The Art of ARFF (part 4) - Tactical Dispositions, Energy, and Strong Points

"He wins battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated...Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won." -Sun Tzu

I do not fully subscribe to the age-old idea that "there is always somebody better" out there. Somebody has to be the best.  The best talent. The most knowledgeable. The top performer.

To win battles you have to make no mistakes. The way to make no mistakes is to be the best at what you do. There is a plethora of personal development resources that provide guidance on being the best.  A synthesis of this information has shown that the top performers in any industry minimally possess four characteristics.

Focus. Top performers are laser focused on their goal of becoming the best. They partake only in the activities that will support and contribute to their goals.  This often means having to say, "no", to other opportunities (even seemingly good ones).

Passion. Top performers are passionate about what they are doing. Their passion for the field, craft, or industry is what drives them to be the best.  Passion is what makes a vocation and career more than just a job. Passion is what enables top performers to put in the longer hours, and make the bigger investments into their development and the enhancement of their industries.

Work Ethic. Top performers have a strong work ethic.  Those with less natural knowledge, skills, or abilities, can quickly become a top performer by simply working harder than everyone else. Top performers are the best in their field because they are willing to do the hard work.

Giving. Top performers are givers.  They routinely give to those around them, and to their industries at large. They freely share of their knowledge and resources.  They continuously contribute to the betterment of all around them. They know that by helping others achieve, and become their best, they will achieve their goals as well.

No matter what your aspirations in the ARFF industry may be, these four characteristics can be applied to ensure that you are the best in your field, and mistakes are not made when it matters most. 

For example, if you are one of those individuals that loves being a ARFF apparatus operator, then you should focus on being the best at that skill. Take courses and classes, read, be in the company of others who are passionate about ARFF operations.  You should drive, operate, study, and know the vehicle more than everyone else. Share your knowledge, experiences, and opportunities with those around you.  Teach the next generation of ARFF operator everything that you know, so they are prepared to take the wheel.  Transfer your passion to someone else! 

"The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy...Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height." -Sun Tzu

The wise warrior understands that victory cannot be obtained by only one person or type of personality.  Victory can come only through the combined energy and talents of the whole team. If more responsibility is placed on one person that all the others, that individual will quickly tire and 'burn-out'.  His effectiveness will become severely diminished.  Likewise, if the wrong responsibility is assigned to an unsuited team member, the same results will occur. 

Victory comes when the company officer knows his personnel.  He knows their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, experiences, limits, and personal factors.  By intimately knowing all personnel, the proper tasks and work loads can be assigned. This utilization of "combined energy" will lead to victory.  A good tool to utilize for this is a profile assessment such as the DISC profile or others.

Tu Mu, a Sun Tzu commentator, says, "He first of all considers the power of his army in the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into account, and uses each man according to his capabilities. He does not demand perfection from the untalented."  

Notice how he states that perfection cannot be demanded from the untalented.  The inverse of this would be that perfection is to be expected from the talented, the top performers.

"Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient." -Sun Tzu

Special operations forces utilizes a peer review assessment tool.  This tool is an evaluation of by personnel of their peers.  With this tool each individuals contributions and skill level can be seen.  Areas for improvement can be customized for each individual as their part pertains to the team.

Evaluate your team on a regular basis.  An evaluation can be used to understand the level that your personnel are at, where their strengths lie, and what deficiencies need to be worked on. If you find that certain fire or medical skills are lacking you can train on those.  If specific aircraft or facility familiarity is missing, then you can arrange for hands-on or walk-throughs to improve these areas.  Any area of deficiency (knowledge, skills, or abilities) is the area where failure should be expected. Ensuring that there are no deficient areas can make your success sure.

Fire Pumps for Aviation Facilities

Aviation facilities are unique structures, with unique fire protection requirements.  Most often, large aircraft hangars will require fire pumps to provide the required pressures.  NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars provides the guidance and requirements for fire pumps in aircraft hangars.

  • All pump installations are to meet the requirements of NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection.
  • A minimum of 2 fire pumps is required.
  • Pumps are required to auto-start.  This can be via pressure drop, or signal from detection control panel.
  • If the pressure drop method for pump starts is used, a jockey pump is required to be installed.
  • Fire pumps must be stopped manually. They cannot be set to 'auto-stop'.
  • An audible 'pump running' alarm is required.  This alarm is to be transmitted to a constantly attended location.

Related posts

Fire Prevention Organization [PODCAST]

recent survey has shown that the biggest challenges faced by fire prevention organizations is budget and personnel retention. More specifically, the lack of money to hire, train, and retain personnel needed to carry out fire prevention functions.  NFPA 1730, provides a 5 step system to determine minimum staffing levels needed for these functions and fire prevention services.

Click to listen -->  Fire Prevention Organization and Staffing by The Code Coach |


How to Prove You Need More Money and More People

A recent survey has shown that the biggest challenges faced by fire prevention organizations is budget and personnel retention.  Money and people.  More specifically, it would seem, lack of money to hire, train, and retain personnel needed to carry out fire prevention functions.

NFPA 1730, Standard on Organization and Deployment of Fire Prevention Inspection and Code Enforcement, Plan Review, Investigation, and Public Education Operations, is a new standard that provides a method to determine, and justify, personnel and staffing needs.  The stated purpose of the standard is "to specify the minimum criteria addressing the effectiveness and efficiency of the fire prevention organization". This standard outlines basic fire prevention functions, and how to determine services that should be offered.  Annex C, of NFPA 1730, provides a 5 step system to determine minimum staffing levels needed for these functions and fire prevention services.

Step 1: Outline all services provided by the fire prevention organization.

Start the staff needs analysis process by listing all services provided, functions performed, and activities conducted.  This should be an exhaustive and comprehensive list.  The list should include all activities, no matter how many times they are performed or how much time they take.

Step 2:  Determine time demand for each task.

Determine the amount of time it takes to complete each task, function, and activity listed in step 1, above.  This should include all components such as, preparation time, scheduling, research, conducting the activity, report writing, and any follow-up.  You will need to determine the time each of these take on an annual basis.  

Step 3:  Determine total personnel hours required to complete activities.

Add up the total amount of hours required for all tasks and activities.  If your organization has many different tasks, programs, and functions, these can be divided into groups to simplify, or further analyze the total hours required.

Step 4:  Calculate personnel total availability.

This formula will determine the amount of hours that each employee will have available.  This must account for holidays, vacation, sick, training, and other times that the employee will not be available for work.

Step 5:  Calculate total number of personnel  required to perform tasks.

To determine the total amount of full-time employees that are needed to perform all fire prevention functions and tasks, divide the total task hours by the total available work hours.

Total task hours / total available work hours = total personnel required

Fractional values can be rounded up or down.  If the number is rounded up it can provide reserve capacity and provide some ‘cushion’.  If the number is rounded down, this could result in overtime or increased workload for personnel.

For an example of what this completed process and spreadsheet looks like, click on the image below:

Click for Staffing Spreadsheet Example

Special Report: Fire Prevention and ARFF

How big is your department? How much area does your airport cover? Who handles fire prevention? What are fire prevention organizations responsibilities? What does your rank structure look like? 

Why do we ask these questions? We ask them because we seek improved production and efficiency.  We inquire about department size, personnel, and tasks to see how much is getting done with how many people.  We are looking for “gold”.  We are looking for the definitive answer, program, system, or individual, that will solve all our biggest problems.  We ask because we are looking for a baseline.  We are looking for the something that we can compare our operations and tasks too.

We have created a special report to put these answers at your fingertips! We recently conducted a short survey to evaluate three functional areas within fire prevention organizations in ARFF departments. This survey questions addressed staffing, facilities, and tasks. This report provides an analysis of the responses received from departments around the world. 

Part I of this report provides a snapshot of fire prevention organization within ARFF departments.  In this section of the report, the survey questions and responses are displayed.  Part II of the report provides guidance, direction, and a solution to the biggest challenges departments are currently facing, budget and personnel retention.