Onieal: Busy Times Ahead at National Fire Academy

Move over clipboards and paper forms, your days on incident scenes may be numbered.

Now, the forms utilized by commanders are but a click away – thanks to the National Fire Academy staff.  

The Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS) can be downloaded to a laptop, tablet or smart phone, explained Dr. Denis Onieal, NFA superintendent.

While developers work on an app, the downloadable forms are available online.

“Once they are downloaded, they can be filled out,” he said, adding that after the information is added it can be saved, e-mailed or printed.

Onieal said the NFA appreciates the generosity of Louisiana State Fire Training officials who have allowed space on their server until the NFA’s is installed.

In addition to the EPSS, the NFA staff also is working on developing ones for fire protection and fire investigation.

This isn’t the only technology upgrade currently underway either, Onieal said Thursday during an interview with Firehouse.com.

Soon. Wi-fi will be available campus-wide. “This is will be very helpful for the students,” he added.

In addition to adding that capability, the campus has undergone some major renovations recently designed to make a student’s stay more enjoyable.

Dorm rooms have new beds, pillows, TVs, carpet and individual climate controls. Elevators also have been added; and the campus has switched from steam to geo-thermal.

“It’s been a busy time here,” he said.

Despite budget woes at many departments, attendance in NFA courses continues to grow. In addition to on-campus classes, fire and rescue personnel often take the training in local or state venues as well as online.

The superintendent said he’s pleased that people are taking advantage of the 100 or so instructors. Being prepared to handle an incident is essential.

In October, the NFA staff was forced to implement its own preparedness plan when the government shut down.

“We had four hours to get 175 students off campus. Airline flights had to be changed among other things…We don’t know yet the cost incurred.”

A few international students were among those booted from campus.

While some were wrapping up two week courses, others had more work to do before completion. Online assignments or re-scheduling are among the options.

The NFA was dark for four weeks.

But, Onieal is looking ahead. And, it’s his hope that fire and EMS personnel take advantage of the premiere offerings taught by talented, knowledgeable experts.