We frequently hear that members promote and are thrown into the front seat with little more than a slap on the back and congratulations. It seems most fire departments don’t do enough to prepare their aspiring and new company officers to make the decisions, on and off the street, that they inevitably face.
Until a few years ago, we at least had the excuse of there being few options for professional development of the midcareer, midladder members. True professional development, both education and training, was limited to chief matters. Through decades of effort, that’s changing.
As with fire dynamics and tactics, a revolution is unfolding at accelerating speeds. Every summer, you can attend Fire-Rescue International for the Company Officer Leadership Symposium. There’s no better way to ensure you’re up to date on current issues.
The National Fire Academy now offers an Executive Fire Officer analogue for company officers; the Managing Officer Program consists of four one-week courses at the NFA, several NFA courses delivered by state training agencies and a capstone project.
The Center for Public Safety Excellence has expanded their professional credentialing process to include company officers. This serves as a roadmap for you to build yourself into a modern, professional company officer. The Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education program has standardized the undergraduate education program for fire officers and is now the standard nationwide.
The IAFC has even summed everything up for us in the Officer Development Handbook.
We each have to decide whether and to what extent we’ll develop ourselves. In this industry, you have to be proactive; very few agencies will spoon-feed these opportunities to you, much less make you engage in them.
In many environments in the fire service, there’s a lot of negative peer pressure around any talk of higher education or advanced training. None of that is new.
The difference today is that you don’t have the excuse of uncertainty about where to find the tools to get where you want to go. Sometimes you’ll have to pick them up and run with them on your own.
That’s okay. The naysayers won’t care when you’re passed over for a promotion you desperately want, and they won’t be there to help you when you face the consequences of a poor decision.
Our forebears built this opportunity for us and left it just within our reach. We owe it to them to not let it go to waste.
Even more, we owe it to our families and our brothers and sisters to build the professionalism the fire service has been searching for over decades. If we want to professionalize ourselves and the fire service, we must hold ourselves personally accountable in the absence of some outside mandate.
The resources are finally in place to empower you, but you have to invest in yourself to use them.