this easy and affordable) to hand out and distribute. Teach a class or give a presentation on its content.  Tell what you know! We are only better as we work and build together.

If you need assistance or have any questions related to this process, I am available for contact at

You can get my book (published with this method) for FREE at,