Codes and standards
NFPA Impact: May 2015
When it comes to fire-service training, it is caveat emptor – or buyer beware.
By Shayne Mintz
It is my sense that even though the Durham College student who tragically died during ice-rescue training in early February in Ontario was not yet an official member of the fire-service brother and sisterhood, the entire fire community is grieving the loss of this aspiring firefighter. Since that terrible day, I have had inquiries about the role of the NFPA in both creating training standards and in the professional accreditation and certification process.
The NFPA has a critical role in the accreditation and certification of training agencies. NFPA 1000, Standard for Fire Service Professional Qualifications Accreditation and Certification Systems, provides clear guidelines that are the framework used by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) and the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board) in establishing their process to accredit training agencies. The training agencies, in turn, certify that trainees have met the requirements of a specific NFPA Professional Qualification Standard.
To become accredited, a training agency is required to demonstrate that training and evaluation practices meet requisites recommended by NFPA 1001, Firefighter Professional Qualifications, or other professional qualifications standard such as NFPA 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications, or NFPA 1041, Standard for Fire Service Instructor. Upon completion, the firefighter is recognized as being certified.
To become a certified firefighter the candidate must be trained and tested by a fire-service training facility that is accredited by either IFSAC or Pro Board. These are the only two agencies that can confirm a curriculum complies with the relevant NFPA professional qualification standard, and authorize the certification of firefighters to those standards. The list of accredited agencies for each province can be found on the respective IFSAC and Pro Board websites.
Where there was once a single professional standard for firefighters, there are now almost 20 different standards that focus on the various roles within the modern-day fire service.
As a point of note, an NFPA certificate of educational achievement is completely different than a professional certification or qualification. The achievement certificate is issued by the NFPA after an individual has successfully completed the required training program and has obtained a passing score on an examination. The examination is based solely on the educational content of the seminar and is open book. A certificate of educational achievement demonstrates that the learner has met the educational objectives of the NFPA training program he or she attended; it makes no claims as to an individual’s proficiency in conducting any specific task or job.
The NFPA certificate recognizes that an individual has successfully completed the requirements of a one-time educational course or training program. These programs are available only through the NFPA directly via distance learning or on-site seminar format. See catalog.nfpa.org/Training for more information on those programs.
While an NFPA certificate of educational achievement is a valuable recognition of educational achievement that can enhance a person’s professional development, it has no professional or other credential associations. Certificate holders cannot claim to be certified, licensed, accredited, or registered to engage in a specific occupation or profession. In contrast, professional qualification certifications provided by learning institutions or agencies that have been accredited by IFSAC and/or Pro Board are typically programs that certify professional or occupational competence. These programs require certain prerequisites and ongoing eligibility requirements.
On occasion, an organization or training entity may claim (or a learner may mistakenly interpret) that a program or course is NFPA certified or certified to the NFPA standard and that may not always be the case. It behooves the employer, the candidate or the purchaser of services to conduct due diligence and make sure that the claims being made by the training or certifying agency are accurate, validated and supported by the accreditation process of IFSAC or Pro Board.
Not all schools or programs are alike and it is up to individuals buying the services to shop around and understand what they are getting and what they will receive once they complete their programs.
Shayne Mintz has more than 35 years of experience in the fire service, and is the Canadian regional director for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Contact Shayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @ShayneMintz