APPLICATIONS OF FIRE RESEARCH
If Adam Wheeler had attended Paul Antonellis' class concerning Applications of Fire Research, the former Harvard student might not be embroiled in a criminal indictment alleging among other misdeeds the use of another's work in applying for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. Perhaps not.
Yet Antonellis is confident those who have attended the research class, which is one of six recently named core courses for the National Fire Academy's (NFA) Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) baccalaureate program, are well grounded in not only the procedures for research, but what constitutes plagiarism.
Why is this course valuable for current and future fire administrators? "First and foremost, it hones our skills on how to conduct proper research. This takes a blend of the academic field and puts it right into the fire service and emphasizes how to conduct proper research," says Antonellis, a former fire chief and current professor at Empire State College in New York.
"I've been teaching the course for six years," Antonellis says. "When we put the first version together in 2005, I was the team leader. The course went through a number of revisions and reviews to make sure the content was correct, the learning objectives were met and the level of learning was at an undergraduate level."
According to USFA, the course, "examines the basic principles of research and methodology for analyzing current fire-related research. (It) also provides a framework for conducting and evaluating independent research in the following areas: fire dynamics, fire test standards and codes, fire safety, fire modeling, structural fire safety, life safety, firefighter health and safety, automatic detection and suppression, transportation fire hazards, risk analysis and loss control, fire service applied research and new trends in fire-related research."
Antonellis says he finds a challenge in teaching this course to a newer generation weaned on the Internet and the copy-and-paste buttons of the personal computer.
"Pretty much across the board, at the end of the course there is a realization of how much is involved in conducting research," Antonellis says. "It is very different than sitting at the computer and using Google or Wikipedia to research. In the academic world, that isn't classified as solid research. We also work on getting research into 'their own words' and how it might support or dispel a theory that the student has. At the end of the course, I often hear that students didn't realize research was so in-depth, with so many levels. Research can be compared to building a house - if you don't have a solid foundation to build upon, the house is going to crumble. Students realize they need a plan and good articulated questions. One course outcome for students is asking if their research is useful. With computers it is easy to spit out a lot of data and measurable items and at the end of the day we have piles and piles of information; but is it useful?"
The course, as well as several of the other core courses, uses the extensive Fire Protection Handbook (National Fire Protection Association), Volumes I and II. The other text is Practical Research: Planning and Design by Paul D. Leedy and Jeanne E. Ormrod.
Gary Kistner, who chairs the FESHE baccalaureate committee and whose members spearhead the adoption of the core curriculum, saw the need to adopt a series of courses that better suits today's transient workforce.
"The thought was because we have so many programs and so many people moving from school to school, or area to area, added to a lot of different schools in the same area, we formulated a curriculum so everyone gets the same background courses that we felt were common throughout the fire service," Kistner says. "From that point, students can choose elective courses which allow them to specialize in an area such as arson or management."
Kistner, who is the fire service management program coordinator at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, says unlike other single-institution core curriculum, the FESHE core is adaptable.
"Schools may vary on whether or not the six core courses are required to graduate," Kistner says. "Some schools may require all six courses, and others may only require three or four. It is an institution's prerogative on how their curriculum is designed."
PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT FOR THE FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
"The idea is that today fire administration involves the key issues of personnel, recruitment, and issues relating to the management of employees," says Bill McCamey, professor at Western Illinois University. He was the steward who oversaw the committee that developed this core course. "Personnel has become an issue today that all organizations are facing: the hiring, retention, motivation and leadership of their employees. Obviously, we address some of these issues in other FESHE core courses," he says. But Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Services provides a platform to concentrate certain themes.
"The number of management and personnel issues that all organizations face today continues to grow," McCamey says. "Not only from a legal standpoint, be it wellness, firefighter safety, health — the type of stress firefighters endure, how the job affects the spouses — there are any number of things that need to be explored."
According to the NFA, Personnel Management "examines relationships and issues in personnel administration and human resource development within the context of fire-related organizations, including personnel management, organizational development, productivity, recruitment and selection, performance management systems, discipline and collective bargaining."
"I would be wary of a fire administration program that did not focus on personnel issues," says McCamey. "It is today a major concern administrators have. Preparing administrators to address these issues in relation to personnel is important. The personnel — the people — are what makes a department. Obviously, equipment is important, but in larger departments, as much as 90% of their budgets are devoted to personnel."
Course outcomes for students include:
- Identify and explain contemporary personnel management issues.
- Explain potential personnel management issues.
- Classify the collective rules, procedures, laws and policies that relate to personnel management issues.
- Analyze simple and complex personnel management issues from recruitment to retirement.
- Formulate recommendations and solutions to personnel management issues.
- Explore organizational development and leadership styles and how they relate to personnel relationships.
These courses run with McCamey's natural interests and background as a former investigator for a state's attorney office. He has been teaching at Western Illinois, which is about an hour from Peoria, since 1980. He also is a former firefighter who is now a trustee for a fire protection district. He teaches administration analytical approaches and incendiary fire and analysis. The textbook for this course, which McCamey says he finds particularly valuable, is Fire Service Personnel Management by Steven T. Edwards, director of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) at the University of Maryland.
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO PUBLIC FIRE PROTECTION
In developing this core course, Jim Savitt says more than 70 fire and academic leaders took a look at what fire service administrators would need to be successful and proficient at their jobs. Savitt is the area coordinator for Fire Service Administration and Emergency Management Center for Distance Learning at Empire State College.
"This collective group took a look at the key skills future firefighter leaders need in the field," Savitt says. "I think there is a pretty broad consensus that analytical skills along with critical thinking were seen as key components. The analytical skills lead you to make decisions based on evidence. The core is being able to think analytically. Our firefighter managers and leaders need to be comfortable and cognizant that there are tools that can help them by shaping the data they have and transforming the data they have into useful information for decision making."
He adds, "We are updating the material and redeveloping the course to modernize and take advantage of new technology and some decision-making tools that are available. We added GIS (geographic information system) as a component. There is a huge amount of information in the GIS layers that is useful in planning and fire prevention. While redesigning the course, decision making under uncertainty, the understanding of geographic impact…how data becomes information (or the process of data reduction), and formal decision making are timeless learning opportunities and will remain the focus of the course. We are moving away from the hand calculations and replacing them with the tools that are available today. We want to equip our firefighter managers with the tools that are available."
The NFA says this course "examines the tools and techniques of rational decision making in fire and emergency services agencies, including data collection, statistics, probability, decision analysis, utility modeling, resource allocation and cost-benefit analysis. Student course outcomes: This course will provide you with many of the analytical tools necessary to evaluate your options and to make intelligent, well-informed decisions that will enable you to offer the best service to your community and to the members of your organization."
COMMUNITY RISKV REDUCTION FOR THE FIRE SERVICE
This course will "provide a theoretical framework for the understanding of the ethical, sociological, organizational, political and legal components of community risk reduction, and a methodology for the development of a comprehensive community risk reduction plan," according to the NFA. "In addition, the student will learn to build organizational and community support for risk reduction within your communities by:
- Building organizational equity.
- Creating organizational culture.
- Identifying community stakeholders.
- Engaging the community.
- Building community equity.
Risk Reduction uses the text The Sociology of Community Connections by John G. Bruhn and selected chapters from Fire Protection Handbook (NFPA).
FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
This course is designed to be a "progressive primer for students who want more knowledge about fire and emergency services administration. The course demonstrates the importance of the following skills, necessary to manage and lead a fire and emergency services department through the challenges and changes of the 21st century: Persuasion and influence, accountable budgeting, anticipation of challenges and the need for change, and using specific management tools for analyzing and solving problems. A central part of the course focuses on how the leadership of a fire and emergency services department develops internal and external cooperation to create a coordinated approach to achieving the department's mission," according to the NFA.
"The goal of Fire and Emergency Services Administration is to provide students with the knowledge to understand how to help the fire and emergency services administrator perform as an effective risk manager by recognizing legal and political issues affecting public safety, finding and applying appropriate legal rules and/or political constructs, and articulating supportable conclusions and recommendations," says the NFA.
The course uses the Chief Fire Officer's Desk Reference, edited by John M. Buckman III, chief of the German Township Volunteer Fire Department in Evansville, IN, and past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
FIRE PREVENTION, ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT
"This course examines the factors that shape fire risk and the tools for fire prevention, including risk reduction education, codes and standards, inspection and plans review, fire investigation, research, master planning, various types of influences, and strategies. Course outcomes:
- Describe aspects of risk-reduction education and overall community risk reduction.
- Explain the fundamental aspects of codes and standards, and the inspection and plan review process.
- Describe the fire investigation process and discuss research about fire prevention.
- Discuss historical and social influences and describe the master planning process.
- Describe economic and governmental influences on fire prevention.
- Explain the effects of departmental influences on fire prevention programs and activities.
- Discuss fire prevention strategies.
Course goals: "In this course we will examine the roles and responsibilities of fire prevention professionals in managing fire prevention programs and risk-reduction activities to ensure public safety. We will develop an understanding of the changing role of fire prevention professionals in researching and mitigating their community's fire problem and developing solutions to the problems of tomorrow," says the NFA. The text for Fire Prevention Organization and Management is Management in the Fire Service by Firehouse® Magazine Contributing Editor Harry R. Carter, Ph.D., and Erwin Rausch.
Ed Kaplan, who not only is in charge of the FESHE program at the NFA, but an ardent proponent of higher education in the fire service, says he sees FESHE offering an inclusive agenda with a flexible structure that many fire service personnel should find useful.
"FESHE is about standardizing fire science and EMS management degree programs so that there is uniformity in the academic skills and knowledge that graduates possess regardless of what school attended," Kaplan says. "The FESHE fire science and EMS management degree program committees have identified what they believe represent the foundational core courses necessary to produce the next generation of leaders in our profession. I believe the FESHE courses that comprise the bachelor's core provide the right mix of skills, applications and theory for upper-division learning. These courses also prepare graduates for master's-level study, where having the requisite analytical and research skills are essential."
PAUL SNODGRASS, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a firefighter with the Sarasota County, FL, Fire Department and a former fire chief. He is on the faculty at the University of Florida and an adjunct fire science instructor at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL, and Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, CA. Snodgrass holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Augsburg College and a master's degree in education from the University of Phoenix. He has been writing about, designing and teaching online courses since 2005. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.