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As I travel to the national fire academy, FDIC, and other popular training venues and talk to other training officers, I quickly found out that one of the trouble areas or areas departments lack in is officer development training.

Are there any departments out there that have a thought out officer development program that they would be willing to discuss?

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I come from a volunter dept that runs with 7 front line officers. We have not put our program into action. We are going to have special training for officers and members that want to be officers once a month. Training will include topics from moral to leadership from some of out own officers and officers from other depts. This is just the rough plan, but if you have any more questions feel free to ask.


King County Washington has a great officer development program that has been successful over the past 10 years developing new officers. Their contact information is to the Secretary, Elenjo Schaff ( 425-313-3393 (W) Fax: 425-313-3237. Their web site is

Check it out.

I have found that the best officers are usually the best at emergency scenes. That honesty and respect for
those below you tells a lot about the character of the officer; and, again, the ones who are honest and
show respect for those in lower pay grades is of prime importance. Unfortunately, that is usually
not how officers are rated.

An empty, well styled suit with a good resume trumps respect from peers and underlings.

And that holds true whether its FDNY, Chicago, Boston, DeKalb, Atlanta, etc...

As one of our best training officers, Lt. J. R. Magness, said many years ago: "The Best officers are taking this course,

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the delvelopement of Miami-Dade's Officer Development Program (ODP). It has gone through a number of changes over the years. See my article in FE July 2009 ("Officer Development: Filling the New Officer's Toolbox") for a summary of our program. I am also teaching a 4 hour workshop at FDIC 2010 on the content and importance of the hands-on approach to officer development. Maybe I'll see you there.
This is a pet peeve of mine also. Not only are most departments lacking officer development, at least in my department, I'm not too fond of what is done. My department is on kind of a cert kick, concentrating on the fire officer classes, which are centered mostly around IFSTA books. Now I know there is some good info in those books specific to the fire service, but a lot of the leadership and management info seems to come from the private sector, large business management, and a lot of that comes from psychologists.

The best mindset I have found regarding leadership in our environment comes from the military. Those who have never been in the military think of this as the strong authoritative attitude, and that is there, but anyone who has ever taken small unit military leadership courses know that it covers the whole spectrum, and is perfectly applicable to us

I don't understand why these military philosophies, which are based on mental courage, integrity, and dedication, are not incorporated into the IFSTA books. There are plenty of fire service teachers who follow these concepts, Dennis Compton for one, and many fire service leaders (officers and otherwise) follow them both consciously and naturally. People respond to someone who has earned respect and knows their job, and have proven integrity, not to psychologist's theories. This is taught intensely in the Marine Corps, visit when you have a little time to read and see if that doesn't apply to the fire service.

I welcome other opinions on this.
Many departments in my area suffer from the same lack of Officer Development. The fire service as a culture in the United States is losing it's grasp on the idea of great leadership. More and more Company Officer positions are being filled by technically competant firefighters, who are great at doing the job, but have no concept of how to lead a team to do the same tasks. They might as well just do the task themselves rather than try and figure out how to motivate somebody else to do it. These Leadership programs need to be taught and completed before these individuals move into the CO position. Officer candidate schools should be established just like your firefighter 1 academy. You are in essence a "Rookie" again. For those who do not have the departmental resources to be taught these invaluble skills, you must find the literature and/or a mentor to get you to the next level. I cannot find you a mentor but I can recommend a few books and articles.
-IFSTA Leadership 403, not printed since 1991 but a GREAT book.
-Some of the Executive Fire Officer papers written by Chiefs about CO development programs and how to start them. Especially one by Chief John Decker
-First in Last Out, by Chief John Salka
-The Army's leadership manuals are an excellent resource
-It's Your Ship, by Michael Abrashoff
-21 indespensible qualities of a leader, and other books by John Maxwell

These should get you started. Remember to always be filling your toolbox, good and bad through everyone you ever work for.

Stay Safe Fellas!

J Buist
I agree with my brother Jason since we are in the same departments and Capt. Carpenter just did an awesome presentation on this topic during last weeks FDIC Online called "Basic Skills and Drills: Is This Missing from Your Officer Development Program? You can listen to the hour long archived webcast which is available by going to It will be there for the next 90 days. It was an excellent introduction to his class he will be giving at FDIC this year. I also asked him about officer task booklets which some departments use because of their lack of resources and time. In my opinion they are helpful and can work but probably is nothing close to the month long hands on training the recruit officers go through at Miami Dade that Bob puts on or in other large departments or areas that have the resources to put on a class of that magnitude.You can never have enough tools at your disposal!

Stay safe and keep the faith!
Officer development means that they will have to learn, teach and work. No real point in any of that stuff.
LOL....good point Larry! Thought all we ever needed to know in life we learned in Kindergarten!

Learning stuff is hard work and that's not why we became firefighters..oh wait yes it is! It's called challenging ourselves to be the best we can be, to better ourselves and those around us!
There is nothing more dangerous than a fully trained Fire Officer.

Brad Hoff said:
LOL....good point Larry! Thought all we ever needed to know in life we learned in Kindergarten!

Learning stuff is hard work and that's not why we became firefighters..oh wait yes it is! It's called challenging ourselves to be the best we can be, to better ourselves and those around us!
Thank you, Brad, for your kind words. We are fortunate to have the support to produce the kind of "Officer's Academy" that I described in my FDIC Online presentation. It has not always be so, however. A training chief that understands and practices the concept of empowering his training officers has a lot to do with it. I hope to have some engaging exchanges with attendees of my 4 hour workshop in April. I think that the program can be implemented regionally for areas serviced by smaller departments. Pooling resources while checking egos at the door can launch some good stuff. Be sure to introduce yourself if you see me in Indy. I'm looking forward to it.

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