It seems that there is no shortage of institutions, groups, or individuals which have the best intentions of bringing a higher level of “certification” to the fire service and the individuals within it. Just the other day I received an email inviting me to submit my years of experience, educational background, positions held and accomplishments along with $375.00 and if determined to meet the required level of “certification” I would also receive “certification” in my current position. I would not be required to submit any statements from subordinates or co-workers to attest to whether or not I was qualified, competent and capable of actually doing the job.
Also, in my department the Special Operations component has been reduced an ad-hoc team of dual responders that when needed, will have to assemble themselves from various assignments and station locations to a metamorphosis into a highly effective Special Operations force. To compensate for this shift in strategy we will create a list of all those working who are certified in these areas and build a team as needed. Basically a pick up game of rescue where the rescue assignments will be given out depending on “certification”, I can only imagine the job of coach (incident commander): “O.K. which one of you is a certified rope rescue technician?, O.K. you will tie any knots needed for this operation.”
This shift in emphasis seems to have put unrealistic expectations on individuals who may have just received a “certification” in a particular area, and seems to do the same for an individual who received certification some years ago and has had no practical application of those skills. How in world is a field commander supposed to overcome such administrative misguided interference?
Just recently my department was also “re-accredited” after serving a 1 year probation. This comes just days after a political war between the mayor and council reduced us to 3 and 3 staffing, closed a fire station, closed our heavy rescue and haz mat team, eliminated a battalion command, abolished 100+ FF positions and actually laid-off 37 fire recruits. Meanwhile we have about $100,000 per year to maintain our facilities (33 stations, a training center, and a shop) that span the years from horses, world wars and with only 2 constructed in the past 20 years. In other words they are old and worn out! Our members spend their own money fixing lights, patching roofs, and other endeavors to stabilized some level of comfort for themselves. All for the opportunity to go out and risk their life for the community under a patch and banner that proclaims “certification” (accreditation).
Are we putting to much emphasis on these paper testaments to process or attendance and ignoring the reality of a collapsing structure based on false advertising? Should we be putting more emphasis on results, experience and accomplishment by identifying those who are qualified to function in certain areas and can actually accomplish a mission to a real level of success? Is it healthy for the fire service to bestow a mark of professional acceptance on an organization who has had 2 line of duty deaths in 2 years and made no attempt at fixing the problems cited in the after action reports and in fact has taken an opposite approach. 1 LODD was a result of a Heart Attack – this year the department cut all funding for the Health and Wellness program. The other LODD was a result of burns from a structure fire in which all but 2 responding company officers including the battalion chief were riding out of class in a higher rank with no training. In response we reduced staffing, reduced the training staff and resources.
Qualified or certified which one should we be concerned with?