The Secret to Attending the NFA

The Secret to Attending the NFA

John M. Buckman

The National Fire Academy (NFA) in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is the academic Mecca for the nation`s career and volunteer fire service. Everyone from firefighters to fire chiefs can attend the NFA. Unfortunately, many fire service personnel don`t even know the NFA exists and thus will never attend and realize its benefits.

The campus of the NFA is more than just bricks, mortar, instructors, and staff: It is a focal point for the nation`s fire service. It is the one place in America where everyone in the fire service is on an equal playing field.

The NFA is an organization of the United States Fire Administration (USFA). The USFA is supposed to be the fire service`s representative to the federal government. The USFA is currently undergoing a restructuring because it has not met the needs of the fire service. When this is done, the USFA should be much stronger and be able to lead the fire service more effectively.

Since 1975, it is estimated that more than a million students have received training through a variety of course delivery methods. Even with this outstanding statistic, it is still common to find people who have never heard of the NFA or the USFA.

All qualified fire service personnel can attend a course on campus. To qualify, you must first complete an application in a timely manner and submit the completed application to the registration office. In addition to on-campus courses, there are many offerings each year at the local, regional, and state level. The education is the same, but there is no experience like an on-campus experience.


Why should you attend the NFA? One reason is the extremely high quality of education it offers. The NFA is internationally renowned for its outstanding programs. A second reason is that, as a United States taxpayer and member of the fire service, you are paying for the NFA. You should receive a return on your federal tax dollars. A third reason is the tremendous opportunity the NFA provides for networking with your peers. The fire service is a very large brotherhood; there are people all over the country who experience the same trials and tribulations that you do in your fire service career. It is a real benefit to realize that you are not alone in this world.

The cost to attend the NFA is primarily borne by the U.S. Government in the form of an annual stipend. The stipend includes travel to and from the campus, lodging, education, and books. The cost to the student is the time to attend and participate in the classes and food. Food cost is approximately $90 per week.

In recent years, the facilities have been upgraded tremendously. The dormitory rooms now have their own bathrooms, televisions, and telephones.

There are basically two types of on-campus courses–two-week and one-week. Two-week courses are 10 days of intense education that combines student activities, lectures, class projects, research, and homework. One-week courses last six days and are designed for the volunteer/on-call firefighter. One-week courses contain some of the same material found in the two-week courses. The paces of both courses are the same. Some courses have night classes.


What kinds of classes are offered? The mission of the NFA is to improve the management and leadership ability of the nation`s fire service. The classes are designed to accomplish that mission. The principles of leadership and management are the same for most fire departments, whether small or large.

There are a wide variety of courses. Some titles are listed below:

•Command and Control of Fire Department Operations at Target Hazards

•Hazardous Materials Incident Management

•Fire Service Planning Concepts for the 21st Century

•Management of Fire Prevention Programs

•Community Education Leadership

•Fire Service Course Design

•Challenges for Local Training Officers

•Emergency Response to Terrorism Incident Management

•Executive Planning

•Fire Cause Determination for Company Officers


Any person with substantial involvement in prevention and control, emergency medical services, and fire-related emergency management activities or allied professions is eligible to apply for NFA courses. Applicants must meet specific requirements for each course description. Selection is based on the potential impact of the applicant on the local fire problem.

To receive an application and course information, contact the NFA Registration Office, 16825 South Seton Avenue, Emmitsburg, MD 21727.


The secret to attending the NFA is that you must apply and qualify. If you don`t apply, you can`t complain. I encourage all members of the fire service community to apply today.

JOHN M. BUCKMAN, a 29-year veteran of the fire service, has been chief of the German Township (IN) Volunteer Fire Department since 1977. He is second vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and is an adjunct instructor in residency programs at the National Fire Academy. He is an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering.

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