Airport Fire: a Change Initiative Essay

In the thirty-six year history of DFW Airport department of Public Safety (DPS) the organizations has grown into a professional public safety organization that rivals that of many moderately sized communities in the United States. Starting as a true DPS covering all three disciplines; Police, Fire, and EMS, and growing into an organization of dedicated Firefighters and Police officers covering their assigned duties in Fire Services and Police Services.

Fire Services alone now maintains approximately 240 firefighters and officers operating out of six fire stations, and consists of four Divisions; Fire Operations, EMS Operations, Bureau of Fire Prevention and Planning, and Career Development and Training. To continue to grow effectively and sustain professional fire services including emergency fire response the organization must develop and institute a Driver Engineer’s Program.

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This change initiative would be considered an organizational culture shift essential to sustaining efficient and effective emergency fire response aligning with one of the Airport’s strategic plans for operational excellence. The existing Field Training Officer (FTO) Program can serve as model for this change as it is somewhat similar in nature and has worked effectively for years. The ADKAR model for change is used as it allows for teams to focus on a specific activity for specific results (Hargovind, 2007).

Introducing a change initiative adding the rank of Driver Engineer will be no easy task. It is critical that all elements of the change model are carefully organized and communicated throughout the process to all stakeholders. Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement (ADKAR) aids in the creation of focus with a results-oriented approach toward the production of a successful end (Hargovind, 2007). This change model fits well within the organizational culture of the Department of Public Safety. Awareness Currently, it is known based on research and data that fire apparatus ccidents at DFW Airport have increased and the cause can be tied to the fact that all 200 firefighters are trained to drive and operate the apparatus in lieu of a select few trained in this specialty meeting the needs of the department. Positions for driver-engineer could be filled using the Department’s established promotional process. This position will build on the previous position of Firefighter and will also require State and local certifications. The new change can include elements of the existing FTO program for Fire Operations currently established sustaining a continuing education training program.

Implementation and establishment of this program will align with the Airport’s vision and support the Department’s mission to lead the way allowing for growth while maintaining a strong training, education, and development program for our firefighters and officers. In 2001 the face of DPS changed the most it had changed in its thirty-six year history. The two functional disciplines were divided into two Public Safety Services; Police Services and Fire Services. Police Services would be responsible for all of the Law Enforcement duties, and Fire Services would be responsible for all Fire and EMS duties.

This was a huge step forward in the development of a true fire service for the Airport. Shortly after the split, the Fire Service implemented the 24/48 shift schedule. In doing so, staffing on all structural fire apparatus increased to three firefighters and an officer. The Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) apparatus continued to operate with one firefighter. The Department opened Station 6 on September 11, 2003 and hired almost 40 firefighters bringing the Fire Services staffing to approximately 240 firefighters and officers.

Shortly after this drastic change in operations the Department experienced a string of minor apparatus accidents involving mostly structural apparatus. The Department had suffered some accidents in its history including three ARFF truck rollovers in the 1990’s resulting in the termination of the Airport’s vehicle insurance policy. One accident was a very severe high speed rollover during a certification time trial resulting in back and neck injuries to the apparatus driver and a trainee who was riding with him. For these reasons, the Driver Engineer Program can add value based on cost and life safety.

Desire It is the leaders of the organization that must move this change forward. Identification of the current status, sharing of information, and a road map toward the end is necessary to reduce resistance from the firefighters. This phase of the change is important in that the personalities and the history must be shared throughout for an understanding of why the change must take place (Grand Canyon, 2013). The Command Staff of Fire Services along with the Director of Public Safety have recognized these issues and have authorized the study of an Engineer’s program.

This rank will be a promotable position between the ranks of Firefighter and Captain. Research and evaluation of this program is currently underway. Fire Services plans on presenting this program to the Human Resources Department for approval and implementation in the FY 2011 budget. The majority of these accidents involved hitting gates, poles, and cars while driving, as well as a few backing accidents. As a result, the Field Training Officer Program was revamped and implemented into the Fire Services. Field Training Officer’s or FTO’s would be responsible for the initial training of all firefighters assigned to Fire/Rescue Operations.

This training would include airport familiarization, airfield familiarization, aircraft recognition, and apparatus specifications and operations, along with hydraulics and pump operations for the structural apparatus. The Department’s Standard Operating Procedures and Airport Policies and Procedures should be included in the training. The apparatus training could be conducted using Apparatus Manuals that were developed by the FTO Program. Current training of all firefighters to drive apparatus increases apparatus wear.

ARFF apparatus need tire replacement almost every other month at approximately $1,500. 00 a tire, structural apparatus almost every three months. Preventative maintenance costs have increased as a result of increased fluid changes and materials cost, along with fuel usage. Mileage on structural apparatus is in the 15,000-20,000 mile a year range. ARFF apparatus that were purchased from 2004 to 2007 have upwards of 45,000 miles on them. These costs will continue to increase along with the increased down time of frontline apparatus due to maintenance. This results in a decrease in operational readiness.

Establishing a rank of Driver Engineer will add promotional opportunity and pay increases thus boosting moral for those who desire to become Driver Engineers. Other firefighters can continue to focus on becoming competent and confident firefighters. Without a sound plan though, resistance to the change could surface. Egan, (2004) addresses change and resistance by stating “the natural human response to change is resistance”. It is the leaders of the organization who must face this daily with optimism communicating with consistency and motivation.

Knowledge. The current FTO Program, while very effective, is not an efficient way to train our future Engineer’s. This is primarily due to the fact of the eighteen month training plan. The program also does not provide for a Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP), Driver/Operator Certification nor does it fully meet NFPA 1002, Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications. A better system of training must be developed for firefighters who promote to the position of Engineer. This training program should also be recognized by the TCFP and be completed in a much shorter amount of time.

The current FTO Program has proved to be very effective in delivering professional training to all of our firefighters. The program is very time intensive requiring four hours or more per day of training to include driving and operations. Trainees are required to get a structural apparatus and an ARFF apparatus certification; and can be in the FTO program for up to eighteen months or more. The FTO training is in addition to other required training, company inspections, and any other duties as assigned and emergency response.

However, as a result of this training apparatus accidents have shown a marked decrease, keeping in mind that no program will be able to eliminate all accidents. Ability The Department’s Command Staff has the ability and authority to develop a program that provides the Department with professional drivers for ARFF, Structural, and Specialized apparatus. In doing so, the program must be time managed and efficient; and must meet National and State standards. These standards identify the minimum job performance requirements for career and volunteer fire fighters and Fire Brigade members who drive and operate fire apparatus.

This is also the recommended consensus across the country for apparatus operators. Reserve apparatus and other resources are available to fire services to accomplish the change. Funding will need to established, however there tends to be support from Executive Staff and Risk Management as it will reduce accidents and lower insurance costs. Reinforcement The Texas Commission on Fire Protection Driver/Operator Pumper Certification; located in Chapter 7 of the TCFP Certification Curriculum Manual.

This certification meets the minimum requirements set forth in NFPA 1002 and is the state recognized driver/operator standard. In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration’s; Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 139 (14 CFR Part 139) requirements. These regulations govern the operations of an aerodrome; Advisory Circular 150/5210-20 covers ground vehicle operations on Airports in particular (FAA, 2013). These regulations are mandatory to maintain an Airport certification for an Airport serving air carrier aircraft.

Furthermore, in discussions with the Departments Assistant Chiefs, they say that the development of the program is essential for the continuing growth of the Department. The Department is currently experiencing a retirement phase, as well as forecasting significant growth in the next five to ten years. The Assistant Chiefs and the Fire Chief recommend that the Airport pursue this program in an effort to reduce accidents, improve overall safety, reduce operational costs, and improve operational readiness and customer service delivery.

This can be accomplished through careful planning and utilization of a sound change model such as ADKAR. A continued scanning of other departments and remaining abreast of new strategies and quality programs will increase the chance of success. It is a multi-step process to establish and sustain a change initiative. Engaging those who are impacted early on will maintain a momentum forward thus meeting the goal of the initiative. This does not come without focus and communication among all (Kotter, 1996).


Egan, R. W. (2004). Change and resistance, Help for the practitioner of change, Retrieved from ( FAA, (2013). FAR 139 requirements; fire apparatus, Advisory Circular, Federal Aviation Administration. Grand Canyon, (2013). Lecture 5, Grand Canyon University.

Hargovind, A. (2007). Organizational change models: a comparison, Retrieved from

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Successful change and the force that drives it. The Canadian Manager, 21(3), 20-24. Retrieved from