BY KENNETH O. BURRIS, JR.
“My work responsibil-ities keep me from attending classes on a regularly scheduled basis.”
“I want to finish my degree, but I have so many credits from different schoolsand there aren’t any fire degree programs within a reasonable traveling distance.”
“I’d love to attend a National Fire Academy (NFA) course, but I can’t get away from home for two weeks.”
Every week, one of these statements is written in a letter, spoken in a conversation, or included in an e-mail to someone here at the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Despite the fact that we mail out almost 35,000 course catalogs to fire departments each year, post the latest information on our Web pages, and provide information at many of the major fire service conventions throughout the year, not everyone in the fire and emergency services is aware of the USFA/NFA training available to them.
The truth is that most of the training provided by the USFA/NFA is done off-campus, in places where you live, or by electronic means. We have a well-known residential program and a comprehensive program of off-campus training opportunities called “distance deliveries.” While we are continuing to work to improve and expand our residential program, the need for training far exceeds our resident capacity. Our success is measured “by the numbers.” In 1995, 8,200 students attended resident courses in Emmitsburg, and another 6,900 attended off-campus courses. In 2000, 8,800 students attended resident programs, but more than 30,000 took off-campus training. Participation in our distance deliveries has increased exponentially, and, as the program expands, so will attendance.
Our success in large part is due to several critical elements:
- A hard working and innovative staff.
- Strong working partnerships between the USFA and state and local training agen-cies.
- Key input from many of the major fire service groups.
- Significant associations with two- and four-year colleges and universities around the country.
- A continuing and expanding relationship with the American Council on Education (ACE) that makes it possible to transfer college credits and explore recommendations for on- and off-campus USFA/NFA courses.
DEGREES AT A DISTANCE PROGRAM (DDP)
The Degrees at a Distance Program (DDP) provides an alternative means for fire service personnel to earn a bachelor’s degree or to pursue college-level learning in a fire-related course concentration without having to attend on-campus classes. Although independent study and distance learning have appealed to working adults nationally in growing numbers in the past few years, DDP is particularly attractive to fire service personnel whose fire department work shifts normally make it difficult to attend classes. These programs accept transfer credit.
DIRECT DELIVERY PROGRAM
The Direct Delivery Program is an example of the strong partnership that exists between USFA/NFA and state and local fire training systems to advance the professional development of fire service personnel. This partnership has resulted in the ongoing development and delivery of the Academy’s distance delivery curriculum. Each state is offered nine two-day courses, and the USFA provides the costs associated with the instructor and texts. These two-day direct delivery courses provide training opportunities within the state and local communities.
The NFA and the state and local fire training systems select and cosponsor the courses. States have the option of using some or all direct deliveries such as Train-the-Trainer Programs, in which course materials are handed off in digital form to the state training system hosting train-the-trainer deliveries.
The Regional Delivery Program provides fire service and allied professionals the opportunity to attend NFA resident courses within their geographical regions. Regional Delivery courses mirror one- and two-week courses normally taught at the USFA/NFA’s resident facility. Although minor modifications sometimes are required, basic course content and materials are the same as on-campus courses.
The NFA provides two instructors per course, paralleling on-campus delivery, plus all training materials. The states involved in the delivery select the courses. The USFA funds the costs for instruction, texts, and some administrative fees and provides a $100 stipend to each student to offset some of their expenses.
Those who may be unable to attend classroom courses at a local or state site still have opportunities for obtaining USFA/NFA training in our Self-Study Courses, which are offered in the following formats.
- Emergency Response to Terrorism
- Fire Service Supervision
- Self-Study Course for Community Safety Educators
- Incident Command System
- Fire Safe Building Design for Architects and Designers
- Incident Command and Control Simulation Series (seven currently available; an additional 30 will be developed over the next two years)
- Wildland Tutorial
- Testing and Evaluation of Water Supplies for Fire Protection
THE INCIDENT COMMAND AND CONTROL SIMULATION SERIES
The Incident Command and Control Simulation series deserves additional explanation. These two-dimensional, visually based simulations give the student real-time emergency situations that require ICS-based decisions. They were built from the three-dimensional exercises used by students who attend the resident program. They are not keystroke-dependent computer games but rather decision-impelling, time-conditional exercises designed to improve decision making on the emergency scene. At this writing, seven simulations are available, and the price is rightthey’re free!
Nearly 100 USFA/NFA courses, both on- and off-campus, have received college credit recommendation from the American Council on Education. Credit for these courses are awarded at the two-year, four-year, or graduate level, depending on the complexity of the course.
The descriptions for all USFA/NFA courses are in our catalog, which can be downloaded from the Web or ordered from our publications office (see below). For courses that have been recommended for college credit, the catalog course description identifies the level and number of credits.
You will find the following on our Web page, <http:www.usfa.fema.gov>:
- The address and telephone number of your state training directorfor information on how to attend any of the off-campus classes (regional, direct, or train-the-trainer).
- Information on the Degrees at a Distance Program.
- Self-study course information.
- Ordering information for the CD-ROM self-study courses and USFA publications (on-line catalog).
The USFA/NFA strives to offer educational opportunities to suit the needs of the nation’s fire and emergency services. Our array of resident and distance deliveries gives students options not available just a few short years ago. We encourage you and your colleagues to take advantage of these opportunities for your professional development.
KENNETH O. BURRIS, JR., is the chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration. He retired as fire chief from the City of Marietta, Georgia. He has an MPA from Kennesaw State University and a bachelor’s degree in fire protection and safety engineering technology from the University of Cincinnati. He formerly served as treasurer of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.