My last post discussed the events of my FDIC 2011 experience. My FDIC experience didn’t end though on Friday. Much of my experience will endure for quite some time. In particular, I brought back three key takeaways from the whole event. I’ll touch on the three key points below individually in upcoming posts.
- We need a professionalized fire service
- Networking really is important
- If you listen, people will share some amazing ideas.
A professional fire service
One of the most enjoyable discussions of the week came Thursday evening with Mike Ward (aka FossilMedic). I was fortunate enough that evening to hear Mr. Ward discuss his thoughts on the professionalization of the fire service. The discussion began about his experiences in with higher education organizations but quickly hit the lack of a ‘body of knowledge’ in the fire service. He compared the fire service of today to the emergency room physicians of many years ago. It was only through years of hard work and effort in creating an official ‘body of knowledge’ that emergency physicians were considered to be a true profession.
We both agreed that the fire service needs to head in a direction of professionalization. To do so requires us to create our own body of knowledge. A body of knowledge requires research. Research requires PhD’s. PhD’s require several years of hard work and paper writing. Any volunteers?
Seriously though, I think this is the direction the fire service needs to head. In fact, the need for a professional fire service was one of the key topics that lead Patrick and I to form this blog. While the idea of professionalizing the fire service may seem daunting, I’m pleased with some of our progress. For instance, the fire service has already begun to collect a body of research within the International Fire Service Journal of Leadership and Management from my alma mater, Oklahoma State University. We in the fire service have also benefited a great deal from research performed by Underwriters Laboratories and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. We don’t need to start a revolution. Rather, we simply need to maintain the momentum that these other organizations have started for us.
Professionalization at FDIC
I did have two other experiences during FDIC that gave me hope that the fire service could be seen as a true profession. The first glimmer of hope was actually my first event at FDIC, the International Fire Instructor Workshop. The workshop brought together several instructors from across the globe to discuss research impacting the fire service. Topics covered research pertaining to the need to gauge the emotional intelligence of fire service applicants to best methods to handle tunnel emergencies. I was impressed by the presentations and the hard research that many of these individuals had put into the fire service. Their efforts will go a long way to creating a professional image of the fire service on an international level.
United Nations Year of the Firefighter
In fact, several of the instructors at the workshop are actively petitioning the United Nations for an International Year of the Firefighter (hey, if the potato can have a year, why not the fire service?). Such a declaration would funnel a significant amount of funds towards true academic research of fire service topics. I’ll continue to monitor their progress and report back as I hear more. I’ve also included a short video at the bottom to give you an idea about what the IFIW workshop consisted of (the video is from 2010 but many of the same researchers were at FDIC 2011).
Professionalizing our books
A second glimmer of hope was found in a book I purchased during the event. I had been following The Fire Service Warrior for several months and had the pleasure to run into the author, Christopher Brennan, at the Fire Engineering book store. I picked up a copy of his book, “The Combat Position: Achieving Firefighter Readiness” and took to reading it as soon as I got home. I was particularly impressed with the number of references at the end of the chapters. Not only were the references numerous, but they were of good intellectual quality and covered a wide range of sources rather than simple references to Fire Engineering magazine articles. While perhaps not rising to the level found in academic journals, this is most certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the majority of books that are published in the future will have this level of research and referencing.