A 40-Hour Course in Public Fire Education

A 40-Hour Course in Public Fire Education

A 40-hour course in public education is now part of the certification process for level II fire prevention officers in Illinois. In addition, specialists completing a 240-hour course can qualify for certification as a level II public fire education officer. Both programs are evidence of progress since the first state fire education conference was held in 1976.

When the fire prevention officer certification program was being pilot tested, also in 1976, the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association had just assembled a 200-hour classroom study course. Thirty-five inspectors from almost as many departments were taking the course. At that time public fire education involved only two hours of instruction.

Working with what is now the United States Fire Administration’s Office of Planning and Education, an evaluation of the second annual Public Education Conference told the education committee that the fire prevention people in the field did not need more programs. They wanted to know more about developing their own programs to answer the needs determined by the five-step process.

Techniques of teaching

The inspectors wanted to know the techniques for teaching the very young, how to deal with the media, how to maintain status quo in the firehouse while teaching children and adults how to prevent and survive fire, and the systematic approach for education planning.

The 40-hour course was designed and offered by the inspectors, using instructors from the media, local schools and universities to share their expertise with the personnel assigned by their fire departments to do public education. The 240-hour course for education specialists, which incorporates other state certification courses, was correlated and judged to exceed NFPA 1032.

The classes were well attended by enthusiastic participants. The result has been to repeat the course five times, reaching 150 participants.

Well-rounded inspectors

The first step on the way to those programs was for fire education instruction to be expanded to 24 hours for level I fire prevention officer. Level I certification gives all fire prevention personnel a well-rounded base from which to perform code enforcement, investigation or public education. In most departments here, the fire prevention officer has to perform all these functions as a normal part of his job.

With six fire inspector I courses now complete (240 hours each) and over 180 fire prevention officers trained, and two more courses beginning this fall (with one downstate), Illinois will have 250 trained fire prevention I officers in the field. Many of these will have completed level II requirements.

This is why I think the certification program, taught by peers and tested for performance by the Division of Personnel Standards and Education, Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is the single most important event in public education in our state. The increased expertise and qualifications of subsequent public fire education programs should result in reduced deaths, injuries and fires in the state.

To further assist them in various duties, all inspector I personnel are required to be basic instructors (40 hours) and all level II fire prevention officers are required to be standard instructors. It is easy to see why the fire prevention personnel need these qualifications to supplement their training in the fire prevention curriculum.

Certification for level I includes:

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