For a program to remain relevant for decades, it must evolve. The Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) at the National Fire Academy (NFA) has existed for just over 30 years. During this time, it has undergone several changes that continually provided students with relevant course topics and academic challenges.
The EFOP is currently undergoing one of its most significant evolutions since its creation. Shortly following our gathering at Fire-Rescue International 2018, many recommendations were formally presented to the NFA. Late last year, the NFA announced several significant changes that will be implemented with the next round of EFO students.
It is currently expected that the program will be overhauled throughout 2019, with full implementation of the revised program to debut in 2020.
Why is this important to you?
First, it is good for all of us to be aware when significant changes are made to any program that has the potential to impact most agencies over time. The EFO Program certainly has that capacity.
Second, if have staff members interested in applying to the program, you need to understand what their academic pursuits will consist of and what your agency’s commitment will be.
The NFA pulled together nearly 20 different stakeholder groups to provide expert input to this evolutionary process. In this effort, the IAFC was represented by two members of the Executive Fire Officers Section. Many work sessions were used to provide recommendations via the NFA Board of Visitors. NFA leaders received these recommendations and forged a path forward with a comprehensive plan to evolve the program over the next year.
Program Timeline and Students’ Commitment
While every course in the EFO Program will see some adjustment, our focus is on the overall program timeline and the commitment required of students and their home departments.
One of the most significant changes is that the EFO Program will no longer take four years for a student to complete. The new format will require students to complete the program in two years. It will still contain four primary residence courses to be completed in these two years; that is, students will complete the same number of courses in half the time.
It is important to note that the NFA staff is diligently working to identify course content that may be completed outside the campus-residency component. This means that some course work may shift to an online delivery format that students may participate in before arriving on campus or possibly after returning home and before preparing for the next course. Students’ time on campus will be maximized with critical content.
The second most significant change to the EFO Program will be to the Applied Research Project (ARP). For decades, EFO students were required to complete an ARP within six months of completing an on-campus course. Every year for four years, a student would attend the required on-campus course and return home to research a different topic and submit their ARP for review and evaluation.
This format will go by the wayside with the next group of admitted students. Beginning in 2020, to complete the program, EFO students will be required to complete a graduate-level thesis. Toward the conclusion of the two-year program, students will present and defend their theses.
Although many details remain to be worked out by the NFA staff, these are the overarching changes that agency administrators should be aware of. This next evolution will provide an immersive academic experience that will continue to provide the next wave of EFO candidates with leadership skills and research knowledge to prepare them to equip their jurisdiction with necessary information to make solid, strategic decisions.
The Executive Fire Officers Section is grateful to the IAFC for the opportunity to contribute to this important endeavor. The EFO Program will continue to have a positive impact on the fire and emergency service and those who choose to complete the important work through this program and the NFA.