I'm all for continuing education because the fire service is constantly changing in equipment, tactics and threats. Not to mention what you plain forget over time.
I'm having problems wrapping my mind around a CE based EMS. Are you going to start licensing fire fighters and make it illegal for them to fight fire if they don't maintain their CE hours? Will they have to go through the entire training program again if they lapse like you do with EMS? Will the scope of practice be the same for FD's at fires the same as EMS nation wide? Not trying to be sarcastic but these are they type of questions that give me problems understanding this.
The only relatively nation wide training requirement I have seen is from ISO on the amount and type of training you should have, all geared toward structural response. Please tell me if there is something else out there that I'm unaware of.
What the fire service needs is for someone to step up like National Registry did for EMS and create a recommended training curriculum that includes CE. Ideally this would be a joint project between the paid and volunteer national associations.
The recommendations would include things such as:
Fire Fighter I certification (from an accredited agency) within 3 years.
Fire Fighter II certification (from an accredited agency) within 10 years.
HAZMAT Awareness with in 1 year.
HAZMAT Operations with in 3 years.
Yearly/Biannual CE that has a set number of base hours. The topics would be composed of PPE, SCBA, Fire Fighter Safety and Survival, Structural response, Water Supply (department centered), Ladders, Hose and Nozzles, Wild Land, Vehicle Fires, Investigation, etc. The goal being that if they recommend 36 hours of CE each year there would be a guide for the departments to follow. If you don't have high rise structures then you don't need that training but if you do both types of water supply you could do that instead.
Something like EMS in a way where each section would encompass several aspects of fire fighting that the department could use to train on what they need while still meeting the national recommended standard. It would be just like NFPA, it would not be law and you don't have to follow it but it is the recognized standard for continued training. No national agency to report to, just guidelines to follow.
Hopefully you recognize that this is not a soap box rant. The more I think about it the more sense it makes to me. Right now some states have standards but they aren't all the same and some don't have any. Please feel free to educate me if there is something out there I missed or you see holes in my theory. This could be an interesting debate and I would enjoy discussing it if someone wants to.
This could wind up under the preview of the U.S. Fire Administration but I think it is something that should start with a joint effort between the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the National Volunteer Fire Counsel (NVFC) or possibly the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Some way to represent both the paid and volunteer aspects of the fire service to create a recommended standard that is attainable by both aspects. The reason I suggest having the IAFF, NVFC and IAFC work together is to have this as a grass roots type project. Something similar to the Everyone Goes Home project. I'm not sure how well NIMS was received in your departments but in our area it was viewed as one more thing being tasked to us from the Feds, FEMA to boot after they had a less than stellar response to Hurricane Katrina, another box we have to check. On the other hand the Fire Fighter Life Safety Initiatives came from the fire service and became something for every department to strive for. I really think this is the difference between how the two were received and would play a vital role in the adaptation of a national standard training recommendation. This should come from within the fire service, not be mandated to the fire service.
Now, what categories would you include:
Safety: PPE, SCBA, Fire Fighter Survival, Health & Wellness, Building Construction
Special Operations: HAZMAT, NIMS, Rescue (vehicle, rope, trench, etc)
Operations: Search & Rescue, Hand line Operation, Large Stream Operations, Water Supply, Ladders
Command: Size Up, Pre Plans/Inspections, Leadership Training
How many general categories would you have and how many topics in each?
More importantly, how many hours annually? Three hours a month, four, six. What would be feasible?
Please let me know your views and if you need clarification on some of my thoughts. This could turn out to be a very interesting debate. Granted it will be mainly theoretical unless it catches someone's eye but still interesting.