IAFC member Lt. Al Rufer discusses the great debate taking place in many firehouses across the country: do you promote the firefighter who is state certified and has 10 years of experience, or do you promote the firefighter who has their associate’s degree and five years of experience?


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You ask a question that is difficult to answer, based on the limited info given. How many classes did this person take while earning their associates degree, and how many would be applicable to firefighting dynamics? What kind of associates degree was it? Firefighting technology maybe, or creative pottery making? In my experience, all to often I saw alot of people promoted based on how many times they could read a collection of fire books and memorize the same and all too often, the lack of experience showed up on the fire ground hazarding everyone there.
I don't think this is the real subject here. The goal is to promote someone, which is a complete different issue.
Also, the two web link you provide demonstrate the difficultiy: Ed and Nate are both in the USA, but promote things which are in complete opposition one with the other.
So in this case, each one can argue of "experience" but give two completly different result. And same for education. In this case how can we check the difference?
That's not easy.
Notice also that for years, I'm still waiting for the "why they do it the way they do it" concerning solid bore... I suppose Ed know why he promote fog nozzle as Shan Raffel, Paul Grimwood and I, do for years, but for the solid bore, nobody is able to explain us the reason...
What isn't fair about it Vic? You don't get the debate as here, there isn't the question of education vs experience, etc. Besides shouldn't an officer know every job below them? How does that happen when one can test as a FF for LT and never hold the job of engineer?

Here is another aspect that sticks out, irregardless of what promotion system is used, majority of FF's out there do care about the job and will look after each other despite the years of service etc, especially when things hit the fan. The idea and notion being presented here that some younger FF is going to blindly follow an older more inept FF isn't necessarily the case. An older FF can learn just as much from a younger.

I'm still waiting for Tyler to explain how such a system is any less safe.
Well John,
As I said before, there are guys that just get by. They might have seniority, but will get someone killed on the fire ground. They don't have what it takes to be an officer. They don't have the desire to be an officer, and if they were put in charge it is less safe.
As far as your debate... what is to debate if a 10 year firefighter out scores a 15 year firefighter on the promotional exam? Shouldn't the senior firefighter know more? Shouldn't they score higher? Sure you can debate the test, why it was this way or that way, but if it is even ground....
I am an officer at my department and I do happen to be a senior member, but it wasn't handed to me. I had to bust my ass to get it. You don't get to run UPS by working as a box handler for 25 years.... life isn't fair I suppose.
We are talking about promotion of people who will have to perform a job as officier.
We are not talking of promoting a product, a method or a web site.
absolutely Jack!! I work in Chicago and a small town outside Chicago, so I see both worlds. Knowing what I know, you go with experience. As long as that means actual fire experience. Some of the people on here are two closed minded. I'm giving my opinion but it's backed with what I've seen on a busy department and a not so busy department. Classes don't make good firemen, it helps a little bit, but leaders make good officers. And generally speaking, either you are or you're not!! I've seen people passed over on promotions that would be great officers, and I've also seen people make officer that shouldn't be in charge of anybody. The debate will go on and on, but I know what I would do and I stand behind it 100%. People don't have to agree with me but that's what I'd do.
:)
Maybe the problem is education. Not as the only way to "promote or not", but as the way to get information. We can all admit that for some, it's easier to play music than for other. But with education, we can go to a correct level and learn toplay guitar of piano.
Fir intellectual job, it can be seen as harder. That's why it's easier to say that "you must have pedagogy in your blood to be a good teacher". And same for chief. Of course, if you don't have a correct "chief course", the only way is to use your "feeling" to promote.

Maybe we can't have the same opinion, only because there is no real officier course. Because if we select a guy by "education", we must also ask "what kind of education?" Ten years of piano of ten years of mathematics both give education. :)

In France, there is a national officier school. We can (of course) argue about the content of the officier course and so on, but, despite of that, there is no question about "promotion". You take the officier course or no. And that's all. My wife is high rank officier in a fire service in Brasil and if she want to be promoted, she must takes the course, and that's all: if she fail she will not be promoted, and if she is OK at the course, the promotion "speed" depend on the rank during the course.

Do you have officier course in the USA?
Tough question. Although it seems that most departments are willing to pay more attention to the person with the degree, even if it is in basketry. Does this make you a better firefighter/officer? That scenario is situational. It is truly up to the person. I've had the unfortunate experience of working with someone who has a bachelors degree in fire engineering who cannot identify a shutoff valve, as well as the fortunate experience of working with someone who has a high school education and is so intimate with the job it is more of a second nature response. This is the same person who the engineer turn to for answers. Unfortunately, being that H.R has stripped the departments from conducting promotions and hiring, they lose that true grasp on the competencies of the personnel. The result, the "educated" (those with a degree) are usually promoted over the street smart firefighter simply because they completed college.
My true thoughts, as the saying goes, not everyone who completes college does so with an "A" average. Doctors who graduate with a "C" average are still labeled doctors. That doesn't mean I want them cutting me open. I'll take the battle born every day of the week.
what is to debate if a 10 year firefighter out scores a 15 year firefighter on the promotional exam? Shouldn't the senior firefighter know more? Shouldn't they score higher? Sure you can debate the test, why it was this way or that way, but if it is even ground

That issue can go on forever as well, with so many "what ifs" entailed. Someone can be a better book learner and test taker, whereas another is better hands on. On a written test, asking for book answers to be puked back, doesn't necessarily make one a better leader. So in your case here, saying a senior FF should know more.....well in what context? This goes right back to the very issue this debate is grounded in does it not?


As I said before, there are guys that just get by. They might have seniority, but will get someone killed on the fire ground. They don't have what it takes to be an officer. They don't have the desire to be an officer, and if they were put in charge it is less safe

You are making broad generalizations here. Just because one is promoted to an officer position by seniority does not make them any less safe than one by promotional exam. Just because one studies for and tests for a promotion doesn't necessarily make them effective on the fireground either and it also doesn't mean they wouldn't get someone killed either. That is my point here, it is tough to make such a generalized claim when there are so many other "what ifs" out there.

Even if someone gets promoted to an officer rank through seniority and "just did their time" it also doesn't mean they are going to get someone killed either. Safety is everyone's responsibility and many times a good crew can make up for an officer's inadequacies, happens all the time even in testing for promotion depts. Point is this job is a team effort and you are making claims on the promotional process and making broad generalizations.

As mentioned by others on here numerous times, there really is no perfect system. A combination of testing and seniority tends to be the best compromise seen, but the bottom line comes down to the dept as well. Testing alone doesn't make one a better officer, experience alone doesn't and seniority alone doesn't....each and every system has flaws.

As I mentioned about seniority, it is fair. You woulnd't see a court case like New Haven in a straight seniority. You wouldn't see diversity and affirmative action issues with straight seniority and so on.
I think the answer to this question depends on what they are bing promoted to as well as the culture of the department.

For example, if they are being promoted from firefighter to LT, experience is far more critical than the Associate's degree as thier primary function will be directing crews during fire supression, in most cases,at the direction of a command-level officer. Sure, there will be times where they will have to make decsions on thier own until the arrival, but by and large they will be a crew-level supervisor. Depending on the department, thier administrative responsbilities will vary, but again, it will likely be limited to comapny level paperwork and company level training, likely using canned department training programs and directives.

If we are talking captain level promotions, we are now, IMO, getting into the area where the Associate's degree should become more of a factor as we are now hitting a rank where multi-company administration is becoming a larger part of the job description.

If we are talking about a promtion to any level with the word "Chief", the Associate's degree, should IMO, play a mich larger role in the decision than experience.
I havent read all the answers here, but they seem generally the same in most instances. There is more to look at then experiance vs education. Both can make good arguements. What about personality, ethics, diversity, people skills, trust etc. We have a guy in our department that has the experiance, education etc. But to promote would be tough. Firefighting professions as far as officers are 80 percent management, and 20 percent action. If you cannot manage those under you for what ever reason, your own education and experiance is just that, yours. If you have 15 years on, but you argue with your piers and supervisors over everything, then the guy with 8 years on the job that has respect and has gone above and beyond to listen and learn and to earn your respect and the respect of others will be looked at or should be a bit closer.
Command experiance is a huge asset as mentioned too. Again, command experiance comes from the management end. If your firefighters dont trust someone with thier lives, why promote them.
A stack of certificates is a very small portion to me. 10 years OJT has got to be years of respect, earned respect, self starting, and pride.
experience !

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