Article Archive
Certification Challenge
In the Future Any Skills That Firefighters Claim To Have Are Going To Have To Be Proven On The Training Field
Vol 21 No 2

Based on my experiences as an emergency response chief for a manufacturing facility and as general chairman of the Industrial Fire School at Texas A&M University, I believe that national certification of emergency responders is the wave of the future.

National certification would verify an individual's qualifications to perform required tasks in emergency response situations. National certification would be recognized in any state and would accompany the responder who is transferred to another location by his/her employer. National certification also enhances the reputation of emergency responders, verifies their accomplishment, and enhances an organization's ability to prove the competency of its responders as required by regulatory agencies.

I became aware of the need for emergency responders to demonstrate competency several years ago when ExxonMobil's Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant in Texas underwent initial Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) certification assessment. This assessment is conducted in the U.S. by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in conjunction with Special Government Employees (SGE). Multiple aspects of the plant's Safety, Health and Environmental programs were reviewed, including emergency preparedness training.

In preparation for the assessment, I assembled the individual training certificates for the emergency responders. The VPP team reviewed these certificates and indicated that more information was needed to ensure the competency of the responders. In order to clarify these competencies, I described the curricula for the training sessions. This process led to the realization that a standard method to verify the competence of emergency responders was needed.

The development of such standardized certification could utilize the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) standards, which specify minimum job performance requirements criteria for certifying individual emergency response team members.

Basically, professional certification requires third-party verification of an emergency responder's skills within disciplines such as fire, rescue, and hazardous material response. This verification includes successful completion of a written exam and demonstration of individual skills and team skills in order to successfully complete the course and receive certification. Portions of the tests are graded numerically, while aspects needing special emphasis have a pass-fail component. An individual who cannot achieve a pass-fail requirement in the individual skills and/or the team skills must repeat the skill(s) training to achieve certification.

In 2003, the Emergency Services Training Institute at Texas A & M University received its accreditation to begin utilizing the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications, also known as Pro-Board, in third-party verification of emergency responders.

The first step in achieving certification for the Texas A&M Industrial Annual School was to certify the instructors in the disciplines they teach, according to Pro-Board requirements. A three-year plan was developed that would certify the industrial school's courses and the instructors of these courses.

The Instructor certification process requires three levels of achievement. Level I focuses on teaching and instructing a developed program. Level II deals with teaching, developing, instructing, and evaluating teaching materials. Level III concentrates on supervising, budgeting, managing and implementing a training program.

The Annual School director, staff, and instructors, worked diligently to achieve certification. Currently, 282 Industrial School instructors are certified in their respective disciplines and another 239 are at various levels of instructor certification. The requirement for serving as an Instructor is Level I certification, Program Coordinators are Level II certified. Chairmen are Level III certified to serve in these positions.

The Annual Industrial School is conducted at Texas A&M each July. The following provides a timeline for the school's certification plan.

Courses Offered in 2003 for Certification (to Instructors):

NFPA 1081 Industrial Exterior Fire Fighting
NFPA 1041 Level I Instructor

Courses Offered in 2004 for Certification:

NFPA 1081 Industrial Exterior Fire Fighting
NFPA 1081 Industrial Interior Fire Fighting
NFPA 1041 Level I Instructor
NFPA 472 Hazardous Material Technician

Courses Offered in 2005 for Certification:

NFPA 1081 Leadership
NFPA 1006 Awareness and Operations for Rescue Technicians
Courses to be offered in 2006 for Certification:
NFPA 1006 Confined Space Rescue Technician
NFPA 1006 Rope Rescue Technician
NFPA 1041 Level II Instructor

Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS)

Certification Courses Planned for the future:
LPG Emergencies Course
Storage Tank Fire Fighting
NFPA 1041 Level III Instructor
NFPA 1561 Incident Commander
NFPA 1005 Marine Fire Fighting for Shore Based Fire Fighters.o


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