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What's More Important: Credentials or Experience?

What's More Important: Credentials or Experience?
If a certificate helps to do that, then boy, go get it! If it’s hands-on training, then go get that, instead! Notice I didn’t mention career or volunteer? Doesn’t seem to matter for the issues I list above, does it?

Every community has a Public Protection Classification (PPC) assigned to it. This is a measure, on a scale of 1 to 10, of the fire protection capability of the local fire department to respond to structure fires in the community. Class 1 represents the best public protection, and Class 10 indicates no recognized protection.

The insurance organization, (ISO) collects information via inspection, on a community’s public fire protection capabilities and analyzes the data using a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). They then assign a PPC rating (also known as the ISO rating). Homeowner and commercial insurance rates are then calculated using this value.

If you are concerned about your ISO rating (and as a responsible officer, you should be!), you want to make sure some level of formal training takes place and gets documented. ISO documentation (FSRS) specifies all the items considered during an ISO audit.

You have to do a little digging to find training (which shows up as a sub-category of FIRE DEPARTMENT), the criteria include sub-sub categories for: FACILITIES, AIDS, and USE. There, the category is broken down further into training facilities you use, drills (including mutual aid drills) and training. Finally, training is listed as Company Training, Classes for Officers, Driver and Operator Training, NEW Driver and Operator Training, Training on Hazardous Materials, and Recruit Training.

That is how the number is calculated for Training. The Training number is one of eight different numbers that gets added together for the overall “Credit for Fire Department” number (CFD). That number is then combined with Credit for Fire Alarm (CFA) and Credit for Water Supply (CWS) through various calculations and a final Public Protection Classification (PPC) number is issued to your City/Town/District. Your insurance rating is based on this final number ranging 1 to 10.

This is how I understand it to be, but I could be wrong. I attended training on the ISO process a couple of years ago (and I received a certificate!) but things might have changed. The big lesson there was to KEEP YOUR PAPERWORK CURRENT AND FILED OUT!!

From my interpretation of the point schedule, ALL members must reach the training criteria, so for paid departments, this is handled by performing training between station duties and calls. For volunteer departments, we need to have a new classification for “active” members (those who still train and respond to calls) and “social” members (those who attend functions and meetings, but no longer go to calls).

Look at this as a serious business, because it IS a serious business.

Whether you have a wall full of “official” certificates or have been trained by an in-house training organization, doesn’t matter as long as the classes are conducted properly. Training programs lower your ISO rating so your tax payers pay less insurance. I do know for a fact that a part of your overall Fire Department rating is based on the number of hours you spend training. Period.

If you do not have a training officer for your department, get one. Ideally, they will get their Fire Instructor I or II training (NFPA 1041), so they learn how to put together training programs and lesson plans. If you are not drilling at least once a week, start!

I come from a rural community and I am a volunteer, too. There is NO excuse for not training, drilling, and practicing your firefighting skills! No money is no excuse! If even ONE person gets “Fire Engineering” magazine, “FireRescue” magazine, “Firehouse” magazine, or any number of other resources, you can put together a training program.

There are even free online sources (INCLUDING FILELINK.COM !!) where you can get ideas for drills. Conclusion: I am a fan of credentials. You should be, too. You should be concerned that the folders of your members be full of their achievements and certificates, especially if you are interested in seeing them advance.

I think if you attend a training session, you should get a certificate. I have a folder full of them, but I also know they are nothing more than a testimony that I kept a seat warm during the lesson. They do not speak to my capabilities. I let my behavior on the fire ground profess my capabilities.

It is important to me that members of my team know what to do. Whether they learned that skill by experience or in a classroom.

What is more important, credentials or experience? This is the wrong question. I think the more important question is: Did you learn your skills enough to perform them or not? It is not important HOW you learned, but it is important THAT you learned. Thank you for giving me your attention! Stay Low and Keep Checking Under the Smoke! Chief Ed Raposo, (Ret.)

This series of articles takes on a very informal approach in discussing key aspects of Fire Service issues relevant to today’s firefighters and officers. Similar to a post-incident debriefing back at the firehouse, this series, titled “The Kitchen Table Debrief – (Title)” will hopefully foster discussion, and comments Possibly, if we are not careful, we all may actually learn something along the way!


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