In today’s emergency service professions, it is essential to master the core knowledge necessary to understand the research and emerging technology that guide incident response. To become truly prepared to respond, each emergency professional must take the time to develop the knowledge to manage the threat and initiate response operations. Training and education are critical in helping a responder master the competencies needed for response efforts.
To ensure that responders are well trained to address emergency needs, it is critical to start with a job task analysis, which can be a simple assessment of the skills necessary to complete the requirements of the position. Once the associated tasks are understood, a training officer can assess training needs and develop a training plan for each emergency response position. The task analysis takes into account the core knowledge and skills that the individual should have for proficiency. It also takes into account the tools, resources, and environment with which these skills are to be used.
Once the tasks and competencies are defined, the training officer can determine the training needed to have consistent standards of care and service. The training needs analysis provides the training requirements for each position. It provides the pathway for achieving mastery for each role in emergency operations.
In addition to training, there is a need to have core knowledge. Education provides the core knowledge and theory to validate operational strategies. Natural sciences and math are the most basic of the core knowledge essential to understand evidence-based emergency operations. Today’s incidents have grown increasingly complex. Foundational training may no longer be enough to help personnel adapt to these changes in emergency operations.
Emergency responders and emergency managers are now competing more than ever to fill leadership roles with educated and highly trained individuals. It is essential for those looking to advance through the ranks in emergency services – or to gain positions in emergency management – to build upon existing knowledge and skills through ongoing education and training. Although knowledge may make one a better person, certifications, credentials, and licenses can advance a career. This has never been truer than in the modern fire and emergency services.
Building Blocks for Mastery
Think of the traditional knowledge, skills, and abilities as the building blocks for validating competency and mastery as a responder. Knowledge is the theory to be learned in an educational environment, such as through courses at a university. Skills are the application of knowledge in a training environment, where one directly applies theories that were learned in an academic setting. Abilities are the demonstrated capabilities showing mastery application of knowledge and skills in multiple settings, which validate expertise.
Understanding the purpose and need for each building block makes it clear why it is so important to have each: education, training, and experience. Together, they help emergency service professionals validate their competency and expertise in dealing with emergencies and disasters in multiple settings.
There is no doubt that training and education play major roles in helping individuals prepare for and sustain careers in emergency operations. A fundamental understanding of science and math should be an essential component of every first responder’s education. These subjects provide the core knowledge and theory to validate operational strategies.
Evidence-Based Emergency Operations
Evidence-based emergency operations require responders to understand the complexities of incident management and emergency operations. The importance of today’s emergency responders and managers completing their education is necessary not just to advance but also to maintain competency in innovative technology and complex incident management. Basic training may no longer be enough. Becoming ongoing students of the profession is the value of training. Training and education programs should be developed based on validated research. Knowledge and understanding of the basic sciences result in better situational awareness and improved risk awareness and avoidance.
An example can be found in how fires are fought today versus even just 10 years ago. The UL Residential Study demonstrates that fires today and in the future are and will be far different from just 50 years ago. They also are far more dangerous because of the increased use of engineered products and new building techniques. This underscores the importance of firefighters having better knowledge of science and math as they relate to building design and construction and fire dynamics.
Educated public safety members also provide an opportunity to “professionalize” the service. Having the proper education and knowledge simply increases the ability to provide service while adapting to an ever-changing threat profile in communities.
Education provides a tool for individuals to adapt to changing needs and enables them to take advantage of emerging opportunities for advancement, whether volunteer or career. Also, as a responder advances through the service, specific training and educational requirements change. New positions require training to ensure that leaders have the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform in their new roles, based on that job’s task analysis and training needs assessment. There is no shortage of educational and training opportunities, and there certainly should not be a shortage of participants.