Fire Protection for Control Towers

An air traffic control tower is defined as, “an enclosed structure or building with elevated levels for support of equipment or occupied for observation, control, operation, signaling, or similar limited use”.  NFPA 101, Chapter 11 provides the fire protection and life safety requirements for these structures.

This slideshare presentation provides an overview of the listed requirements.

Fire Codes for Air Traffic Control Towers from Aaron Johnson

This Slideshare is a small part of the 24-hour program,  Advanced Inspections for Aviation Facilities. A complete course syllabus and prospectus can be downloaded from, .

For scheduling or other inquiries contact, Aaron Johnson at .

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Risk Analysis for Emergency Communications

Emergency communication systems indicate the existence of an emergency and communicate the information necessary to protect life.  NFPA 72,  National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code , describes six different types of systems: one-way emergency communication system, distributed recipient mass notification system (DRMNS), in-building fire emergency voice/alarm communications system, in-building mass notification system, wide-area mass notification system, and two-way emergency communications system. Each of these types of systems are suitable for various structures, locations, and situations. Determining the right system for the right structure and application is a performance-based task that must rely on a risk analysis.

A thorough risk analysis will determine if a system is needed and what type should be installed. There are nine elements that a  risk analysis for mass notification systems must include.

Emergency response plan. Is there a written emergency response plan in place? If a current plan exists then the mass notification system can be designed to address the hazards presented in the plan.  If no plan exists, the a full risk analysis must be conducted.  Integrating and installing mass notification systems will require the development of an emergency response plan.  These plans are to be developed in accordance with NFPA 1600 and NFPA 1620.

Occupant load. The risk analysis should consider the amount of people that occupy a given structure or space.  This analysis must be based on the maximum occupant load of the entire structure, using the occupant load factor shown in Table of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.

Occupancy type. What is the occupancy classification of the structure?  What activities take place within the building?

Perceived peril. What factors would contribute to the harm of a building’s occupants?  What dangers or hazards exist? What are some obstacles to protection of life?

Building characteristics. What is the buildings function or purpose? What is the structures layout? What are normal operation conditions within the property? What systems and safety precautions are in place, or built into the structure?  Using a tool like the, S.C.O.P.E. worksheet can aid in this process.

Occupant behavior. How will certain design elements affect occupant behavior? Based on the building characteristics how will occupants behave in an emergency situation?  Are there systems and structures in place that would be detrimental to occupants based on their planned behavior?

Hazard development. At what rate will an event occur? Will storage, systems, or processes contribute to an increased rate of development? What could escalate an emergency incident?  Are there any systems in place to mitigate or decrease the rate of hazard development?

All-hazards approach.  All practical potential events should be considered in the risk analysis.  General categories of potential events include, natural hazards, human caused, and technological events.

Extent of notification. How many people and in what locations will need to be notified?  What will they need to be notified of? How extensive will the notification need to be? This will be different for each event and the risk analysis should outline the notification extent for each potential event identified.

Fire and emergency events require quick and decisive decision-making. Any emergency communication system should be designed to activate quickly and provide the most appropriate, clear, and concise information to the occupants.

Solve Fire Protection Problems Like a Management Consultant (Part 1)

One of my favorite shows is House of Lies.  Based on the book by the same title, this comedy series showcases the behind-the-scenes activities of management consulting. Intrigued by this “world” I spent the better part of a year studying the management consulting industry.

McKinsey & Company is the most widely regarded and renowned management consulting firms.  Their methods of analyzing problems, creating effective solutions, and managing the process is what distinguishes them as “the most influential private organization in America”. These methods are largely responsible for setting “the course of American capitalism”.  The systems and processes that McKinsey uses for problem solving in the manufacturing, energy, transportation, healthcare, communications, and pharmaceutical industries, can also be applied, with great effectiveness, to the fire protection industry.

Over the next few months I will be publishing a 6-part blog post series on how to practically implement and utilize McKinsey & Company systems and processes to solve fire protection problems. This series is collectively titled, McKinsey Method for Fire Protection Solutions. As you read keep in mind that these systems and processes can be applied to  fire protection organization and leadership, and to physical fire protection systems and components.

The benchmark McKinsey problem-solving process contains three components:

  1. Analyze the problem
  2. Present the solution
  3. Manage the process

Analyze the problem. To find a solution, the problem or need must first be identified. In organizations this problem may be related to competition, organizational structure, financial efficiency, or operations management.  In regard to fire protection, the problem could be related to code compliance, system selection and functionality, or performance-based design.  After the problem has been identified and clearly defined, a solution can be created. McKinsey utilizes a “fact-based, hypothesis-driven” 4-step process (to be discussed in a future post) to solve any problem: frame the problem, design the analysis, gather the data, interpret the results.

Present the solution. Even more challenging than creating a problem solutions, is communicating that solution and having it accepted for implementation.  Effectively presenting a solution is a two-pronged approach, structure and buy-in.  The solution presentation has to be structured in such a way that it can be communicated clearly and concisely.  The problem solution must be presented so that it is understood, and generates buy-in from necessary stakeholders and decision makers. Communication is key!

Manage the process.  Somebody has to do the actual work of implementing the solution. This is where the skills of project management, administration, and leadership come together. The individual, or team, responsible for solution implementation, must possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA's) to manage the project through to completion.  This individual must also be able to maintain the budgets, paperwork, and other documentation required for the successful administration of the project. The individual responsible for implementing the solution must be able to lead people.  This person will be responsible for leading the team that is working on this project, and for working with the client or stakeholders to see it to completion.

Resources and references:

NFPA 407 Aviation Fueling Checklist

NFPA 407 is the Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing. The standard outlines general requirements for all aviation fueling operations and four individual fuel applications.  

General requirements (Chapter 4). These apply to all fueling operations.  Outlined in this section is general safety guidelines, fueling equipment requirements and specifications, and fueling operations requirements.

Aviation fueling facilites (Chapter 5). This section addresses requirements for fuel tanks, installation plan review requirements, system components, and acceptance testing criteria.  In addition to the requirements listed in this section, fuel tanks must also be installed per the requirements of NFPA 30.

Airport fueling vehicles (Chapter 6).  Fuel vehicle manufacturer requirements are outlined in this section. Marking, vehicle operation, and general safety requirements are also stated in this section.

Rooftop heliports (Chapter 7).  With a few exceptions, this section largely refers the reader to NFPA 418, Standard for Heliports.

Self-service aircraft fueling (Chapter 8). Provides a short list of requirements for the protection of the user.  These include location of emergency fuel shut-off switches, fire protection, informational signage, access control, and fire protection.

For fire inspectors tasked with conducting periodic inspections of these facilities, the minimum requirements can be difficult to pull from the standard.  The link below will take you to an NFPA 407 inspection checklist that can be used for guidance during an inspection.

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