Monday, December 3, 2018

Reader Survey 2018



I could really use your help, right now. In an effort to make this blog more relevant to your needs and interests I have created the 2018 Reader Survey

Would you please take a couple minutes and fill out the brief survey?  By doing so you will be helping yourself, by helping me create more interesting and relevant content.

Your input is important to me.  The survey is less than 12 questions, and should take less than 5 minutes. Also, there are no 'required' responses to hang you up.

For those of you who take the time to fill out the survey, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a package of fire prevention tools and resources. You must enter you e-mail at the end of the survey to be eligible for this.



Monday, November 26, 2018

Beginners [Unofficial] Guide to Using Target Solutions for Fire Inspections


Several years ago our department was seeking to transition from paper files and inspections to an all digital solution.  I presented several software options, but in the end, I was told that we already pay for Target Solutions, can we make that work for inspections?  I did not know the answer to that question, as I had assumed that Target Solutions was only a training software program, however, as I began to search through and experiment with its other features, I quickly realized that it was a good fire inspection solution.

The key to making this work for your department is in the proper utilization of the ‘Activities Builder’ feature of the program. Knowing how to use the ‘Activities Builder’ can provide a viable solution for digital, cloud-based fire inspection activities.  The below guide will walk you through how to set-up a custom inspection checklist that may fit your departments needs.


If you have not done so already, you will need to create a ‘category’ for your inspection activities. On the right side of the screen in the highlighted area labeled ‘Categories’, select ‘Add New’.  Insert category name, and select ‘submit’ to save.


  • Select ‘Create New Activity’  (green button in the top right hand corner of the screen).
    • Select ‘Category
    • Insert ‘Name’ and brief ‘Description’ of the form
    • Select or deselect desired ‘Options’.
      • Typically for inspection forms you will want to ‘Allow Self-Assign’ as this permits all users to select and complete the inspection form
      • You may also want to ‘Require validation upon completion’ this will allow an administrator to review the report and reject or request changes.
    • Select desired ‘Privacy’ options - these pertain to who can access and change the inspection form
    • Add ‘Tags’ as necessary (your Target Solutions representative can assist with this)
    • Certificate’ is not normally required for an inspection document - this is primarily for custom activity training classes.
    • Select ‘Save


The next screen that appears will be the start of your form. The title of the form (that was given to it in the step above) will be in the top title bar. The description will be in a text box below that. The next step in building your inspection form is to add various components. Components that may be used are located in the right sidebar. These can be added by simply clicking on the title and completing the information as prompted.  For inspection forms we will only need to utilize a few of these components. You will notice that each of these components will have a checkbox labeled ‘User response required’. If this is checked it will prevent the form from being submitted until that component has been completed. It is advisable to select this option for inspection activities, as this can serve as a reminder to the inspector of items that need to be addressed.

  • Select ‘Date Complete
    • Select desired options in the pop-up box, then click ‘Submit’
  • Select ‘Units Involved’ - This is a good selection to identify the units or individuals conducting the inspection. In the question box you could enter, ‘Personnel conducting inspection’.
  • Select ‘Location’ - this is where the property address or identification can be entered.
  • Select ‘Request File’ - this allows inspection pictures or other documentation to be uploaded and attached to this specific report.

Next we will need to add some ‘Free Form Components’. The ‘Question’ component will be utilized most frequently.

  • Select ‘Question’ - 
    • Enter a brief description or instruction on the item to be inspected
    • Select ‘User response required’ (recommended for most items), if desired
    • Select ‘Answer’ - there are five options, the most common three that you will use are described below:
      • Text - allows user to enter small amount of information, anything that can be typed from the keyboard.
      • Long text - the best option for items that may require a longer explanation, or narrative material. I usually end my forms with the long text box so the inspector can provide a full narrative of any issues or deficiencies.
      • Multiple choice - this allows for the more efficient information entry of a drop down selection box.  This is perfect for limited response items (such as, pass/fail, open/closed, etc.) or to create checklist items. To create a checklist of items, select the box labeled ‘Allow multiple selections’
    • Select ‘Submit’ to save
  • Repeat this process as necessary to account for all required inspection items.

The form auto-saves as it is being created. When you are done, you should click the eyeball icon (top right corner) to preview the form. Make changes as needed.

The great thing about using Target Solutions for fire inspections is that it is fully customizable, provides data output in a variety of outputs (.xml, .pdf, etc.), and since it is cloud-based, is instantly accessible from anywhere. Although, there are other software programs available specifically for fire inspections, for departments currently using Target Solutions for training, this can be an added value received from the program.


Monday, November 19, 2018

How to Control Risk [5 Techniques]


With the record breaking and devastating wildfires in California, private fire protection services are becoming more visible. These services are offered by insurers, such as AIG and Chubb, to add an extra layer of protection to their high value insured properties. Much of the media seeks to vilify the “rich” for engaging in this practice. However, as any of us would, we merely use the tools at our disposal to reduce our exposure to loss.

BusinessDictionary.com defines risk as, “A probability or threat of damage, injury, liability, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through preemptive action." This definition, as it applies to the insurance industry reads, “A situation where the probability of a variable (such as burning down of a building) is known but when a mode of occurrence or the actual value of the occurrence (whether the fire will occur at a particular property) is not.”

The most succinct definition of risk comes from NFPA 1250, “a measure of the probability and severity of adverse effects that result from an exposure to a hazard”.  NFPA 1250, Recommended Practice in Fire and Emergency Service Organization Risk Management, provides this definition of risk, and outlines risk managements plans and processes that should be implemented by fire departments.  Understanding that risk is an inherent part in our daily duties, there are five techniques that can be employed to manage or control this risk.
  1. Exposure Avoidance
  2. Loss Prevention
  3. Loss Reduction
  4. Segregation of Exposures
  5. Contractual Transfer
Exposure Avoidance. This is risk control by simply opting out, and steering completely clear, of a particularly high hazard activity, event, or location.

Loss Prevention. This is the use of methods and measures to reduce the probability of a loss from occurring.  These can include inspections, audits, or training programs.

Loss Reduction. Theses are measures used to reduce severity of loss, even if engaging in a high risk activity. A good example would be the use of PPE when entering a structure fire. This would also include post-accident/loss activities, procedures, and processes.

Segregation of Exposures. This could also be a loss reduction tactic. This is accomplished by breaking large units into smaller ones, and distributing equipment and resources, throughout a large area. This reduces the likelihood of a total loss if all items, personnel, resources were to be located in a single area.

Contractual Transfer. This is the use of a formal insurance policy. This is affected by the transfer of responsibility from one entity to another.

These five methods of risk management are defined and outlined in NFPA 1250.  The insurance industry, however, would add one additional method to the list - retention.

Retention. This is when an organization acknowledges that there is a risk, and prepares for the loss (financially and physically) themselves. They are self-insured, which simply means that they control all the money, instead of an outside or third-party “insurance company”.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Power Lines and the WUI

Photo from: LA Times
As fires continue to rage throughout California, investigations into the twelve fires that occurred earlier this year, and burned 245,000 acres, have been concluded. Investigators with Cal Fire have determined that these fires were caused by Pacific Gas & Electric Company power lines. High winds in the area caused trees and branches to fall onto the lines, and in at least one case a power pole failed and collapsed. PG&E currently has a vegetation control program in place with a budget of $400 million per year.

NFPA 1, Fire Code provides clear guidance on how to prevent fires from electrical lines. Chapter 17, Wildland Urban Interface outlines the following  requirements for vegetation clearance around electrical transmission and distribution lines, conductors, and their appurtenances.

  • 10 feet clearance is required around all poles or towers
  • At the time of trimming, the following minimum clearances should be provided based on the line voltage:

  • As the growth returns, it is permitted to grow to within the clearances shown in the table below. Once this minimum distance is reached vegetation must be trimmed back to the required minimum clearance.
                             
  • The AHJ has authority to adjust clearance requirements based on local needs or conditions, and vegetation type

Monday, November 5, 2018

NEC Hazardous Locations


Though many jurisdictions have electrical inspectors that enforce the provisions of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), there are provisions and requirements that overlap with the duties of the fire inspector. Some of these areas or occupancies include high hazard industrial facilities, paint rooms and spray booths, hazardous materials storage, and fuel handling processes and operations. These areas require that the fire inspector properly classifies the hazardous location in order to ensure proper installation of electrical wiring and components.


NFPA 70, Article 500 defines these hazardous classifications as follows, “Locations shall be classified depending on the properties of the flammable gas, flammable liquid–produced vapor, combustible liquid–produced vapors, combustible dusts, or fibers/flyings that could be present, and the likelihood that a flammable or combustible concentration or quantity is present. Each room, section, or area shall be considered individually in determining its classification.”  These are divided into classes and divisions.


Class I - locations in which flammable gases, or flammable or combustible liquid-produced vapors are or may be present in the air in quantities sufficient to produce explosive or ignitable mixtures.


Class II - locations that are hazardous because of the presence of combustible dust.


Class III - locations that are hazardous because of the presence of easily ignited fibers, or where combustible flyings are handled, manufactured, or used.


The charts below show the Class and Divisions categories.






*Group E. Atmospheres containing combustible metal dusts, including aluminum, magnesium, and their commercial alloys, or other combustible dusts whose particle size, abrasiveness, and conductivity present similar hazards in the use of electrical equipment.




In some instances a “zone” designation may be used as an alternative to the division classification system shown here. These zones will either be Zone 0, Zone 1, Zone 2, or Zone 20, Zone 21, Zone 22. These are defined in NFPA 70, Article 505 and Article 506.


Article 505 defines Class 1, Zone 0, Zone 1, and Zone 2 as “locations where fire or explosion hazards may exist due to flammable gases, vapors, or liquids.” Article 506 defines Zone 20, Zone 21, and Zone 22 as “locations where fire and explosion hazards may exist due to combustible dusts or ignitable fibers/flyings.”


As a tool for the field inspector or plans examiner we have created a single page reference that provides quick access to the classification and division definitions.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Kent's 9 Rules of Analysis [for Fire Protection Professionals]


In the 1940's, Sherman Kent, a Yale professor and father of American analytical intelligence, authored a book entitled, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy. In his book, written for intelligence analysts, Kent outlines nine rules of analysis. Though written for the intelligence community, these nine rules of analysis can be applied to what fire protection professionals do everyday.

As fire protection professionals we are constantly faced with a barrage of data and information.  This data and information must be analyzed and evaluated to specify and approve life safety features, design fire protection systems, promote and develop prevention programs, and more. How can we ensure that the right information is being analyzed and the best options are being presented? To be great at the art and craft of analyzing and presenting information, we should learn and apply Kent's nine rules of analysis.

9 Rules of Analysis


1. Focus on Policymaker Concerns. Who are the policymakers in your community? What is their primary concern? The "policymaker" can be the client, the commissioners, or other group or individual that will be making the final approval decision and releasing needed funds. Issues and requests will be better received if presented in a manner and time-frame that suits the affected policymaker.  
"Accommodate clients by producing assessments timed to their decision cycle and focused on their learning curve".

2. Avoidance of a Personal Policy Agenda. What is best for the policymaker (client,group, community)? This may directly conflict with the needs of the individual, the department, or the company. 
"Identify and evaluate alternatives...allow the client to recommend and choose."

3. Intellectual Rigor. Information and solutions should be "rigorously evaluated for validity".  
"Judgments are based on evaluated and organized data, substantive expertise, and sound, open-minded postulation of assumptions."

4. Conscious Effort to Avoid Analytic Biases. Review the data, information, and problem with an open mind. Don't get tunnel vision that tries to fit the problem into your 
"Resist the tendency to see what they expect to see in the 

5. Willingness to Consider Other Judgments. Argument and dissent should be encouraged, as long as, the dissenter's judgement is made clear and based on alternative assumptions or different interpretations of information. A good example of this is the model code development process. A group of individuals that gather, share their "judgments", to create the most useful and relevant code or standard. 


6. Systematic Use of Outside Experts. The more we know about new technology, new processes, new structure or building methods, the better we can serve those "policymakers" and our communities. This can be largely accomplished by building the right relationships with experts in other fields, that can provide and interpret the new information. 
"Take account of a wide range of outside opinions...cultivate working relations with outsiders..."

7. Collective Responsibility for Judgment. Collective responsibility is the idea that individuals who are part of of a group (the "collective") are responsible for the groups actions and occurrences by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without being actively engaged in the decision. Being aware of this, fire protection professionals should always speak up, represent, and defend their analysis, to their clients best interest.
"Allow time for coordination and accommodate collective responsibility."

8. Effective Communication of Policy-Support Information and Judgments. A good method to use is The Pyramid Principle developed by Barabara Minto. This is a method of corporate communication that starts with the solution then presents recommendations, and supporting ideas.
"Shorter is usually better, with key points stated quickly... If the tradeoff is between adding length and allowing brevity to cause confusion, provide a carefully measured dose of detail."

9. Candid Admission of Mistakes. If you have made a mistake readily admit it and present solutions for corrections. Master your subject and trade-craft, study mistakes, learn by conducting a critical review of failures.
 "Admission and explanation of analytic errors are likely to increase credibility with policy clients."

These decades-old postulates can serve as a refreshing blueprint for the development, presentation, and analysis of information and solutions to problems. Define the "policymakers" primary concern. Seek intellectual rigor, and strive to never bring personal agenda or bias to the task. Seek advice and test other’s hypotheses. Take responsibility and credit as a group. Hold yourself to the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in your field.  Admit mistakes and be quick to respond to, and correct, them. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Plan Review Survey [2 Questions]


I am in the process of developing a new resource that will contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of fire plans review.  I would greatly appreciate your assistance in this. If you would like to contribute, please answer the (2) question survey below.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Top 5 Fire Prevention Articles on Medium


Are you reading Medium? Medium is a publishing platform "taps into the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers to bring you the smartest takes on topics that matter. So whatever your interest, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives."

Here are my top viewed fire protection articles published on Medium:

  1. Guide to NFPA 13 Occupancy and Commodity Classifications
  2. Five Lessons from, "A Message to Garcia"
  3. NFPA, IBC, ISO Building Classifications
  4. NFPA 1403 - Can You Handle It?
  5. How to Fail NFPA 285

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Common Fire Sprinkler Design Issues [Illustrated]

Illustrated Solutions for Common Sprinkler Design Issues


Answers to the most common questions and concerns for fire sprinkler system design.

This book is not intended to be a comprehensive manual on fire sprinkler design, rather it is a brief guide that serves to answer the most common questions and concerns regarding the design of fire sprinkler systems. This book provides the fire plan reviewer or inspector with easily accessible answers to the most important questions for approval and acceptance of a fire sprinkler system.

  • Does the structure require a fire sprinkler system?
  • Is the occupancy and commodity properly classified?
  • Are plastics properly identified and protected?
  • Does the rack storage need in-rack sprinklers?
  • Will there be any obstructions to the discharge pattern?
  • How are the cloud ceilings protected?
  • What is the "small room" rule?


This book is written by Aaron Johnson from, TheCodeCoach.com and illustrated by Joseph Meyer from, MeyerFire.com.

An illustrated guide for fire sprinkler design. Create better educated fire protection professional for the promotion of fire protection and life safety.





Monday, October 15, 2018

Fire Sprinkler Design: An Illustrated Guide for AHJ's [BOOK]


After twelve years in the fire service and ten years of writing on fire prevention and fire protection topics, there are a handful of sprinkler design elements and questions that continue to show up. This book is not intended to be an exhaustive or fully comprehensive manual on fire sprinkler design, rather it is a brief guide that serves to answer the most commonly seen questions regarding fire sprinkler systems and design. Often times, reading the codes and standards language as written can be somewhat confusing. Our attempt in this manual is to provide clarity on a selection of these complicated design rules. Always, the main goal being a better educated fire protection professional to promote fire protection and life safety.


It has been my great privilege to partner with the premiere fire protection engineering author and illustrator, Joseph Meyer. His drawing and illustration talents bring a fresh dimension to the fire protection system design principles we want to share in these pages. Through the combined efforts of our written content and Joe’s illustrations we hope to bring a better understanding to the art of fire protection and sprinkler design.

Learn the most critical design elements related to:
  • Documentation and installation requirements
  • Obstructions, discharge patterns, and construction features
  • Storage protection, occupancies, and commodity classifications
  • Small spaces and the “small room” rule


An illustrated guide for fire sprinkler design. Create better educated fire protection professional for the promotion of fire protection and life safety.








Monday, October 8, 2018

Top 5 Presentations for Fire Prevention Organizations - #FirePreventionWeek



This week the National Fire Protection Association will sponsor the annual Fire Prevention Week. The theme this year is "Look. Listen. Learn. - Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere."

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

In observance of this Fire Prevention Week, TheCodeCoach.com presents the top 5 most viewed educational presentations (from Slideshare).  Feel free to share and use these resources with your departments and organizations.

#1:




#2:





#3:






#4:




#5: 







Monday, October 1, 2018

Fire Inspector Qualifications - A Path for Professional Development

Photo credit: Los Angeles Fire Department
It has been almost thirteen years since I walked into the fire academy to get the education I needed for a career. My intention was to become a “firefighter” however, it was in the academy, that I learned of the various pathways that title and role could follow. Of the nearly 400 hours of training that is required to become a certified firefighter in the state of Florida, about four of those hours are dedicated to fire prevention. It was with this brief introduction that I knew the path my career would follow.


A quick search on professional development in the fire service will return a plethora of information on career guidance and advancement. The majority of this information will be based on the operations and suppression side of the industry.  There is a disproportionately small amount of information on career development for the fire prevention, inspections, and plan review divisions of this field.


With the many different certification bodies, educational programs, and course options, it can be difficult to create a clear path for success in the field.  However, with some simple guidance and a bit of persistence success can be had. The starting point is within yourself. You must determine the goals and objectives that you have for your career. Do you want to work for a municipal fire department or an industrial type of department? Do you want to work in public service, or the private sector? Are you excited about a career in your “hometown” department, or are you looking forward to the travel and “adventure” that overseas contract work can provide? What part of fire prevention do you want to focus on - inspections, plan review, public education, or investigations? Where are you now and where do you want to be, and what is the ultimate goal of your career? Do you desire to move up the career ladder - inspector, supervisor, chief? The answers to these questions will help to shed light on your career pathway.


After you have an idea of what direction you want your fire inspection and plan review career to follow, you will need to obtain the necessary certifications.  Typically, you will find that these requirements follow these four primary certification paths. These are State specific requirements, IFSAC/ProBoard, International Code Council (ICC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Always start with your state’s requirements. Some states defer the certification process to these other listed certifying bodies, and others have their own programs for certification.  Beyond the state requirements, the chart below, shows the certification levels that are available, in the order they should be obtained within.



For certifications related to advancement, there are many options. There is currently no set standard for obtaining the top rank within fire prevention (such as Fire Marshal or Chief of Prevention). The state of Florida and the state of California are two states that provide a formal certification for these positions. Their programs can serve as a model for other states, departments, and organizations to follow.


Model Programs

Florida

California

The chart below is based on the Department of Defense (DoD) requirements for fire service positions. This can serve as a general guide to professional development and advancement. In the least, this provides a framework to build your career on, it can be modified to meet your particular state or departments requirements.





Keep in mind that the career path presented here is showing only the path of fire inspector and plans examiner, to Chief Officer.  There are additional certification requirements for those who desire to take the fire prevention path of public educator, fire investigator, or community risk reduction specialist. Though there is overlap in the certification process, each of these have their own path to the top positions in this field.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Benefits of Fire Door Commissioning

This guest post is provided by our #FireDoorSafetyWeek partner, Aegis Fire Barrier Consultants, and is written by, Justin B. Biller, P.E., CHFM, CLSS-HC, CFPS | AEGIS Technical Director.



Doors are a major concern for building owners and facility managers. Ongoing maintenance of doors and architectural hardware represents a significant cost margin to building owners. Nowhere, is this more true than for healthcare facility and engineering managers where building footprints are vast - often in excess of 1 million square feet or more. Maintaining all doors in large facilities is always a challenge, but of even higher concern for healthcare engineers is fire and smoke barrier management, wherein door maintenance is a critical component. This point is not lost on a highly accomplished architect, Amanda Adams AIA, who has spent much of her career in significant restoration projects – she has noted first- hand how important fire and smoke door assemblies become in sustaining code compliance, providing a safe and healthy environment for building occupants, and in achieving her overall architectural vision for a space. Ms. Adams highlighted this point to us at AEGIS, wherein she states,


“the foremost requirement of architecture is shelter. This ranks above aesthetics and creative efforts. All building occupants - users, visitors, tenants, residents - expect a building to provide shelter from the elements. At times, emergency situations arise that cause a building to offer shelter or protection from internal threats (often this is a fire threat)....whether that be protect in place or provide a safe exiting scenario. Passive life safety systems hold top priority in life safety; active systems increase safety and provide additional time. Properly functioning fire doors are a critical basic component to the passive system. A door must fit properly in its frame. Closing hardware must work properly. Positive latching hardware completes the barrier.”

The added strain on fiscal responsibilities for healthcare facilities to “do more with less” heightens the need to challenge installers to do the work right the first time – it is often noted on annual inspections of fire and smoke door assemblies that the ongoing challenges to maintenance stem from improper installation (i.e., improperly plumbed door frame and jamb, incorrect or insufficient hardware, incorrect door or glazing type, etc.).
According to the Door Security and Safety Foundation, although doors only represent 2% of a typical construction budget, on average more than 30% of punch-list items are door-related. It is, therefore, the opinion of many within the industry that it is in the best interest of building owners to verify fire and smoke doors are installed properly from the outset – a determination that committee members of NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives also found imperative. In its most current published editions (2016 and 2019), NFPA 80 prescribes in section 5.2.1 that “upon completion of the installation” these assemblies are to be inspected and tested.
Here at AEGIS we believe as well that a comprehensive survey of door installation during construction benefits the building designer and can dramatically decrease ongoing maintenance costs associated with fire and smoke door assemblies. We are here to help you implement this on your next project and can work with your design team through specification and installation through final punch-out.
What is Fire System Commissioning (FCx)
NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems delineates that the commissioning and integrated testing process would include both, active and passive components of fire protection systems. Commissioning is a procedure of verifying a quality process from design inception through development and construction and extends through the life of the building by ongoing maintenance and operations. Passive fire protection systems, including fire and smoke rated door assemblies, serve as a primary component for most building life safety systems with varying degrees of complexity (based on factors such as occupancy and building geometry). Fire and smoke rated doors are often integrated with fire and life safety systems such as fire alarm, sprinkler, smoke control, and emergency electrical systems, thus it becomes imperative for the fire commissioning team (FCxT) to include qualified fire door commissioning agents (Cx) to be employed. Along with NFPA 3, NFPA also developed NFPA 4, Standard for the Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing to work in concert with the recommended practices of commissioning, outlined in NFPA 3, to accomplish this task.
AEGIS with its partnerships with engineers and architects, has the practical experience and expertise to support your commissioning team with passive fire protection system components.