Executive Fire Officer: Facing the New Realities

In today's world, shrinking budgets, increased competition and the availability of online information and resources means that fire and emergency service customers are constantly evaluating their investments.

While this can be frustrating for association managers—particularly around budget time—it really is a beneficial environment for the community in the long run. It ensures that organizational staff, elected leaders and the broader organization are evolving their work to meet the changing needs of the community.

I'm presently the vice president of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers (NSEFO), whose sole mission is to support the efforts of the National Fire Academy and the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program.

At the present time, NSEFO has an exclusive audience that's limited to those who participate in the EFO Program at the National Fire Academy. We offer assistance with applied research projects to current EFO students and a network of graduates from around the country who can provide information to others when dealing with organizational or personnel issues.

As we approach our 25th anniversary this year, the leadership of NSEFO is looking to the future and taking stock of how our mission and scope should evolve in a world that's very different from the one in which we were established. This has lead to several conclusions.

New Directions

While our members represent a cadre of some of dynamic and forward-thinking fire service leaders, our ranks are limited to EFO students and graduates, many in the end-stages of their careers. Such a narrow focus doesn't invite itself to long-term active engagement of members.

A new direction for NSEFO is a progression that follows the changing times we live in. There are those in other disciplines who may be able to provide information that will enhance present and future fire service organizations.

NSEFO is discussing several potential avenues to expand professional development opportunities for emerging leaders and chief officers, widen our peer support network and find ways to more actively engaged in the development of the future of our industry.

Align with the IAFC

The first avenue NSEFO is exploring is to become a section of the IAFC, allowing IAFC members to choose NSEFO as a special interest affiliation. In my opinion, this is a winning situation for both NSEFO and the IAFC because there are a number of EFOs who are IAFC members but not NSEFO members and vice versa.

The network of professionals with valuable experiences that can be shared with other members is a value-added benefit of changing our mission to become a more valuable resource to the fire and emergency services. By becoming a section of the IAFC, both organizations expand their networks, which will lead to more sharing of operational and managerial ideas—something that will definitely enhance the future of the fire and emergency service.

Broaden the Circle

Another avenue to explore is to possibly expand membership to those who have:

  • Been credentialed as Chief Fire Officer (CFO)
  • Completed executive development programs
  • Degrees from accredited colleges and/or
  • Met a set of requirements that would set them aside from others who may not have chosen the executive development route

Expanding Services

As value is derived by service, NSEFO is also looking at ways to include expansion of services to junior officers and at leveraging technology to support knowledge exchange, networking and online professional-development programs.

For NSEFO, the future is now and change is a course that all fire service organizations need to look at if they want to be relevant in the future. Whatever path we choose to follow, we look forward to continuing to work with the members of the IAFC.

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