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. 

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.

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

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, and illustrated by Joseph Meyer from,

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

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.

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, presents the top 5 most viewed educational presentations (from Slideshare).  Feel free to share and use these resources with your departments and organizations.






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



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.