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Fire and Life Safety: Why Pursue Our Professional Credentials?

As I watched the start of a new professional sports season and the beginning of the 2018 World Cup, it got me wondering what the emerging trend of professional credentialing in the fire service and qualifying to become a sports or professional coach have in common.

Across North America, the United Kingdom and other countries, there are more than 65 distinct coaching credentials and the systems used to grant them. Some are competency-based, some require hours of course work and others require supervision by someone who has already has the credential. Some rely on self-assessment, some can be obtained without ever coaching a client and some are just based on self-proclamation.

Most of these systems are based on levels of education and experience in the field or in the sport as a player or coach. How does someone know they’re ready to coach and at what level? How does a team manager know what coach to hire?

On the surface, it might appear to be based on a team’s wins or losses or the experience someone got as an assistant working under a head coach. However, it may be a mix of many things, such as experience, education and past involvement. This is what coaching credentials provide—an opportunity for those trying to reach the next level to receive guidance from others who are already there.

This is very similar to the path many fire chiefs, fire marshals and chief officers follow. Most of our leadership training is related to what we can find and usually not fire-service specific. We also seek out people to mentor us and help us develop our leadership skills, guiding us to the best training to pursue. Without their help and guidance, many of us wouldn’t have the opportunities we have today. This is very similar to a coach–assistant coach relationship.

So how does someone know when they’re ready or qualified for that position as fire marshal, chief officer or fire chief?

Ten years ago, the only way to know was to test for the position or look at the qualifications posted for the job. Today, we have the opportunity with the Center of Public Safety Excellence and their designation programs to apply for one of the designations.

Through that application process, we can have a peer-review team look at our education, experience and involvement with the industry and community, measuring us against the standard qualifications for that particular designation. During this review, you also receive guidance on areas where you could use improvement to better prepare yourself for the next level or position.

The processes for obtaining professional credentials help you prepare for the next level of work and give you the confidence that you’re prepared and qualified for that level. You invest time to build a balance between education and experience to prepare yourself for that next level.

This is what the professional credentialing process will do for you. Yes, it is hard work. But it’s worth it.


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