THE EFFECT OF ABOLISHING STATE FIRE SERVICE RE-CERTIFICATION ON A COUNTY GOVERNMENT FIRE DEPARTMENT EXECUTIVE PLANNING

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1 THE EFFECT OF ABOLISHING STATE FIRE SERVICE RE-CERTIFICATION ON A COUNTY GOVERNMENT FIRE DEPARTMENT EXECUTIVE PLANNING BY: Michael B. Player York County Fire and Life Safety Yorktown, Virginia An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program. January 2000

2 2 ABSTRACT On December 5, 1998, the Commonwealth of Virginia abolished re-certification for most of Virginia s fire service certifications, effective on December 25, As a result, York County, Virginia s executive fire officers were faced with the task of determining the impact of the state s new policy on York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs. The purpose of this research was to analyze the state s new policy abolishing the re-certification requirement for most Virginia fire service certifications; to identify any risks the policy may create for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs; and, to suggest strategies for mitigating those risks. Historical and action research methodologies were used to answer the following questions: 1. What are the implications for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs, of the Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the re-certification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications? 2. What strategies should be adopted to mitigate any risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs? Through historical research and risk analysis, significant evidence was obtained to suggest that while the state s new policy would not significantly impact the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s job entry requirements or professional development programs, the new policy would have significant implications for the department s

3 3 employee training and continuing education and re-certification programs. The research and risk analysis also identified opportunities and suggested strategies that could be used by the department to re-structure its employee training and continuing education programs to ensure that both were not only in brought into compliance with training mandates but professional qualifications standards as well. These opportunities and suggested strategies were used to prepare the project s final recommendations: that the department should adopt and use the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) to update Employee Training Plans and enhance the department s existing in-service continuing education programs such that they meet documented fire service training mandates and professional qualification standards.

4 4 TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract 2 Table of Contents 4 Introduction 5 Background and Significance 6 Literature Review 13 Procedures 19 Results 22 Discussion 24 Recommendations 27 References 30

5 5 INTRODUCTION On December 5, 1998, the Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, the two state entities responsible for the development of professional fire service training standards, programs and the certification of fire service personnel, abolished re-certification for most of Virginia s fire service certifications, effective on December 25, The response of Virginia s fire departments to the State s decision was equally divided between those who welcomed the decision (primarily volunteer departments) and those who opposed the decision (primarily career departments). The purpose of this research was to analyze the state s new policy abolishing the re-certification requirement for most fire service certifications; to identify any risks the new policy may create for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs; and, to suggest strategies for mitigating those risks. The two primary questions answered in this paper through historical and action research methodology were: 1. What are the implications for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs, of the Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the re-certification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications?

6 6 2. What strategies should be adopted to mitigate any risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs? BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE The Department The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety provides fire and rescue services in York County, Virginia. The department is a combination career and volunteer department with over 180 members. The department operates out of a centrally located administration building and six fire stations located strategically throughout the county. The department is made up of the Office of Emergency Management and four divisions, Fire and Rescue Operations, Prevention and Life Safety, Technical Services and Special Operations, and Emergency Communications. The department operates 8 pumpers, 2 telesquirts, 1 aerial ladder truck, 7 advanced life support ambulances, 1 tanker, 2 brush trucks, 1 dive unit and 2 boats. Daily minimum staffing of the fire stations is accomplished with career personnel. Volunteer personnel are used to augment the daily minimum staffing. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety is a modern suburban county government fire department. Protecting approximately 59,000 people, and responding to over 8000 emergency calls annually, it provides a wide range of services including fire protection, code enforcement, fire inspections, plans reviews, fire investigations and

7 7 public fire and life safety education. The department coordinates the county s emergency management activities, provides fire suppression, emergency medical services, rescue services and hazardous materials responses. It also provides: command support services; information management services; computer network administration; grant administration; victim and occupant assistance services; special events coordination; water and dive rescue; and, technical rescue. The department is responsible for all of the county s emergency and nonemergency wireless communications systems, including two-way radios, cellular telephones, pagers, and radio towers. It maintains and manages the county s public safety answering point (the York County Emergency Communications Center), and its Enhanced communications system. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s career and volunteer personnel provide a number of value-added programs to the citizens of York County from its six neighborhood fire stations. These programs include: child safety seat inspections, blood pressure checks, File of Life/Medical Information Cards, smoke detector installation, the temporary deployment of a speed awareness radar trailer, and inhome assessments for fall prevention. The department s management and administration is provided by professionally trained and educated executive fire officers and managers, assisted by professional staff using modern public management practices, performance effectiveness measurement systems, human resource training and development practices, and appropriately promulgated professional fire service standards and procedures.

8 8 The Department s Training and Personnel Development Programs York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs are divided into four distinct categories: 1) job entry requirements; 2) employee training; 3) continuing education and re-certification; and 4) professional development. As an equal opportunity employer, the County of York, Virginia, has identified the specific minimum training and experience required for each position, including those within the Department of Fire and Life Safety. In addition, the County has established for each position, the minimum qualifications or standards required to perform essential job functions (as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Successful applicants for each career position within the Department of Fire and Life Safety are required to demonstrate that they have successfully met these job entry requirements prior to their selection for their position. Similar minimum requirements have been identified and are used to select the Department of Fire and Life Safety s entry level volunteer members. The County of York s Human Resources Office, departments, and agencies have established Employee Training Plans (ETPs) for each position in county government. ETPs are published with each job description and identify the required skills or qualifications an employee in each job position should possess or immediately strive to obtain. Supervisors use ETPs as tools to assist with personnel orientation, training, mentoring, counseling and performance reviews.

9 9 Virginia fire service certifications are an important part of the Department of Fire and Life Safety s ETPs. The department participates in a regional cooperative venture with fire departments from eight other jurisdictions to provide new career recruits with entry level fire training and basic Virginia fire service certifications in a twelve week Tidewater Regional Fire Academy (TRFA). Volunteer firefighters attend an alternative schedule TRFA, specifically designed to be provided during evenings and weekends. TRFA Graduates earn Virginia Department of Fire Programs Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Emergency Vehicle Operators Course, Hazardous Materials Awareness, Hazardous Materials Operations, Heavy and Tactical Rescue Rope Rescue I, and Heavy and Tactical Rescue Vehicle Rescue certifications. All department personnel are required to maintain the Virginia fire service certifications required for their current job position. The department s continuing education and re-certification program is designed to meet the mandatory training and continuing education requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Fire Protection Association s 1500 Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety Standard, the Insurance Services Organization, the Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services, and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. The continuing education and re-certification program is provided as in-service training. York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s professional development program consists of educational assistance, specialized training, and promotional incentives. The department provides educational assistance to its career personnel in the form of post-secondary education (Associate Degree, Bachelor s Degree, and Master s

10 10 Degree) and advanced life support emergency medical services (Emergency Medical Technician Paramedic) tuition reimbursement. Professional seminars, conferences, and symposia make up the majority of specialized training offered to the department s personnel. Additional specialized training is offered as necessary to address specific needs or take advantage of unique training opportunities. It includes National Fire Academy and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Course offerings. The department has identified minimum experience, education and professional qualification requirements, including Virginia fire service certifications for each position. Senior Firefighters must possess and maintain Virginia Department of Fire Programs Driver Pump Operator, Driver Aerial Operator, and Fire Instructor I certifications. Officers must possess and maintain additional Virginia Department of Fire Programs Fire Instructor and Fire Investigator certifications. Individuals who wish to take advantage of promotional opportunities must obtain the required experience, education and professional qualifications for the desired position on their own. The department assists personnel preparing for promotion by working to ensure regular local or regional offerings of the required education programs and professional qualification courses. The Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs Re-certification Policy In the late 1970s, the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, at the direction of the policy oversight board that represented the different groups and disciplines that provided

11 11 fire services in Virginia, implemented a plan establishing fire service certifications based on the National Professional Qualifications standards. As part of the plan, the Department of Fire Programs sought and obtained national accreditation as a Fire Service Training Organization from the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications. The Department of Fire Programs also established a process for the recertification of its fire service certifications at the end of an identified certification period of two or five years depending on the specific certification. Virginia Department of Fire Programs Firefighter, Fire Instructor and Fire Officer certifications were required to be re-certified every five years. Virginia Department of Fire Programs Fire Investigator and Inspector certifications were required to be re-certified every two years. To re-certify, personnel had to either successfully re-test at their existing certification level or obtain additional training, successfully test and become certified at a higher certification level prior to the expiration of the existing certification period. In adopting the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications standards, the Commonwealth of Virginia joined a select minority of seventeen states and seven agencies who had achieved that level of professional standards for their fire service training programs. Since Virginia initially adopted the national standards, new professional standards have evolved. The new career areas and associated professional certifications of airport firefighter, wildland firefighter, fire and life safety educator, and fire apparatus driver operator have been developed by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs and adopted by the National Professional Qualifications Board.

12 12 A controversy arose in 1995, that centered around the persistent fire service complaints that re-certification was burdensome for the volunteer fire service agencies, and that re-testing did not serve the purpose of keeping Virginia s firefighters involved in continuous fire service training. In response to the complaints, the Virginia Fire Services Board directed the Department of Fire Programs to develop a method of re-certification that would mandate participation in a broad based continuing education program. Problems within the state agency hampered the development and implementation of the continuing education program, and after three years, only the Virginia Department of Fire Programs Fire Officer Continuing Education Program had been implemented. Volunteer fire departments continued to seek relief from what they believed to be unnecessary re-certification policies. They pointed to the inability of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs to implement the policy directive of the Virginia Fire Services Board to create a continuing education program for all Virginia fire service certifications. They further complained that the continuing education program that had been developed for the Fire Officer was unnecessarily complicated and required extensive record keeping. The representatives of the volunteer fire service agencies notified the Virginia Fire Services Board that they would seek legislative redress to their concerns if they were not addressed by the Board to their satisfaction. On December 5, 1998, the Virginia Fire Services Board abolished mandatory recertification for most of Virginia fire service certifications, effective Christmas Day, December 25, The Virginia Fire Inspector and Fire Inspector certifications were

13 13 not included in the policy decision rendered by the Board since the re-certification requirements for both of those certifications were specified in the Code of Virginia. This research paper will analyze the Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy abolishing the re-certification requirement for most Virginia fire service certifications. It will identify the risks the new policy may create for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs; and, it will suggest strategies for mitigating those risks. This paper specifically relates to the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program s Executive Planning Course because of the program s assertion that the executive fire officer must be capable of monitoring his department s external environment for change; capable of conducting a risk analysis to identify the impact of change on the department; and, capable of planning to minimize that impact.

14 14 LITERATURE REVIEW Several types of literature were reviewed as part of the historical research for this project. Professional fire service periodicals and National Fire Academy applied research project papers were reviewed. Web sites of fire training, fire service certification, and fire service accreditation organizations were visited and that information reviewed. Literature on training programs, professionalism and human resource development were reviewed. Local and government memoranda, documents and publications were also reviewed, as were state government memoranda, documents, publications, codes and regulations. Finally, OSHA, NFPA, and ISO regulations and standards were reviewed. The literature review was conducted with two major areas of concern in mind; each one coinciding with one of the research questions the project was trying to address: 1. What are the implications for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs, of the Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the re-certification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications? 2. What strategies should be adopted to mitigate any risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs? Dr. R. S. Fleming (1999), recipient of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors 1996 Instructor of the Year Award and Vice Chair of the National Fire Academy s Board of Visitors, stated in a recent fire training article that knowledge or

15 15 skill deficiencies within individuals in the fire service risk not only compromising the successful management of an emergency scene but life safety as well. The National Board of Fire Service Professional Qualifications, the organization accrediting Virginia s fire service training program cited that its purpose was to create an internationally recognized means of acknowledging professional achievement in the fire service (1999, p. 1). The Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (1999) stated that it was the original intent of the Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs policy requiring re-certification to provide the members of Virginia s fire service with the incentive to participate in fire service training throughout their career or volunteer fire service experience. The purpose of the recertification policy was never intended to establish an external mechanism for fire departments to ensure the maintenance of knowledge, skills and abilities of their personnel. T. H. Lapetina (personal communication, December 1998) the Executive Director of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, stated that the responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of performance standards for fire service personnel rests with the individual fire department. According to him, the change in the Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs policy to abolish recertification for most Virginia fire service certifications will negatively impact fire departments only to the extent that they relied upon the Virginia Department of Fire

16 16 Programs re-certification program to ensure and document the abilities and competencies of their employees to perform their fire service duties and responsibilities. The Code of Virginia is mute in regards to any requirements for specific fire service credentials beyond those specified in the Virginia Administrative Code as required for fire inspectors and fire investigators (19VAC15-20, 19VAC15-30). It is interesting that the Virginia Administrative Code is quite specific in the area of these two professional certifications, even going so far as to specify biennial continuing education requirements (19VAC , 19VAC , 19VAC ). The Code of Virginia is not mute in regards to the requirements for employers to provide for the safety and health of their employees. The Code of Virginia Section provides for the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to enforce the occupational safety and health regulations as required by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of As a result, Virginia fire departments involved in structural firefighting are responsible for ensuring compliance with the training requirements outlined for structural firefighting fire brigades (29 CFR ). Virginia fire departments using respiratory protection are responsible for ensuring compliance with the training requirements outlined in the personal protective equipment regulations (29 CFR ). Likewise, those Virginia fire departments involved in hazardous materials operations are responsible for ensuring compliance with the training requirements outlined for hazardous materials (29 CFR ). Further, those Virginia fire departments whose personnel are determined may be at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens are responsible for ensuring compliance with the training requirements to protect their

17 17 employees against that hazard (29 CFR ). Finally, those Virginia fire departments who provide confined space rescue services are responsible for ensuring compliance with the training requirements as outlined in the confined space regulations (29 CFR ). The National Fire Protection Association, the organization which has been responsible for the development of fire service professional qualification standards for over twenty-five years stated that it was the responsibility of each fire department or authority having jurisdiction to ensure the ability of its members to perform their particular fire service duties. In each of its professional qualification standards the NFPA clearly states that it intends for the standards to be used by the authority having jurisdiction to determine when an individual measured against a specific standard, possesses the skills and knowledge to function in specific fire department jobs (NFPA 1000, 1994a; NPFA 1001, 1997a; NFPA 1002, 1998a; NFPA 1003, 1994b; NFPA b; NFPA 1031, 1998b; NFPA 1033, 1998c; NFPA 1035, 1993; NFPA 1041, 1996a; NFPA 1051, 1995; NFPA 1061, 1996b). In its occupational safety and health standard for fire departments, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 1500, 1997c) clearly states that fire departments will ensure that its members are trained and educated to perform the duties and functions of their positions prior to participating in emergency operations. L. S. Gwaltney (1999) acknowledged that some Virginia fire departments were using the Virginia Department of Fire Programs fire service re-certification program to document the maintenance of professional qualifications.

18 18 M. A. Lies (1997), J. B. Ross, Jr. (1998), and L. S. Gwaltney (1999) all state that fire departments are most legally and morally liable if they ignore or fail to enforce the training mandates of OSHA and the training standards of NFPA. It is these mandates and standards and not re-certification that should drive training and professional development within a fire department. As a matter of fact, Gwaltney states that the issue of certification or re-certification is not addressed by either the NFPA or OSHA standards (1999, p. 10). The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety stated that it used the possession of current Virginia Department of Fire Programs fire service certifications only to document that an individual had met the minimum requirements or qualifications for particular job positions. However, in its standard operating procedure for its career development plan, the department states that all employees are responsible for maintaining the certifications required for their job positions (1993). Dr. Fleming (1999) states that departments should begin to engage in learning outcome assessments to determine if students are not just learning but developing the competencies associated with the training and professional development programs they complete. The Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) is based on the National Fire Protection Association Standards and Recommended Practices, the Code of Virginia, and the Code of Federal Regulations. It separates all of the standards into the subjects, number of hours and type of training that the Virginia Fire

19 19 Services Board and Department of Fire Programs recommends as a minimum continuing education program for a fire department. The guide uses a training matrix to help fire departments assemble a program of basic continuing education. The matrix is broken down by subject matter as identified by the National Fire Protection Associations professional qualifications standards. (1999, p. 7) PROCEDURES The direction and procedures for the selection and conduct of the historical and action research methodology used by this research paper were obtained through the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program s Executive Development Course. The selection of the topic was determined while the author, the executive fire officer responsible for his department s training and professional development programs, was attending the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program s Executive Planning Course and learned of the importance of monitoring his department s external environment for events that represented significant change and potential risk. The author had been present at the December 1998, Virginia Fire Services Board Meeting in Abingdon, Virginia, when the new policy was announced. The author began his research while still at the National Fire Academy. A search of the National Fire Academy s Learning Resource Center s (LRC) collection for information on fire service re-certification and re-certification programs revealed only one abstract on the topic. All other articles and information referenced emergency

20 20 medical services re-certification and re-certification programs. A subsequent search of the LRC s collection for information regarding re-certification as part of fire training and professional development programs also yielded minimal results. Upon return to York County, the author conducted a search of Virginia Department of Fire Programs memoranda, publications, and documents for specific information on Virginia s fire service certification and re-certification policies. This search produced helpful information regarding the history of the policy, some of the issues involved, and the reported purpose for the current policy change. The author also began communications with the individual who wrote the only item on fire service recertification discovered at the LRC. The individual provided the author with a full text copy of his paper (an Executive Fire Officer Program Applied Research Paper) and reference materials, including some primary sources. The author also searched fire service, OSHA, NFPA and ISO publications for training mandates, and NFPA publications for fire service professional qualification standards. A search of fire, emergency services, training, municipal and county government professional periodicals in the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety Library produced nothing that addressed fire service re-certification. In May of 1999, while attending another Virginia Fire Services Board meeting, the author obtained a copy of a document called the Virginia Department of Fire Programs and the Virginia Fire Services Board Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.). This document discussed continuing education training for the fire service at length and specifically referenced voluntary programs of continuing education

21 21 as the Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs preference to re-certification. The author conducted next phase of the literature search by computer. The author searched state fire training, national fire training, fire service certification, and fire service accreditation organizations information sites on the World Wide Web. The author then searched web sites and articles related to professionalism and human resource development. The final computer search involved the use of the Swem Library, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, to search professional education and human resource development literature. The assembled information was evaluated to determine the risks the Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy abolishing the re-certification requirement for most Virginia fire service certifications may create for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs. The search of the fire training literature, professional qualifications standards documents, professionalism literature, human resource development literature, and Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs documents, suggested several strategies to mitigate the risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs caused by the Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish re-certification for most Virginia fire service certifications. This constituted the action research methodology involved in the research paper.

22 22 Limitations This research was limited by a number of factors and assumptions. First, the literature search revealed very little information on re-certification of fire service certifications. Not only was there a lack of discourse concerning re-certification, there was very little discussion about fire service certifications except in the professional qualifications standards and course development literature. This research did not examine the literature or evaluate the experience of recertification in parallel service professions such as teaching, emergency medical services, medicine or nursing. This examination was not performed because of the assumption that there is a marked difference between the fire service and the parallel professions. Virginia law did not mandate professional certification and re-certification for fire service personnel (with the exception of fire inspectors and fire investigators). However, Virginia law did mandate professional certification and re-certification for teachers, emergency medical services, medicine and nursing. RESULTS The results of this research paper will be organized in response to the two original research questions. 1. What are the implications for the future of the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs, of the Virginia s Fire

23 23 Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the re-certification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications? The Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the re-certification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications have significant implications for the employee training and continuing education and re-certification portions of York County s training and professional development programs. The policy change should not significantly impact the department s job entry requirements or professional development programs as they are currently designed The policy change is an excellent opportunity for the department to re-structure its Employee Training Plans and in-service continuing education programs to ensure that both are not only in compliance with training mandates but professional qualifications standards as well. 2. What strategies should be adopted to mitigate any risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs? The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety should utilize the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) to

24 24 update the department s Employee Training Plans. Specific continuing education targets should be included as part of each ETP. The Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) should be adopted and used to enhance the department s existing in-service continuing education and re-certification program. By doing so, the department will mitigate the risks associated with failing to maintain professional qualification standards. Further, by using the Virginia Department of Fire Programs guide for its continuing education program, the department would be adopting a standard that would provide it additional protection from liability associated with the design and content of the continuing education program. Further, since the guide exists as a published document, it is possible to share regional training resources, foster creativity and develop best practices for the method, manner and venues for the delivery of subjects in the program, as more departments adopt the guide for their continuing education programs. Finally, as new training mandates are adopted and new professional qualification standards are promulgated either at the state or federal level, the guide and the department s continuing education program can both be updated to include the changes.

25 25 DISCUSSION By adopting a policy abolishing re-certification for most of Virginia s fire service certifications except Fire Inspector and Fire Investigator, the Virginia Fire Services Board clearly decided to remove itself from the issues of fire service personnel competency. The adoption of the policy abolishing re-certification did not effect the mission of the Department of Fire Program to develop professional fire service training standards, programs and certification of fire service personnel. The Virginia Fire Services Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs intended its new policy to provide fire departments with more flexibility to develop and deliver continuing education that met its local needs without having to be concerned with the requirements of some statewide continuing education program. Many fire departments used the Virginia Department of Fire Programs fire service re-certification to ensure employees maintained the basic knowledge skills and abilities to perform the requirements of their jobs. They mandated that the employees maintain their certifications once obtained, and they prepared and delivered in-station drills, and advanced or specialty training courses to help their personnel prepare for recertification testing. And, although the initial certification testing for many fire service training programs required skills proficiency testing, re-certification testing was always accomplished using written examinations only. Fire departments will be better served by developing their own continuing education program based on the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and

26 26 Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.). For most fire departments, the decision to abolish re-certification for most Virginia fire service certifications eliminated the burdensome requirement to monitor the expiration dates of multiple fire service certifications per employee. It made more time available to the individual to pursue more productive activities, such as providing services, keeping pace with change, or mastering new information in preparation for advancement. Finally, the long standing policy allowing written re-testing alone for recertification that had long been suspect by career and volunteer agencies alike, was also gone. David Gorwitz, the York County Training Specialist stated that the strength of York County is directly related to the abilities and competencies of its employees. In today s environment, job descriptions, as well as the skills and knowledge necessary to perform these jobs, are changing. Therefore, we must ensure that every employee is provided with the training necessary to perform his or her job well (D. Gorwitz, personal communication, February 19, 1997). While York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s in-service continuing education program is designed to meet the mandatory training and continuing education requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Fire Protection Association s 1500 Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety Standard, the Insurance Services Organization, the Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services, and the National Registry of Emergency Medical

27 27 Technicians, it is not designed to meet the National Fire Protection Association s fire service professional qualification standards. RECOMMENDATIONS As a result of this research project and in consideration of the strategies available to mitigate the risks to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety s training and personnel development programs from the Commonwealth of Virginia s Fire Service Board and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs new policy to abolish the recertification requirement for most of Virginia s fire service certifications, the following recommendations are presented: The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety should utilize the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) to update the department s Employee Training Plans. Specific continuing education targets should be included as part of each ETP. The Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.) should be adopted and used to enhance the department s existing in-service continuing education and re-certification program. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for fire fighter as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department

28 28 of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, NFPA 1201 Standard for Developing Fire Protection Services for the Public, NFPA 1403 Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions, and OSHA 29 CFR Part and The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for driver/operator as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 1002 Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications, and NFPA 1451 Standard for a Fire Service Vehicle Operations Training Program. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for fire inspector/investigator as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 1031 Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector, Code of Virginia, Title 27 Section 34.2, and NFPA 1033 Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator, Code of Virginia, Title 27 Section 34.2:1. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for fire instructor as

29 29 included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 1041 Standard for Fire Service Instructor Professional Qualifications. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for fire officer as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for hazardous materials as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 472 Standard on Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents, and OSHA 29 CFR Part The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety continuing education program should include the recommended continuing education subjects for incipient/structural fire brigade as included in the Commonwealth of Virginia Fire Services Board and Virginia Department of Fire Programs Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service

30 30 Training (C.E.F.S.T.), and referenced in the following publications, NFPA 600 Standard on Industrial Fire Brigades, and OSHA 29 CFR Part

31 31 REFERENCES Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Fire Programs and Fire Services Board. (1999). Guide to Continuing Education for Fire Service Training (C.E.F.S.T.). (1999 ed.). Richmond, VA: Author Fleming, R.S. (1999, June). But what did they actually learn? The Voice, 28(6), Gwaltney, L.S. (1999). Discontinuing Re-certification in Virginia and its Effect on One Department. Executive Fire Officer Research Paper, Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy Lies, M.A. (1997, February). OSHA and the fire service. The Voice, 26(2), National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (1999). Accrediting Fire Service Training Organizations. Quincy, MA: Author. Retrieved September 25, 1999 from the World Wide Web: National Fire Protection Association. (1994a). NFPA 1000: Standard for Fire Service Professional Qualifications Accreditation and Certification Systems. (1994 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1997a). NFPA 1001: Standard for Fire Fighting Professional Qualifications. (1997 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1998a). NFPA 1002: Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications. (1998 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author

32 32 National Fire Protection Association. (1994b). NFPA 1003: Standard for Airport Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. (1994 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1997b). NFPA 1021: Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. (1997 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1998b). NFPA 1031: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. (1998 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1998c). NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator. (1998 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1993). NFPA 1035: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Public Fire and Life Safety Educator. (1993 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1996a). NFPA 1041: Standard for Fire Service Instructor Professional Qualifications. (1996 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1995). NFPA 1051: Standard for Wildland Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. (1995 ed.) Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1996b). NFPA 1061: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Public Safety Telecommunicator. (1996 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author National Fire Protection Association. (1997c). NFPA 1500: Standard on Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety Program. (1997 ed.). Quincy, MA: Author

33 33 Ross, Jr. J. B. (1998). Establishing a Training Program to Address OSHA and NFPA Annual Training Requirements. Executive Fire Officer Research Paper, Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy Virginia Administrative Code. 19VAC (1989, June 1 ed.). Regulations Establishing Certification Standards for Fire Inspectors. Department of Fire Programs. Richmond, VA. Virginia Administrative Code. 19VAC (1987, December 23 ed.). Regulations Establishing Certification Standards for Fire Inspectors. Department of Fire Programs. Richmond, VA. Virginia Administrative Code. 19VAC (1989, June 1 ed.). Inservice training. Department of Fire Programs. Richmond, VA. Virginia Administrative Code. 19VAC (1989, June 1 ed.). Inservice training. Department of Fire Programs. Richmond, VA. Virginia Administrative Code. 19VAC (1987, December 23 ed.). Inservice training. Department of Fire Programs. Richmond, VA. York County Department of Fire and Life Safety. SOP VA., 1993

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