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My Take On "Certification"

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  • My Take On "Certification"

    A Posting From Forum Moderator Ron Moore

    Recently I was asked whether a firefighter could attend a training program conducted by a rescue tool manufacturer and say that they are "certified".

    When asked abour certification for vehicle rescue personnel, I tend to look at things realistically. Here's my take on the concept of rescue tool certification.

    Certification is an acknowledgement that there is a nationally accepted standard in place for a specific job title.

    Certification also means that the person has completed a course of instruction that has been reviewed by a third-party source, is acknowledged as being educationally sound and that it meets all criteria established by these review organizations.

    Certification means that the person has been evaluated under a national standard and has successfully demonstrated competency in both knowledge and skills that meet the particular standard.

    Certification also means that when it is your day in court, the performance of the certified person will hold up under the scrutiny of the lawyers and the jury. A "certified" person always performs in the same manner and with the same efficiency that a reasonable and prudent person would under the same circumstances. You don't make mistakes.

    There is NO course that can legally "certify" you to operate a particular rescue tool. These courses do not exist at this time. I'm sure the bog tool manufacturers don't like hearing this.

    I'll use Hurst tools as an example. The New York State (16 hour) extrication course is just one example of a state-wide vehicle rescue course. It does NOT certify participants to operate the Hurst Tool or any tool for that matter. I designed the New York State AVET course in 1979 and "certification' was not my intent as I built that course.

    Likewise, you CANNOT be legally "certified" by a Hurst tool instructor in order to operate the tool just by attending a course of instruction in vehicle rescue. But this is where the confusion exists. You CAN complete a specific rescue tool training program designed and delivered by a representative of a specific rescue tool company. I have attended the HURST and the HOLMATRO training classes. You can successfully attend that course and receive a "certificate of attendance" or a "certificate of completion". That paper is acknowledgement that you were there, completed the class time and performed skills to the satisfaction of the instructor. You are NOT "certified" in the same way a lawyer or a jury would see it.

    The NFPA is the organization that has just now published our first rescue "certification" standards. They are brand new standards. One is NFPA #1670, a standard on technical rescue training programs. The other standard is NFPA 1006, a standard that addresses "certification" of technical rescue personnel.

    You're familiar with standards such as the NFPA 1001, Firefighter I standard. This is the document that details Firefighter I certification and is the one that all 'certified" Firefighter I training academies base their training programs on.

    In both of NFPA's new rescue standards, vehicle rescue is just a small portion. There is rope rescue, water rescue, building collapse, trench and confined space rescue as well. In order to have "certification" for rescue, courses must now be designed to address all the skills levels and all the job performance requirements of these national standards. Once designed, these courses will have to be presented by highly qualified individuals and be reviewed by organizations that evaluate complete training programs worldwide such as IFSAC, the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress.

    After surviving the scrutiny of these review organizations and once approval is gained for these new rescue programs, participants would have to attend the entire course, complete all course requirements, take a written final exam and perform all the hands-on skills successfully.

    The bottom line is this. Your personnel should attend state fire training courses in vehicle rescue. Your personnel should attend any and all training programs offered by manufacturers of rescue equipment. Your personnel should participate in continuing education vehicle rescue training sessions at the department level on a regular basis.

    Your personnel should NOT state to anyone outside your organization that they are "certified" to use a certain company's tool. That's just asking for trouble if it ever were to become your day in court!

    What's your take on rescue tool "certification"? Can we ever get there?

  • #2
    Ron, I know in Florida we have "State Sanctioned" extrication classes through the state Fire Academy in Ocala that are taught at most of the state fire academies. But I don't believe we have a state certification for extrication.

    The funny thing is that I attend as many extrication courses as I can and I see people all the time with uniform "patches" that say "certified extrication tech" but I don't know for sure if they are certified by the state or not. I seriously doubt we have a state certified extrication course here in Florida. But I think it would be a good thing for all firefighters.

    Without pointing fingers at anyone I have been inside the car with a trapped patient before with firefighters doing some strange things with the hurst tool... I think vehicle extrication is one of the most undertrained areas in the fire service - certification would help to improve skills as well as the overall patient care and safety.

    The truth is extrication is something that we don't do every day as firefighters therefore unless one practices - skills can get rusty.

    It's hard enough to "pry" guys out of the recliners to do fire drills let alone extrication. Mandatory training i.e, CEUs is the way to go. For example in Florida we need so many hours a year in HAZMAT, fire training etc to keep up our state fire cert. It would be good for the fire service if vehicle extrication was included too.

    Kristian Nader


    • #3
      I have seen the "certified" patches around also. I wear an "Extrication Technician" patch on my jump suits more as a PR thing for the public than anything else. I got a couple duty style sweatshirts from GALL'S that have "Extrication Specialist" on them... Personally, I wish they didn't say "Specialist" on them, but for some reason, that is all GALL'S offers for embroidery. To me, a "specialist" is someone who does just one thing in their job. I haven't seen many people that ONLY do extrications...

      Richard Nester
      Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.


      • #4
        Good point on all the additional required training. This is not meant to downgrade any training but ..... Typically I would bet that the average fire department runs less then 10% of their calls as working structure fires, less then 1% haz mat,tons of "non-essential" calls (smells and bells) and probably 30-40% highway related incidents. But where is the training focused? Kinda makes ya go hmmmmm.



        • #5
          As much as I appreciate the good intentions of those promoting a certification system, I have to say the idea worries me. Ron Moore has put it very correctly, certification is a double-edged sword that can come back to haunt you in litigation.
          I would prefer to see an organization, such as T.E.R.C., come up with guidelines that address proficiency with tools and knowledge of tactics, but stop short of dictating how and when you use them. There is entirely too much problem solving and decision making in our line of work for us to be bound by a procedures manual. T.E.R.C. is bunch of people that do what we do, they know what we face and they are not beholden to the equipment manufacturers.
          Enforcement of certification is yet another consideration. Federal oversight would be too unwieldy. Turn it over to a state agency and you risk them expanding their authority by setting additional standards for equipment, staffing, response areas and so forth. You wind up with a bureaucracy managing your rescue service. Giving enforcement authority to our national organizations would undoubtedly lead to published standards which a lawyer could wave under your nose in court.
          Sorry to be down on such a admirable concept, but that's how I see it.
          Be Safe, Get Home! Twostix


          • #6
            The Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads has a standard week long extrication course that gives you "state certification" on vehicle rescue. After taking clases all week and getting experience in all aspects of a wreck scene from cribbing to cutting to Scene commander, you must demonstrate proffiency in each aspect of vehicle rescue along with making a passing grade on a written exam of 100 questions.
            TARS has specific guidelines and SOPs that you must follow when working a scene. They will go to court with you and provide legal defense for you as long as SOPs were followed. For everyone's protection, "non-techs" are not allowed in the "circle." That way it is assured that all actual contact with vehicle and patient is done by certified personnel. This has been a very successful strategy and it is comforting to know that if you are involved in a wreck, you will have the best available to extricate you.


            • #7
              One other aspect of ever being 'certified' to do anything is the 're-certification' aspect.

              In EMS, continuing education is a way of life. 20 hours a year, 40 hours every three years, etc, etc. Any EMT or paramedic will tell you all about what they go through to keep their certification.

              If extrication people in your department or your State were to ever be able to get 'certified' like they can right now in Tennessee, then how do you 're-certify'? Would one extrication drill a year be enough? What if your State made a requirement that to remain certified, at least once a year, you have to respond and actually cut and pry someone out of a car to remain certified?

              An EMT or a Paramedic actually holds a license. Should we push to ever get extrication people issued a State license to rip and tear?

              Make sure you contact NFPA and order the soft cover editions of NFPA's new Standard, #1006 and #1670. These are their first efforts to make a professional qualification standard for rescue specialists and to require that extrication training programs meet a minimum standard.

              It is really interesting reading but it makes me a little nervous also. The lawyers already have their copies!!


              • #8
                I agree with this but i have one question, and that is if a certification is a nationally accepted standard why won't some states accept the fire training in there states and will the certification of the vehicle extrication be assepted in other states if u move?


                • #9
                  FireBox, MAYBE we need a national organization with a focus on RESCUE and / or Vehicle RESCUE. I am not saying necessarily a totally NEW organization, I am saying though what ever happens in regard to this is a singular focus at a NATIONAL LEVEL is needed to make CERTIFICATION worth while. In this Mobil society,working hard to get a certification in one state with-out reciprocity in Other states or all states,is silly. the value of all that work would be somewhat tranished. PLUS I still say We need a National Rescue Academy or at least a section of the NFA devoted, ON a permanent basis to Rescue. Some place to research Rescue Problems and to SET the Standards, Oh DAMIT, I got out the ole Soap Box, Just want to stir the debate, What do you all think?

                  Carl D. Avery


                  • #10
                    I've seen the new standards... They're a start, but not sufficient any more than the NC ERT standard is. They will cover the basics and run people through drills, but I am a firm believer in experience and training over certification.

                    I know a large number of people who are 'certified' or wear patches that couldn't cut me out of a tuna can without my help. I don't profess to be an 'expert' and in fact I shun the term all together. The only 'experts' I know are dangerous and/or dead.

                    I believe that folks like Ron that have been and done and continually educate themselves and try new things are the people we need to use as examples and standards.

                    If there is ever such a certification that comes out of these standards, CE is a must. It has to be on a monthly or at least quarterly basis like our EMS training (in NC anyway).

                    This isn't just fun stuff, lives and unfortunately, lawsuits depend on it.

                    Just my two cents.

                    Susan Bednar
                    Captain - Forsyth Rescue
                    North Carolina Strike Force 1


                    • #11
                      Here's one more thought that goes along with Susan's message. If there ever were such as certification or licensing system for vehicle rescue technicians, should it ever be a one time deal?

                      Once you get a license to drive, do you ever have to take a driving test again? Once you get certified as a Rescue Technician, should that be for a lifetime also? Should we have to re-certify on a regular basis or at least be required to take continuing education classes?

                      NFPA does not mention continuing education in any of their professional qualification
                      standards. Firefighter I is for life! With EMS in every state, we're used to getting those CE hours. Should it be any different with this new potential for vehicle rescue

                      What's your take on this?


                      • #12
                        I agree with all of you on the fact that holding a piece of paper that says "certified" does not make you "all that." I will say that the TN requirements are quite strenuous...there are many known students to fail this course. Our Tech Card is valid for two years and to re-cert we are required to return to the junk-yard and once again demonstrate our abilities in vehicle rescue. We must also attend three nights of the cerification class and pass the 100 question test. Knowing this keeps me studying and on my toes! We spend untold number of hours yearly cutting on vehicles during our regular dept. training. Being a member of an all volunteer dept. I am proud to say that 20 of our 24 members are Tenn. State Certified technicians. KEEP TRAINING---SAVE LIVES!!!!

                        I'm sorry, 17 of our 21 members are state certified techs. Also, TARS does not try to dictate how to "work" a scene, for each one is different. The training is primarily order and sequence of attack, uses and techniques in cribbing and tools, PPE, initial patient analysis, scene observations and control, etc. There is a looongg list of "don'ts!"

                        [This message has been edited by JimT (edited October 20, 2000).]


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