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Over the years I have had the privelage to work with many Fire Service Instructors from around our state as well as across the country. Some of them possess their local jurisdictions required Instr. 1 or 2 certifications and some do not. Some come with AA's, BS's or MS degrees, some with the school of "hard knocks" degree and some with just general BS. Some of these "experts" have achieved national recognition and their word has become gospel amongst many fire departments. But what happens if these "experts" haven't had the time and testing of actual fireground experience? Or what about the Instructor that has virtually no college or formalized training center experience but is the best at what they do like truck or engine work?

My question to the Mob is what requirement; if any; balances out the Book smarts with the Street Smart experience of actually doing the job? What qualifies your instructors to teach the subjects that they are experts in? Have they done 10 or 15 years on a busy engine or truck company or are they fresh out of college with their degree. In no way am I degrading having a college education (I'm working on finishing mine as well), but where is the balance of books and first hand knowledge that should be required of Fire Service Instructors before they pass it on to other firefighters?

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Does three or five years really bring the experience needed? I learned a lot from officers who had many years of experience and little or no formal education in fire science. I was taught to stop and listen to the fire, it is getting hotter and crackling? Using a smoke ejector during overhaul to find areas that are still smoldering. Dave Dobsons art of reading smoke is becoming a lost art among newer members. They don't see enough fires to be able to put it into practice. These senior members fought a lot more fires than any of us ever will. Today a member may only experiance several good fires in that three to five years. This makes their personal reading and research into tactics that much more important. It also is forcing us to teach new safer methods of fire attack. The days of rolling up to a fire and charging through the front door should be gone. Doing a complete size up (360) and the use of positive pressure before attack is what we should be teaching.

Todays instructors will never have the experience that many of our mentors had, this is why they must be passionate about keeping up with their personal learning. Web sites like this one are one way to accomplish that.
The initial question piqued my interest, and I have enjoyed reading all of your posts. If you do not mind, I would like to share a few thoughts of my own:

I usually introduce myself to my students as a 21 year "Student" of the fire service. I have my Instructor certification, but one of the most important attricbutes of an Instructor is to continually practice self-realization. Studying for my promotional exam, I read in DC Avillo's book (Thanks again for your help, Chief, YOU ROCK!!!) where he discusses "unconscious Incompetence", politely stating the some people are not even aware of what they do not know. Many instructors fall into this category, not because of a lack of education, but because they lack FURTHER EDUCATION.

For example, I entered the fire service studying the 2nd edition of IFSTA. My state has a training and education council for the fire service, of which i am a member, and we are currenty reviewing 5 varieties of Firefighter I books, including the 5th edition IFSTA and 2nd edition Delamr. So as I count, there has been 5 updates to the BASIC text for firefighting.

With that being said, try this experiment: For those of you who work at fire academies, ask your colleagues how many of them possess the most recent version of the text they are using, and how many of those actually removed the cellophane wrap and READ IT. I think you may be surprised at the results.

This is only an example of basic firefighting training that we, as instructors, offer the service. Think about those of us among us who offer educational services in EMS, Haz/Mat, and Technical Rescue. How can one not afford to consider themselves "students"?

I do not wish to keep repeating what has been said at this forum: all have made good points. But instructors are viewed as leaders in the fire service, and there is a difference between managers and leaders.

Managers do things right; Leaders do the right things.

Stay safe, Brothers.

Mike - I agree that a true instructor is always learning and staying current. It's a shame that guys don't read the manuals. However I have to disagree with you on one point. Calling yourself a "Student" of the fire service. I'm sure is true and I'm sure the students relate well to that description. However I believe that description is best suited for those who are not actual firefighters. Being a firefighter is why your instruction is so valueable and is your number one accomplishment. I say put that first with pride.
Ray - Thanks for the input. My position as a student of the fire service is to promote continuing education to all of those I come in contact with as an Instructor. But, I see the validity of your point. I do try to keep that balance.

Thanks again.

I think there needs to be a balance, which seems to be the sentiment of the board so far. I too think there should be a minimum of time on the job before you should be able to instruct. You must also have the basics of delivery and development, and here in MA you need to get your Instructor I minimum and be certified through the Pro Board. When I first started instructing, I was mentored through an auditing process with senior instructors who were and are some of the best firefighters I have been around who ranged from firefighters to company officers to district chiefs and even a couple retired Chiefs of Department

I also agree with brother Ray McCormack that a college education isn't necessary to instruct especially since most degrees focus on the management aspect and not the nuts and bolts of firefighting.
Great Comments!
I know that during my career, I'll probably never see a national minimum service or cert. requirement of a Fire Service Instructor. But I'll keep hoping.

One of the things that I try to educate the students on each class is to continually look for new or updated information, but to wiegh the information with their own personal experiences, the experience level of the instructor, their own local protocols and tactics, construction types, etc. It's the sum of the information as a whole and not just one bit or piece of the training that they need to focus on.

I like some of the requirements for instructors that I've heard like mentoring programs for instructors and certification. I personally also believe that FIRE Service Instructors should continue to have to serve time in the field fighting fires to remain in touch with common practices, fire behaviour, staffing issues and common fire ground errors. Whether it's rotating out of the training div. for awhile or being on line and helping out with training, we can't lose the experience of the real incident experience.
Just a few other thoughts to add to the already great ones here. What makes a qualified (good) instructor? I believe it something special within the individual, not as much a quantified measure of their education, service and experience. I am not saying that those qualities do not matter, because they do. All of us know people who are technical "experts" at a given topic, but lack the ability to pass it along to others. What about those on the other side of the spectrum, the ones who could recite every line of text from a manual, but lack the street knowledge required to bring it full circle.

The state of Ohio requires 5 years of service and the passing score (80%) of the FF2 test to be allowed to take the two week course that teaches you how to teach others. The course has very little to do with the fire service. Depending on where you work, there could be a considerable difference in the experience level of the individual. Yet in the end they are considered the same qualified person in the eyes of the state...and many teaching institutions.

Thinking about the instructors I consider "qualified", I would have to say they are very well rounded in the book smarts and the street smarts of our profession. Most are very humble (as stated before) and talk to the students, not down to them. They are calm, collected, open-minded and personable. Last, but not least, teach within their arena of expertise, not trying to that preverbal "jack-of-all-trades".

What is considered service time in Ohio? Can you be the computer guy in training and be considered to have your 5 years when the time comes? Does someone in the state set these qualifications?

I like your definition of "qualified" but do believe that we have to have a broad base knowledge in order to teach. We just need to teach towards those few specialties rather than try and be experts in all areas. You can be a jack of all trades, but probably only master a few.

Stay safe brother
Service time is 5 years of certified time with a fire department. You can only teach up to your level of certification. Examples: I could be a level 2 FF and have 5 years with a vol. FD, now eligible to test for instructor, pass and teach vol. FF, FF 1, and FF 2. If that same person was only certified to the vol. FF level that person could only teach the vol. level FF courses. Ohio instructors recert every 2 years, soon to be changed to 3, and there are a few simple CE and requirements that need to be met. The Division of Public Safety set this standard. Theorectically, to answer your question, A person who is certified at one of the FF levels, is technically on the fire department, but has only been the computer guy would qualify, as long as he does at least 6 hrs of CE in a firefighting subject class and teaches at least one course ( a single subject at a single class session) through a chartered school or through his department...and the school or chief signs off for him.

We all know that engine work is "open" and "close", we could teach a chimp to do the work, but he flinging poo would get old around the fire house, plus they would have to drive the rig which would be pretty damn funny to us, but the cops and general public would not find it as amusing. Then the unions would get involoved because they would want to pay dues in bananas. So I guess you're right a truckie could teach both subjects...but I don't know of too many that would want to. Just kidding around, having a well rounded knowledge makes teaching much easier. Simply because it can help you answer the whys behind the reasons of doing a task. All I am saying is the best stick to what they know best. What poor FDNY probie would want Mike Ciampo teaching engine ops or worse EMS to them?
Great topic! I think a good insructor is the one that is confident and passionate about the topic at hand. No matter if its pulling hose or rolling salvage covers, his knowledge and enthusiasm should make you want to learn everthing you can about that topic. Hopefully, when your done, you'll go out and impart that skill on some unsuspecting newbie or veteran. That's what it's really about.

As far as book learnin' vs. hard knocks, there is one thing that matters the most. That instructor must realize that he doesn't know everything, and must be willing to admit that he can learn volumes from both sides.

Good question. Stay safe. FTM-PTB

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