The attainment of a supervisory position in the fire service represents one half of an individual’s professional accomplishment—maintaining a high level of competency and relevancy completes the process. Many fire service organizations have robust professional development programs in place for their employees at all levels. In others, the lack of comprehensive programs requires the learner to seek support from outside of his/her organization. Professional development is described as a continuation of activities that fall under training, continuing education, and experiences.
In the firefighter and engineer/driver operator ranks, a heavy emphasis is placed on hands-on/psychomotor abilities. Once the individual transitions to the supervisory fire officer rank, he/she must maintain those abilities while adding a diverse set of skills that can be best described as cognitive in nature. Examples of diverse sets of cognitive abilities include: incident management, motivating subordinates, administrative paperwork completion, report writing, instructional delivery, correcting performance and behavior deficiencies, and goal setting for subordinates.
In the domain of training, the aspiring/current supervisory fire officer should work with a mentor to help devise training strategies to assist with upward growth. Additional training strategies include:
- All hazards ICS/simulation training;
- Local government operations, specifically in the areas of budgeting, subordinate development, and human resource issues;
- Software applications;
- Report writing;
- Data collection and analysis;
- Community based fire protection and risk reduction;
Under the guise of continuing education, participating in coursework at a local college/university, the National Fire Academy, or attending sessions at a fire service related conference are excellent examples for promoting professional growth as an aspiring/current supervisory fire officer.
Last, fire service personnel typically associate the word “experiences” with structure fire responses and the frequency of them. These types of experiences are definitely learning opportunities when they present; however, valuable experiences extend beyond the borders of structure fire responses. If the opportunity presents itself, the aspiring/current supervisory fire officer should take a 40-hour assignment within his/her organization. In the absence of a 40-hour assignment opportunity, transferring to a different battalion is another example of an additional experience. In many cities/counties, each battalion has its own uniqueness and different set of challenges. In some cities and counties, a broad based leadership academy is offered—this too is a valuable opportunity for learning.
Collectively, different experiences “forces” an individual outside of his/her comfort zone—they lead to a richer understanding of the fire service, its role within a government structure, and how the supervisory fire officer serves as a high level influencer. Remember, you control your fire service technical and cognitive competencies!