Annual Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) Conference

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Every year, USFA hosts the annual Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) Conference on its campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Representatives from fire-related degrees programs, State and local fire service training agencies, and national fire service organizations attend the three-day conference. There are significant products from these conferences resulting from the group work by the participants and presentations by national leaders and experts. Participation at the FESHE conferences is by invitation only to those in the target audiences.

10th Annual Conference

Campus disaster preparedness and safety, tornado response, multimedia educational resources, and Internet-based learning tools and technologies were featured topics at the May 31 - June 2, 2008 FESHE annual conference. The FESHE program, is a network of fire science, EMS and other related degree programs established by the U.S. Fire Administration's (USFA) National Fire Academy (NFA) in 1998.

Keynote Address

The conference was keynoted by retired California Fire Marshal Ronny Coleman. During his presentation, re-enactors transported the 170 attendees to 1947, when then-President Harry S. Truman (played by re-enactor Ray Starzmann) convened the President's Conference on Fire Prevention. That conference cast a national spotlight on fire safety and yielded a report on issues such as the identification of the 3 Es – engineering, enforcement, and education – that remain relevant today.


A presentation on "Key Findings from the Virginia Tech Review Panel" by Dr. Harold Cohen explained the importance of disaster preparedness. The review panel staff members gave detailed description of the measures taken during the shooting to isolate the incident, treat victims, and understand the murderer's motives and past. The importance of preparedness planning was also accentuated in presentations on other recent events by those actually involved in the event, including Chief Jim Clack (former fire chief for the Minneapolis Fire Department) on the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minnesota, and President Warren Nichols who spoke about the killer tornado that struck his institution, Volunteer State College in Tennessee.

Further, the conference acquainted attendees with new technologies in the fire science education field that educators and faculty can use to enhance their degree programs and classes. The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) is an online tool for educators to communicate and share peer-reviewed lessons and data. The rapidly growing system features ready-made lessons, access to new technologies and ideas, and evaluative teaching materials. Podcasting, a frequently used learning tool in many classrooms, has made its way into the fire science degree courses. Rich Valenta, of the University of Illinois Fire Science Institute, presented a workshop on planning, creating, and editing video and audio podcasts. He discussed the benefits of podcast lectures for firefighters: they can listen to them while they're on the go, from firehouse to school to home, as many times as they want.

Each year, the Fire and Emergency Services textbook publishers hold a panel where attendees can offer suggestions regarding what they would like to see in future textbook editions, and ask questions about current publications they use in the classroom. Publishers updated attendees on upcoming textbooks and new technologies, ranging from downloadable textbooks for firefighters on the go to online textbook databases, with discussion boards and forums to interact with other students.


New at this year's conference were the FESHE "Lasting Achievement" awards, memorializing groundbreaking work in fire science higher education programs. The first two recipients were long-time advocates and pillars of fire higher education, Betty Jo Mayeske, Ph.D and Professor John L. Bryan, Ph.D, founders of the Open Learning Fire Service Program, now the Degrees at a Distance Program (DDP). Others honored included Gerry N. Bassett, Dr. Romey Brooks, R. Wayne Powell, NFA Superintendent Dr. Denis Onieal, the founding members of the National Fire Science Curriculum Committee, the seven regional DDP Institutions, and the Fire and Emergency Services textbook publishers.

U. S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade remarked after the conference, "I would like to congratulate the National Fire Academy and the representatives of the 100 higher learning institutions who have committed themselves to standardizing fire and emergency services education by adopting the model fire science and EMS management curricula and providing quality education to their students, the next generation of first responders, and leaders. As a result of the NFA's FESHE program, there now exists a robust, national model curriculum of fire-related and EMS management courses for colleges and universities to adopt as their own."