Administrative training. Just the sound of it is enough to make action-oriented public safety professionals cringe. It’s almost as bad as going on “light duty.” But is administrative training really that awful? Anything we can do to develop our management, leadership, and technology skills can help us become an officer, better leaders, and more well-rounded servants of our communities. For those of us creeping past middle-age, administrative training opens doors to careers after the fire service. For this discussion, I’m going to focus on technology-related administrative training.
Whether we embrace it or go along grudgingly, technology permeates everything we do in the fire service. That fire truck you just purchased: Yep, no less than a half dozen computers on board. We all know what the first two letters in CAD stand for: “Computer-Aided.” Let’s not forget the cool tech we’re seeing appear on our PPE. Who knew we’d have mask-mounted thermal imaging cameras to help us find our way through the smoke? I remember when TICs cost as much as a Honda Fit. So how do we keep up with all this technological change when it’s hard enough to keep our computers’ operating systems updated?
First, I would focus on what lights your fire. That is, what are you passionate about in the fire service? Is it NFIRS, managing PPE, working on MDTs, or sifting through gigabytes of data to generate that perfect report for your stakeholders? Whatever you love about being in the fire service, there is almost certainly a technological element to it. Learn as much as you can and then become your department’s expert on it.
Here’s some ideas to consider:
All departments are (or should) be reporting to NFIRS. While not perfect, NFIRS is a true national standard that provides a repository for collecting the nation’s all hazards response data. You’re also required to report to NFIRS in order to be eligible for AFG and SAFER grants. Did you know the USFA offers both online and onsite classes on NFIRS? These are excellent opportunities to learn the intricacies of managing fire department data. Many of ER’s own trainers have taken these classes.
The USFA’s Fire and Emergency Service Higher Education (FESHE) National Professional Development Matrices for every fire officer level include elements about technology and data analysis. Here’s just a couple examples of those competencies:
Supervisory Fire Officer (FO I):
SFO-09 Understanding basic principles of information technology and business computer systems for effective daily use.
Managing Fire Officer (FO II):
MFO-01 Understanding and using statistical data for basic descriptive measures, statistical inference and forecasting.
Embracing administrative training with technology, both hardware, software, and, most importantly, data management, is not only good for career advancement but for also helping you become a better manager, leader, and all-around fire service professional. I’d like to leave you with a recent example of how combining a love of the fire service and love of technology can enhance your value within your department: Jared Williams, Training Officer for the Lawton (OK) Fire Department (pictured on the right) not only holds a degree in Fire Technology from Western Oklahoma State University, he has become one of his department’s experts in data management. He attended our first Regional Training Academy for 2017 in Austin, TX and was also an invaluable participant at our Weatherford, OK Onsite Training event. He’s so good at using Emergency Reporting and understanding data analysis that other departments in his region are reaching out to him as an indispensable resource. Jared is an outstanding example of someone who has embraced technology and administrative training within the fire service.
Written by Tom Louis, Regional / DoD Trainer at Emergency Reporting.