Fire service personnel typically accumulate college transcripts with unnecessary courses and dozens of training certificates when getting an associate or bachelor's degree and/or the next desired level of certification. During this process of professional development, time and money is often wasted as these efforts may be redundant.
The National Fire Academy (NFA) and fire and emergency services professional development community addressed this problem by creating national models that integrate training, education, experience and certification. The National Professional Development Matrix (NPDM) XLS moves the models from concept to reality.
What is the NPDM?
The NPDM is a planning tool for use by states, training centers, response agencies and institutions of higher learning to develop a plan for fire service professional development. It is designed for training and certification agencies and academic emergency response programs to assist the emergency services personnel they serve in their professional development planning.
The matrix cross-walks Fire Officer I-IV competencies with national-level courses that include National Fire Academy training courses, model associate and bachelor's courses, general education courses recommended by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in its “Officer Development Handbook,” and personal experience. States and fire departments are urged to customize the matrix by adding their own standards, job performance requirements (JPRs), training and college courses.
The NFA encourages states to convene professional development summits comprising fire departments, emergency response agencies, academic fire programs, associations and other key stakeholders to transpose the national officer development competencies to its own JPRs, customize the matrix with training and college courses, and agree to standard documentation that each entity will accept for appropriate credit.
The matrix is a national template that is:
- Easy to customize by states and fire departments.
- Easy to use by those who advise fire and emergency services personnel.
- A starting point for discussion at state professional development summits.
- A source for recommended degree benchmarks for fire officers.
The matrix represents interoperability for fire service professional development. The imperative for interoperability of radios and hoses so that they connect and work together is matched only by the need for training, education and certification to do the same.
The matrix is not mandated. The USFA facilitated the process by which it was developed, but it has been driven from the bottom up, involving major stakeholders in national forums. Fire service and training education peers provided the national assessments for the end-users, but your organization is welcome to edit these, as necessary.
Matrix target audiences
Fire Officers: The matrix is built on the IAFC’s competencies prescribed for fire officers. While reference to Fire Officer I-IV is made, the nomenclature used in the IAFC’s Officer Development Handbook is coupled with it: FO I — Supervisory; FO II — Managing; FO III — Administrative; and FO IV — Executive.
Fire Prevention Officers: The National Fire Prevention Curriculum work group, a professional development committee of state and metropolitan department fire marshals, evaluated the matrix and determined that the competencies are as essential to officers in fire prevention as anywhere else. The work group also identified 3 fire prevention-related competencies specific to public education (PUB-01), investigation (INV-01) and administration (ADMIN).
For those who are not yet officers, pursuing your degree and using the matrix to track the competencies addressed will be helpful in your professional development. For example, taking as many recommended general education and fire science courses as possible enables a competency-based approach to your degree while preparing for the next level of certification.
Competencies and professional designations
The heart of the matrix is the first column: the IAFC's “Officer Development Handbook.”
The second column lists corresponding National Fire Protection Association/JPR standards.
The third column lists correlated Center for Public Safety Excellence competencies.
The fourth column reflects specific NFA courses that correlate to competencies in the first column.
The fifth column lists Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education courses and collegiate learning opportunities that correspond to the first column competencies.
The sixth column includes state and local skills training events that relate to the first column.
Professional development “life events”
The final column is for professional development “life events” that a person may experience to get the competencies found in the first column.
Customizing the matrix through professional development summits
States are urged to convene professional development summits to transpose the national officer development competencies to its own JPRs, customize the matrix with training and college courses, and agree to standard documentation that each entity will accept for appropriate credit. The leaders of the state stakeholder cadre are:
- State offices responsible for fire and emergency services training and certification.
- Colleges and universities with fire-related degree programs.
- State organizations representing fire chiefs, firefighters, volunteers, instructors and other vital constituencies.
Elements of a state professional development plan
The plan for your state's fire and emergency services degree, training and certification programs should specify who is responsible for learning at each level of certification and/or competency development. It also needs to detail:
- Certifications that can be applied for academic credit.
- The extent to which academic credit can, if possible or appropriate, be accepted towards satisfaction of standards or JPRs.
- Emergency response course requirements, including those from the model core and non-core curriculum.
- Required general education courses with a crosswalk to the competencies in the matrix.
- Types of degrees: Associate of Arts/Science degrees transferable to baccalaureate programs (including in-state schools) and Associate of Applied Science degrees (including whether they are transferable or nontransferable).
Only state fire and emergency services leaders can make this happen. Contact the leaders in your state and urge them to begin the professional development summit process.