If you ask almost any training officer, chief officer, or even line company officer what one of the biggest training shortfalls in their organization is, somewhere toward the top of the list will often be officer development. Some of the responsibility for officer development lies with the organization itself, with formalized training and mentoring programs for new or prospective company officers. But after initial training and orientation into their new position, the train of specific and targeted company officer training that a front-line supervisor receives often falls off the tracks. Although many progressive departments take great pride and place much effort in continual officer development, in too many of our organizations the officers themselves often have to pick up the initiative (and sometimes even pick up the tab...) for continued learning and growth.
Formalized officer training programs are a great start. NFPA 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications, defines stages of requisite knowledge and skills at different levels (i.e. Fire Officer I, Fire Officer II, etc.), which informally correlate with rising through the supervisory ranks of a fire organization. Many state fire academies, regional fire schools, and community colleges offer programs specifically structured to meet the requirements of NFPA 1021 at the varying levels. The National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD recently started offering the “Managing Officer Program”, a series of classes and projects similar to the popular EFO (Executive Fire Officer) program, but specifically geared toward company-level officers. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has a new section specifically devoted to the needs and development of company officers. The professional credentialing process through CPSE also provides an exceptional roadmap for development and professional progress. And of course, there are always a wide variety of officer development session and workshops at the various fire industry trade shows such as FDIC and the ISFSI’s Fall Instructor Development Conference (http://isfsi.org/fall-instructor-conference-2016/). Company Officers that are not already certified fire service instructors should strongly consider it. The importance of frequent, quality, engaging company-level training can’t possibly be overstated. And in fact, NFPA 1021 actually lists Fire Instructor I as a prerequisite to certification at the Fire Officer I level.
While training opportunities outside of the walls of your organization are extremely important to keep abreast of changes and trends in the industry and to network with other fire professionals, as much or more time should be spent by the company officer staying on top of internal department operations. When was the last time you reviewed the most current Union contract? How can you improve your report writing and the accuracy of you NFIRS documentation? Have you been over to check out that new building under construction out on the edge of the district? Is it time to start back up at the local community college and finally finish up that degree? Never stop learning, and your company will be the better for it.
Want a great roadmap? Check out the FEMA / USFA “National Professional Development Model” for the fire service at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/feshepyramid.pdf