March 7, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - Yet again, I'm inspired by a course I'm taking to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard.
Due to my (ahem) experience in the fire service and the courses I've already taken, I'm eligible for grandfathering under the transition to NFPA professional standards from the Ontario curriculum, and was offered a spot in the gap course for Fire Officer 1 on the weekend in Tay Township.
In the class of 29 – most are officers – I am one of only a couple of firefighters, the only female, and the only one with a spouse in the room as my husband falls under the grandfathering too. The group is a mix of seasoned veterans and new officers and I can't help but reflect on my years in the fire service and the quiet pride I feel for being fortunate enough to have this opportunity.
Our instructor, Gord Roesch, is a seasoned firefighter, former fire chief, and the driving force behind Southwest Fire Academy in Delhi, Ont. With a passion for the fire service and a dedication to facilitating positive change, one can't help but be inspired to raise the bar both personally and professionally.
The course, in Roesch's words, "isn't what you think it will be." Some may have anticipated an incident command/incident management/scenario-type officer course, but this was going to be far from it. Topics include NFPA standard familiarization, human-resources management through directing staff, coaching and leadership, interpersonal communications, budget request proposals, inspections and accident investigations and physical/mental health and fitness.
Although I didn't actually hear any groans from the class in response to the course outline, I'm sure there were a few in the room thinking it had the potential to be a very long weekend.
Fortunately, Roesch has a knack for making the course as engaging and applicable as a gap course can be that's based on such potentially dry material. With a healthy mix of group work and theory, we started off familiarizing ourselves with the professional qualifications contained in the NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer in order to understand the expectations of a fire officer, did some brainstorming, presented findings to the class, did a budgeting exercise for new equipment, role played using our interpersonal skills, and absorbed concepts surrounding generational learning, motivation and leadership styles and their application in the fire service.
The switch from the Ontario firefighter curriculum to NFPA has been confusing and a bit of a grey area for those of us "senior" firefighters and officers, so courses such as these are greatly appreciated in getting us up to speed. I write the exam for Fire Officer I this Saturday.
It's nice to know that "no one gets left behind" applies to training and certification too.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen