On October 13th, twenty-eight members of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS), Montgomery County, Maryland, will take a historic step by participating in the department's first-ever Officer Candidate School. The two-week, 100-hour program will address the many roles and responsibilities of the fire/rescue lieutenant - which is the first-line supervisory rank in DFRS.
The concept of an OCS for the department's 1000-member career force has been discussed for a number of years but never implemented. When Chief Tom Carr took the reins as the department's new fire chief earlier this year he made OCS one of his priorities on his leadership agenda and with the support of the IAFF Local 1664, Montgomery County's first OCS was born. Said Carr, "Our weakest link in officer development has been at the lieutenant level. We have not laid out our expectations and as the leader of this outstanding organization I feel it is imperative that I provide specific direction regarding my vision. OCS is one of our department's most important initiatives ever undertaken."
The OCS initiative is a huge commitment of resources in time, money, and people, but according to Assistant Chief Bill Ale, "It is an investment in our future - one that we cannot afford to forego." All divisions in the department have a role in making OCS work. The program can be compared to running an entry level recruit school - only this time for officers.
Topics presented in the OCS program will range from the new Wellness/Fitness Initiative, to the use of the personal computer, to operating at the scene of a mass casualty incident, to completing employee payroll. The first week of OCS basically focuses on running a fire station as the station OIC and the second week focuses on emergency scene operations.
The program starts each morning at 0700 hrs with physical fitness followed by line-up and a daily quiz around 0900 hrs. Throughout the day the participants will work together as they learn about being a lieutenant in the Montgomery County system. The day concludes at 1700 hrs with students leaving with homework assignments, or just the message to get a good night's rest.
One of the premier segments of the OCS program will be the two, practical skill days where the participants will function as unit officers on real rigs with real crews going to simulated events. The department's Public Service Training Academy will be the site for those two days of emergency response practice where participants will face everything from a routine service call, to a shooting, to a structure fire with trapped occupants. In addition, prior to the two Hell Days (a term taken from the department's recruit school practical skills day), all OCS participants will complete a day of training in the department's new Command Development Center. Similar to the popular Abbottville