Educational Opportunities For Emergency Responders

Bryant Stiles describes how a degree program benefits Kentucky's firefighters.


Kentucky has developed an associate in applied science degree program in Fire/Rescue Science Technology that has a framework and components that we believe are exciting options for emergency responders or those seeking to prepare to be emergency responders. Development and implementation of a...


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Kentucky has developed an associate in applied science degree program in Fire/Rescue Science Technology that has a framework and components that we believe are exciting options for emergency responders or those seeking to prepare to be emergency responders.

Development and implementation of a quality educational program took several years of concentrated effort by many Kentucky stakeholders. In 1996, the director of Kentucky's State Fire Rescue Training Program, Steve Calhoun, brought together the 14 regional coordinators in the capital city of Frankfort to begin the process of developing a degree for our firefighters.

At that time, State Fire Rescue Training was housed within the state's post-secondary vocational school system. The program delivered quality, comprehensive classroom and hands-on training to 800-plus fire departments throughout the Commonwealth. Instruction ranged from the basic hoselays to the advanced levels of emergency medical care and hazardous materials response. Despite the quality of instruction, the classes were tied together only through a basic programmatic structure. Firefighters could participate for years, as thousands have, in quality educational programs delivered by State Fire Rescue Training, yet they received no credentials from an educational institution to verify the acquired knowledge and skills.

Our initial goal was to develop a program that would provide an educational credential for educational programming already occurring and to enhance future educational opportunities for the fire service of Kentucky. Most of the first two years were allocated to an analysis of what the successful individual should possess in knowledge and capabilities upon completion of the degree program.

We became convinced that the typical response of a fire service unit to an incident will have personnel arriving to find most emergency incidents falling into one of four categories: fire, EMS, rescue or hazardous materials. We believed our graduates should possess the knowledge and skills to begin assessment and incident stabilization in each of these four areas and the course objectives were constructed around this framework.

  • Fire -- The program graduate meets Job Performance Requirements (JPRs) of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Firefighter I and II. The graduate is prepared to take Kentucky's International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) Accredited Firefighter I and II exams. In addition, the graduate will meet the requirements of the Kentucky Fire Commission for firefighter certification at the career level.
  • EMS -- With the potential that the majority of fire departments will have more than 50% of their responses in emergency medical services, the graduate will be prepared at the EMT-Basic level. Standards used for this level of instruction include both the federal Department of Transportation EMT standard and the Kentucky Board of EMS Standard for EMT Certification. Instruction includes appropriate CPR and bloodborne pathogens certifications. The successful graduate will be prepared to take the National Registry of EMTs exam.
  • Rescue -- When determining the curriculum for the rescue portion of the degree, we wanted the student to possess more knowledge than vehicle extrication. We wanted to be sure that students possessed technician-level rescue knowledge and skills in these areas: vehicle, farm, industrial machinery, confined space, structural, trench, high- and low-angle rescue, wilderness and water. We used multiple standards from several sources to develop this part of the program, but our guiding source today is NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents.
  • Hazardous materials -- Before, during and after the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard on hazardous materials (1910.120), the fire service has served as the first level of response in most areas of the nation to incidents involving hazardous materials. The program takes a student through the steps of meeting awareness, operations and ultimately technician levels of OSHA 1910.120. Beyond these four response areas, our desire was to create a responder who could think, analyze, communicate and lead, all within the concept of safety first. Basic courses in decision making, safety, company officer, incident management, communications and leadership prepare the graduate in these skills.
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