"Ipsa scientia potestas est." This Latin phrase meaning "Knowledge itself is power" is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He also said, "A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds."
In looking at where fire and EMS agencies are today, each and every one of us should be taking the opportunity to improve our knowledge.
We used to be able to get by with having just our trade knowledge as the basis for our existence. Whether it was the firefighter academy or EMT school, this was really all we needed to successfully perform our jobs.
Sure, the chiefs had to know a little more, but that was only for the "white shirts."
However, as we progressed, more education and training was required. We now had to attend hazardous-materials training, urban-search-and-rescue training and paramedic school, and we were being required to obtain certifications in CPR and ACLS, instructional methodology and leadership.
Education Is the Key
As we know today, education is a key component to our very existence. Where the fire or EMS chief might have been able to get by with a trade education in the past, this isn't the case now.
Look at any job announcement and see what's required. From a minimum of a bachelor's degree to designations such as EFO and CFO, employers are looking for educated people to fill these key roles because this is a business, a profession that can no longer just exist on trade knowledge.
There are fire chiefs who are pursuing their PhDs, mid-level managers obtaining their master's degrees and even entry-level firefighters and paramedics coming in with their bachelor's already in hand.
FESHE Answered the Need
Recognizing there was no standard model for EMS or fire professional development, the National Fire Academy (NFA) created the FESHE (Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education) program to address this void. The participating members in this program have created national professional development models for EMS and fire. The EMS model outlines what level of education and training is recommended for each EMS level.
FESHE's matrix shows how to accomplish these models. Additionally, they have worked with a number of colleges and universities to establish programs where individuals can get a degree in fire or EMS disciplines. With the advent of distance learning via the internet, the ability to attend classes and obtain a degree is so much easier than attending a local brick-and-mortar institution that may not offer discipline-specific classes.
In addition to these programs, other higher educational opportunities exist at the NFA that include not only the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), but also specific EMS classes:
- Management Of EMS
- Advanced Leadership in EMS
- EMS: Quality Management
- EMS: Special Operations
- Hot Topics Research for EMS
Preparing for the Business of the New Normal
So, what's the point in all of this?
Our political and economic climate has changed—we know that. What used to work in the past doesn't work anymore. City managers, district boards, council members and mayors are tired of hearing that houses will burn and babies will die if we don't get the funding we're requesting, and we're no longer the heroes riding the wave of 9/11.
We're a business, and these managers want to see what our performance levels are. Documents such as response time maps, standards of cover, hazard analysis and risk assessments, strategic plans, performance metrics and cost/benefit analyses are no longer the exception—they're the norm. And they have to be current and accurate.
Did you learn how to create any of these in the fire academy or paramedic school? If you went to programs like I did, they never even mentioned a strategic plan, much less a standard of cover. That's no fault of the program; it's just not part of their mission.
It is, however, the mission of higher education, and there are plenty of opportunities out there.
As we move into a world with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a continuing erosion of available budget funds and constant questioning by the elected officials and members of our communities, we must be able to ensure our business is efficient and effective. We have to be able to justify our operations and existence through quality information and outcome-based performance. We must have the training, experience and education to be able to address these issues as well as the ones to come.
The city and county managers as well as elected officials rely on us to provide them with the best recommendations. We need to take the opportunity to ensure we're well educated, because knowledge is power. If we fail at this, there'll be others who are better educated, and they'll use that power to tell us how to do our job instead of the other way around.
Norris W. Croom III, EFO, CEMSO, is the deputy chief of operations for the Castle Rock (Colo.) Fire and Rescue Department. He's been a member of the EMS Section since 1998 and currently serves as the section's director at large and as the EMS representative on the CPSE Commission on Professional Credentialing.