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In 2009, when Edmund Walker, the state fire training director for Massachusetts, was encouraged by two coworkers to attend a Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) conference at the National Fire Academy (NFA), his entire construct of training and higher education changed for good.
“They dragged me down to a FESHE conference and it was like a light bulb moment when talking to Ed Kaplan (NFA education chief) and participants,” Walker said. “There needed to be a correlation between higher ed and the state training directors. It became evident that the entire goal of the FESHE initiative was to ensure a clear and consistent path for professional development for members of the fire service.”
Responding to this need to provide nationwide standardized fire science core courses, the NFA has begun the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Recognition Program. The program aims to “produce graduates well-prepared to improve the quality of fire and emergency services delivery now and in the future,” Kaplan said. It recognizes colleges and universities that subscribe to the FESHE core-curriculum model.
“There’s always been the vision of FESHE from way back at its beginning – a theoretical foundation – that a core set of courses should form the basis of knowledge that every firefighter should have regardless of where he or she came from,” Kaplan said. “Now the associate’s and bachelor’s programs are part of that. And through the vision of my boss, (NFA Superintendent) Dr. Denis Onieal, state training directors will oversee this new recognition program. And one of the great benefits is that the state training directors will be talking with colleges and the impact of that is nothing but positive.”
Colleges and universities seeking this recognition are required to meet a six-course model fire science curriculum for their associate’s or bachelor’s programs for students to graduate. Students completing each of the model courses receive a National Fire Certificate of Completion. This certificate becomes a portable transcript of sorts that certifies a student’s completion in the core course – regardless of institution, state or degree status. If a student achieves a certificate for Fire Protection Systems from a California college and moves to a New York college, that certificate indicates no similar course is required for achieving the associate’s degree. The standard has been met.
Institutions seeking recognition must offer and require the NFA’s six-course model curriculum for the associate’s-level degree. These six core courses are:
• Building Construction for Fire Protection
• Fire Protection Systems
• Fire Behavior and Combustion
• Fire Prevention
• Principles of Emergency Services
• Principles of Fire and Emergency
Services Safety and Survival
Recognized colleges offering an associate’s degree can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/higher_ed/resources/resources_schools_associate.shtm.
Core courses for the bachelor’s-level recognition are:
• Applications of Fire Research
• Analytical Approaches to Public
• Community Risk Reduction for the
Fire and Emergency Services
• Fire and Emergency Services Admin.
• Fire Prevention Organization and
• Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Services
Recognized institutions offering a bachelor’s program can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/higher_ed/resources/resources_schools_bachelor.shtm.
All courses must be offered for academic credit. Noncredit courses do not qualify for NFA recognition or certificates. Although the titles of these courses can vary from institution to institution, the NFA strongly encourages the use of its standardized titles.
Achieving certification is relatively simple. It involves the college sending a request, committee concurrence and state fire training director approval. The entire process, according to NFA, is expected to be completed within 45 calendar days from the receipt of the request. Institutions receiving a Certificate of National Recognition will be listed on the FESHE college list website.