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Emergency Medical Services: EFO - It`s Not Just About Fire

During a recent discussion about the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) at the National Fire Academy (NFA), I was asked why there isn't an Executive EMS Officer Program to match EFO. As I pondered the question and the discussion continued, my first inclination was to answer, "I don't know; let's ask Dr. Onieal."

But since I didn't have his number handy and it was a little late, we decided we could probably find an answer to the question elsewhere. And we did.

You see, the EFOP, while it has "Fire" in its name, isn't really about fire. It's actually about leadership and both fire and EMS leaders can attend.

According to the NFA's website, "The Executive Fire Officer Program is an initiative of the USFA/NFA designed to provide senior officers with a broad perspective on various facets of fire and emergency services administration. The EFOP curriculum and research framework examines how senior authority figures can exercise leadership when dealing with difficult, adaptive problems within their jurisdictions."

The four classes include:

  • Executive Development
  • Executive Analysis of Community Risk Reduction
  • Executive Analysis of Fire Service Operations in Emergency Management
  • Executive Leadership

When you read the descriptions of these classes, you see statements like these:

  • Leadership isn't about position; it's actually a behavior.
  • Exercise leadership through risk analysis and mitigation.
  • Issues that require extensive analysis and action...
  • Extend learning experienced in previous courses so future opportunities to exercise leadership are moved to a practice.

All of these directly apply to the EMS world we live in today, and now more than ever, EMS managers and leaders are tasked daily with "issues that require extensive analysis and action."

Yes, there are specific fire components in these courses, but there are also EMS and emergency-management components, too. The risk-reduction class deals with fire and EMS risk-reduction strategies; students are encouraged to bring real-world challenges to every class so they can build solutions to implement when they return home. Part of those solutions may be found in the applied research projects, which are required for each class.

The other key piece to this program is the network of other fire and EMS professionals you'll now have access to. This includes not only your classmates over the four years, but all EFO graduates you'll meet over the course of your career.

The EFO Graduate Symposium further enhances this part of the experience and allows you to continue to grow your network. The value here is that every single graduate understands the position you're in ("been there, done that"), and some may even have solutions to help you with your challenges. What a resource to have!

Ultimately, the leadership issues senior fire officers face are the same ones that senior EMS officers address. The EFOP can help develop the EMS leader just as well as the fire service leader, and having EMS leaders in the program offers a more diverse view of all aspects of the fire and EMS profession.

So, back to the title: it may simply be a result of when the program was created (1985) and where it's housed (the National Fire Academy). However, this shouldn't prevent any EMS leader from applying to the program. I believe the EFOP can serve as an Executive EMS Officer Program, and as an EFOP graduate, I can attest that the program is about developing leaders. It's not just about fire.

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