Officer Candidate School Conducted to Set Up Eligibility List for Promotion
An officer candidate school was recently conducted by the Prince George’s County Fire Service when it became necessary to promote 32 men to meet the needs created by the rapid expansion of the paid force. County officials believe that the school may be the first of its kind in this country.
The search for new officers was spurred by a request from the Volunteer Firemen’s Association to have a paid officer assigned to any station with five or more paid men. The promotional system, developed in cooperation with the county’s personnel department and the Merit Board, included the officer candidate school. Firemen first had to pass an examination for selection to attend the school. After a man passed the officer candidate school program, he went on the officer eligibility list according to his performance grade at the school.
Three reasons for school
This procedure was desired for three important reasons. First, in too many instances good fire fighters make poor officers because they are not trained for the job. The man who is a good fireman because he understands his equipment, knows the nature of fire, understands tactics, is familiar with building and occupancy problems, etc., does not necessarily know how to deal with men, instruct and get things done through people.
Second, although many Prince George’s County firemen had many years of experience as volunteers, they had not worked in a full-time environment for any appreciable time—and then only in two or three-man groups.
Third, the men, when appointed officers, would be in the field without the immediate supervision normally supplied by battalion chiefs.
The course developed by the training division lasted 18 days, with 15 days conducted by the division and three guided by International Fire Administration Institute representatives.
Inspection every day
The program began with the top 34 men from the promotional examination list competing for 28 positions. Eventually, 32 positions developed and all 43 men who passed the examination were brought to the school. The school was conducted at the firemen’s training center at the University of Maryland in College Park.
Each school day started at 8 a.m. with uniform and personal inspection and close order drill in the first hour. A short break to change into work clothes was followed by physical training and a coffee break.
The first day of the school was devoted to a discussion of various problems and situations the new officer faces. Dealing with the former senior man, with former fellow fire fighters, working within the volunteer company policy and with the volunteer chief, providing as much assistance to the chief as possible and other similar items were covered. Effective and ineffective types of officers also were reviewed.
The remaining four days of the week were devoted to training and instructing techniques. The candidates learned the use of job breakdown sheets, training timetables, and station scheduling. They were required to instruct while their classmates observed and later criticized their performances. Instructing sessions avoided fire service subjects because the goal was to observe instruction techniques without becoming involved in judging the correctness of a man’s material.
Friday afternoon of the first week was devoted to a discussion of the development of visual aids by the company officer. Types of effective visual aids and materials for their construction were discussed. The men were then given their first homework assignment. On the following Friday afternoon, they had to present to the class a visual aid they made and explain how to use it.
The candidates were graded on originality, content, workmanship and presentation. One of the objectives was to have each student spend as little money as possible on his visual aid without losing effectiveness.
to Set Up Eligibility List for Promotion
The first three days of the second week were devoted to a review of hose, ladder and pumping procedures, and each student served as an instructor. The men’s performance and knowledge of these procedures were graded, as well as their effectiveness as instructors.
After this, the men took their first examination, which covered all the material taught up to that time. The test and review of the test took half a day. A full day on pre-fire planning and inspection activities followed, and the week closed with half a day for the presentation of the visual aids the men developed.
Report writing course
During this second week, the men received eight hours of English-report writing, a course conducted by instructors from Prince George’s Community College and the University of Maryland. Each afternoon session began with an hour and a half devoted to this subject. At the end of the week, the men were given a test, which consisted of writing two reports on hypothetical incidents.
Also during this week, the candidates supervised close order drill and physical training activities of their own class and a recruit class which ran concurrently with the officer candidate school. The men were graded on their performance with the recruits and their peers.
During the first two days of the third week, the candidates served as officers of companies made up of recruits and responded to fire situations at various training center sites. The candidates rotated as engine, truck and rescue squad officers and were graded on their general control of the men during and after the fire incident, the orders they gave to handle the fire problem, and their contribution to the critique that followed each response.
The drill tower and structural fire building were used to simulate various types of occupancies and buildings. Rescue situations were set up when appropriate, and fires were placed in a manner realistic to the type of occupancy and construction described to the candidates.
Fire fighting tactics
The third week ended with two days devoted to fire fighting tactics and operations and the remaining day with another examination, its review and general discussion of any pertinent item a candidate wished to discuss.
The last three days of the school were directed by the International Fire Administration Institute and covered leadership, organization, motivating personnel, evaluating personnel, management, and similar subjects. Chief David B. Gratz of the nearby Silver Spring, Md., Fire Department and Professor Donald Favreau of the State University of New York conducted this part of the training.
During the entire school, two instructors were always with the men. In most cases, this was the chief of training and one of the training officers. Through this method, one instructed as the other observed the men, who were graded on the quantity and quality of their contribution to the class, interest shown, maturity, attitude, knowledge of material, appearance and general conduct.
Eligibility list developed
The grade for each candidate was developed from a rating established by the instructors, his grades on the two fire service examinations, and the English-report writing examination, He was then placed on the eligibility list in accordance with his overall grade.
The performance of the 32 graduates who have been promoted, their acceptance by volunteer chiefs and companies, and the general performance of the career force has exceeded expectations and has assured the continuation of the officer candidate school concept in future promotions and development of the County Fire Service.