Officer Development: Using the FO Designation to Benchmark Training Needs

Steven A. Locke, CFO, EFO, MIFireE, Public Safety Director, Town of Hartford, VT and Chairman, Commission on Professional Credentialing

I, like many, enjoy attending conferences because of the ability to network and learn from other professionals. The attendance at this year’s CPSE Excellence Conference was no different and provided me with the motivation to make changes within my own organization upon my return home. More on that in a bit…

Sitting in the audience listening to Chief Bruegman and Chief Brooks discuss the need for agencies to be creative, strive for excellence and pass the knowledge of this great profession on to others, I couldn’t help but think I was not doing enough within my own department to prepare the next generation of leaders. These upcoming individuals will need to be prepared to handle situations much more diverse and complex than ever before. An idea was launched as I sat in the front row with the rest of the Commissioners on the Commission on Professional Credentialing.

I had heard that a few other chiefs were using the Fire Officer (FO) Designation process offered by the CPSE as a road map for officer development. The application outlines 12 technical competencies that a fire officer should meet in order to be prepared to deal with the variety of issues he or she will face. The technical competencies range from the self-evident operational responsibilities to more complicated areas such as human resources, department administration, health and safety, prevention, investigation, training and finally public education. In short, every subject that creates a well-rounded, fully-prepared company officer.

I immediately saw the challenge I would have to overcome: “How do I change a culture that has traditionally focused officer development on operational level training to a more global, wide ranging, training program that focuses on all aspects of the business?”

The answer for me is to use the Fire Officer (FO) Designation application as a benchmark instrument to measure the current level of training among the company officers and then fill any voids we discover. The goal within my own department is to work as a team to complete an application for all officers which will require a tremendous amount of work and self-reflection. It is my hope that during the next few months our leadership team will identify common strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvement, and more importantly, set a course for our future leaders to follow. We must provide more than operational level training if we are ever to expect these aspiring leaders to be successful in the challenging environment faced today.

Last August, many of us heard the challenge proposed by Executive Director Brooks and President Bruegman to “pass the baton”, to find one future leader to mentor. While their campaign may have officially ended, it is never too late to find ways in which to better prepare the next generation. I believe the Fire Officer (FO) Designation is a tool that can help achieve this objective. Change is never easy and leading it can be, at times, even more difficult. However, we owe it to the profession and to those who will come after us to try. It is the only way to leave the business better than we found it.

Announce Your Achievement

If your department has achieved accreditation, or you have one or more designated officers in your ranks, you should proudly display this information on your department’s website and in all collateral materials. Take a look at your website – does it tell your story? Does your community know the extent that your department has documented response times, incident outcomes and other critical data? Do you explain the value of your community-driven strategic plan and how it matches the needs of your unique community? Do your citizens know that your department is one of only about 200 accredited departments in the world? Position your department and its personnel as leaders in your community; toot your horn in all your descriptive media.

CPSE has many resources to help you proudly announce your accreditation or to identify designated officers. For your department, we have decals that you can apply to apparatus. Be sure to use the CFAI accredited agency emblem on department stationery, on signage about your department, on your website and many other applications.

Designated officers should include your designation initials after your name on all official correspondence.

Representatives from accredited departments can purchase CPSE polo shirts with the words CFAI: “Internationally Accredited Agency”. Designated officers can likewise purchase polo shirts and pins with the appropriate designation emblem to identify officers who have met the criteria to earn the designation of Chief Fire Officer (CFO); Chief Training Officer (CTO); Chief EMS Officer (CEMSO); Fire Marshal (FM); or Fire Officer (FO). To order any of these items, go to the CPSE Store.

For examples of how other departments inform their citizens about the accomplishments of the department or of individual officers, contact the CPSE office. We’ll provide you with outstanding samples from other accredited departments throughout North America.

Fire Sprinkler Ordinances: Expanding and Saving Lives

(Reprinted from NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative Blog)

This may come as a surprise to residential fire sprinkler opponents, but the website Grassroots Change has named the home fire sprinkler movement “one of the most successful public safety efforts” in America within the past three decades. According to a recent study, this grassroots movement has successfully promoted more than 360 local ordinances mandating sprinklers in all new residential construction, including one- and two-family homes, since 1978. Successful, indeed.

A recent article backs this statement by highlighting an impressive effort taking place in Mesa, Arizona. While the state prohibits local jurisdictions from requiring sprinklers in homes, the city has been using specialized grants to install sprinklers in low- and moderate-income housing. This approach has not only increased public safety, but has also energized community development.

“To date, Mesa’s initiative has resulted in the installation of sprinklers in 29 single-family and 29 multi-family homes,” states the article. “Not only will these investments save lives and property, they have created or saved jobs in the construction industry.”

Read the story on NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative site to learn more about Mesa’s efforts. Also, check out the following video with Arizona Councilmember Scott Somers, who has taken the lead on this initiative.

CPSE offers a Residential Fire Sprinkler Contractor Accreditation Program (RFSCAP) developed in conjunction with the National Fire Sprinkler Association, American Fire Sprinkler Association and the International Code Council as a means to qualify and recognize sprinkler contractors who are leaders in their communities. Accreditation examines all aspects of a company’s operations: financial practices, personnel policies, training opportunities, external relationships and more in order to assure homeowners and local regulators that installations are completed by competent, well-trained and established companies. For more info on RFSCAP, see the CPSE website and click on “Fire Sprinkler Accreditation” at the top of the home page.

Technical Corner

Community Driven Strategic Planning

Community Driven Strategic Planning…why would that show up in the Technical Corner of our newsletter? Well for those of you who were able to attend the CFAI accreditation hearings in Henderson, NV last month, you might know the answer. For those who were not, we have the answer.

At the CFAI Commission hearings at the Excellence Conference in March, one of the consistent lines of questioning from the CFAI Commission to agencies seeking accreditation or re-accreditation was this… “What community involvement did you have as you prepared your strategic plan? “Do you have a community driven strategic plan?” “Did you have any community input or involvement as you prepared your strategic plan?”

There is a reason why the CFAI Fire & Emergency Service Self-Assessment Manual, 8th Edition, provides suggested guidance for community driven strategic planning in pages 73-78. Because communities are starving for it! And there is evidence to prove it.

The Center’s Technical Advisor Program provides professional facilitation of community driven strategic planning processes for agencies if requested. In looking back at the recent past twenty-five agencies where strategic planning projects were facilitated by the Technical Advisor Program, twenty-three of the agencies identified a strategic initiative with goals and objectives to establish either a “community outreach program” or an “external communications program” for more effective engagement with their community. In all cases, these initiatives were driven from written comments as expectations or concerns from their community. Here are just a few examples of expectation and/or concern comments written in feedback instruments:

  • We expect our fire department to communicate with us frequently.
  • The children get education from the FD in schools, but adults are in the dark as to what you provide. You should be part of our community with consistent communication, relationship and involvement.
  • Fire crews in neighborhood fire stations are part of the neighborhood and should attend neighborhood meetings like the police department does.
  • I expect to know specifically what you do, why you do it and what you need to do it well.
  • Are all three of the fire trucks in the station in my neighborhood manned effectively 24 hours a day? I can only assume that they are.
  • I expect the fire department to be actively engaged with the community daily, not just during education or special events.

We have found that departments who have established effective community connection, relations and communication have more successfully endured the economic challenges over the past few years. Once community expectations are formally known, and once community input and participation becomes a driving part of your strategic planning, community understanding and trust in you flourishes. That is what we are experiencing with agencies that have established community driven strategic planning.

If you are interested in discussing community driven strategic planning, or would like a no obligation proposal and quote from CPSE for the facilitation of a community driven strategic plan for your department, please contact Rick Fagan, CPSE Technical Advisor Program Director at (866) 866-2324, Ext 201, or at (913) 904-8292.

News About CPSE People

Ron Coleman Awarded Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award

Ron Coleman’s lifetime of dedication to the training and development of others was recognized at FDIC this month when he was presented the Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award. The award namesake, Tom Brennan, was a 35 year member of the fire service and editor of Fire Engineering Magazine. Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton, FDIC Education Director and current Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editor in Chief, says: ” The selection of Ronny J. Coleman as the 2014 FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is an acknowledgement of what is known as a life well lived. Chief Coleman represents the modern-day Renaissance man: a man of letters and intellect: a man of action and compassion; and, most importantly, a gentleman and leader.”

Chief Coleman is Chairman Emeritus to the Board of Directors of CPSE. His leadership resulted in the founding of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, His example in pursuing the Chief Fire Officer designation provided motivation and understanding for others to pursue. He is currently leading the team developing and delivering the Compleat Fire Officer professional development program based on the CFO designation model. All of his work here has provided and strengthened the platform for CPSE today. CPSE Board President, Fire Chief Randy Bruegman says, “This award is reflective of what Ron has done throughout his career, that is to have tremendous impact on our profession. Chief Coleman is one of only a few, legacy leaders in the fire service today. His influence can be seen and felt through every aspect of what makes up our profession today. More importantly, he has planted the seeds of thought that will continue to drive the fire service through this century.”

To enjoy an insightful interview with Chief Coleman, follow this link to Fire Engineering.

Randy Redmond, CFO, Awarded Arizona Fire Chief of the Year

For his extensive and tireless work to ensure volunteer and small fire departments across Arizona have access to equipment and training, Sierra Vista Fire Chief Randy Redmond was recently named the 2014 Chief Fire Officer of the Year by the Arizona Fire Chief’s Association.

“The things that Chief Redmond is involved in are long-term projects that he had the tenacity to see toward completion,” said Mary Cameli, president of the Arizona Fire Chief’s Association. Chief Redmond has been in the fire service for 31 years, the first 14 of which were with the Fry Fire District before moving to the Sierra Vista Fire Department. He has been the Fire Chief for the last six years. Chief Redmond has a Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor’s from the University of Phoenix. In 2008, Chief Redmond was awarded the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation and graduated from the Executive Fire Officer Program from the National Fire Academy.

Chief William Bell of Richland Hills, Texas Wins Trip to Washington, DC

On April 10, CPSE held a drawing for a very special prize. ISO donated a special prize in order to do a fundraiser on behalf of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). CPSE used the donation to generate contributions to the Foundation. Each contribution of $25 or more earned each individual donor one chance at a drawing for an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI) dinner on May 1, 2014, at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The prize includes roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations and a ticket to the dinner as a guest of ISO. In a random drawing held at the CPSE offices, Chief William Bell of Richland Hills, Texas, was announced as the winner of the prize.

Three members of the Oak Ridge (TN) Fire Department receive FO Designation

Three members of the Oak Ridge Fire Department recently received the Fire Officer (FO) designation.

Capt. Charlie Elliott, Capt. Brandon Payne, and Firefighter Engineer Jordan Alcorn received notification from the Center for Public Safety Excellence that they were approved for the designation.

Elliott, Payne, and Alcorn become only the fourth, fifth, and sixth professionals to achieve this credential in Tennessee.

Charlie Elliott

Capt. Elliott has been with the Oak Ridge Fire Department since 1998 and currently oversees the daily operations of Station 3 on A-Shift. Elliott is a national registered critical care paramedic and also works for Air Evac aeromedical services. Elliott is currently enrolled in the fire science program at Walter State Community College and was selected as the 2013 Fire Science Honors Student of the Year. Elliott is married to his wife Mandy and has two boys, Dylan and Michael, and two girls, Olivia and Laney.

Brandon Payne

Capt. Payne, a second-generation member of the department, has been with the Oak Ridge Fire Department since 2007 and currently oversees the daily operations of Station 1 on A-Shift. Payne holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and is one of the premier fire instructors in the region. Payne is married to his wife Gretchen and has a son, Jackson.

Jordan Alcorn

Firefighter Engineer Alcorn has been with the Oak Ridge Fire Department since 2007 and currently serves as an acting officer on A-Shift. Alcorn is also a captain with the Oliver Springs Fire Department and has served with the OSFD since 1999 , is a national registered paramedic, and is very involved in fire service instruction throughout the region.

These latest additions give the Oak Ridge Fire Department a total of seven designated fire officers, the press release said. Fire Chief Darryl Kerley said: “professional development of our members is critical to our future success and growth. I am very proud and excited to hear about three more of our members achieving this certification as I feel it shows our continued commitment to professionalism and excellence as an organization.”

News From the CPSE Consortiums

A New, Tri-State Consortium Takes Shape
A group of dedicated individuals is hard at work setting up the Tri-State Consortium (Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas). Currently there are 16 members representing 14 different departments. The group represents departments in all three states that are in various levels of preparation for accredited status: accredited departments, applicant departments, registered departments, and departments that are simply interested in the accreditation process. Kevin Haines, Accreditation Manager for Plano Fire-Rescue has been spearheading the development of the consortium and is serving as the ex-officio leader until the group’s first official meeting at which time an official leader can be named. Kevin stated “I feel that it is an important piece of the accreditation process to build these consortiums. It ensures that we keep as many lines of communication open to give agencies the best chance at success in the accreditation model”. The group is anticipating that their first virtual meeting will be either May 7 or 8th, 2014. For additional information or to be added to the consortium contact Kevin Haines at

From the Rocky Mountains
Nearly three dozen Excellence Conference attendees joined members of the Rocky Mountain Accreditation and Professional Credentialing Consortium for its 2nd Annual Night Out Dinner in Henderson , Nevada. The event included individuals from several departments throughout the Rocky Mountain region and several CPSE staff members.

The Consortium held its 2nd Quarter Consortium Meeting on Wednesday April 16th, hosted by Littleton Fire Rescue. They broadcast the meeting via Webinar for those who could not attend in person, recapping lessons learned at the 2014 Excellence Conference and discussing the CFAI Accreditation Model Reimagining Process.

Emergency Management Explains FirstNet

The latest edition of Emergency Management e-newsletter contains an excellent article on the planned nationwide, high-speed wireless network dedicated to public safety known as FirstNet. FirstNet offers a single, interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications. The article explains the background and need for such a nationwide network, as well as the challenges still facing design and implementation. Access the story

100% of all donations on go to help people get organ transplants on

MatchingDonors is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and the nation’s largest online living organ donor organization finding living organ donors for people needing organ transplants. MatchingDonors has asked CPSE to distribute information about the organization. In conjunction with various health organizations throughout the United States they have created a very successful Public Service Announcement campaign to help people recognize that they can save lives by being a living organ donor, to encourage them to register as an altruistic living organ donor, and to make them realize they can help save the lives of people needing organ transplants by donating other things. This MatchingDonors Living Organ Donor Initiative program has already saved thousands of lives.

Currently, patients waiting for an organ donation are placed on a national waiting list through the government. A computer system matches patients to donor organs according to objective criteria such as blood and tissue type, immune status, medical urgency and time spent on the waiting list -the average time to receive a deceased organ is 7 to 12 years on this list. This ranking system determines which patients are offered available organs. This process is extremely important in anyone’s organ search, but offers a way to enhance the search with a more active approach. Many patients receive their kidney transplant within six months of registering on

Technical Advisor Program Offers Facilitation for Departments

CPSE’s Technical Advisor Program (TAP) provides professional assistance to agencies in pursuit of continuous process improvement.

Many fire service agencies need additional resources or contact with professionals to help resolve the complicated or confusing issues they face. Since 2005, the Technical Advisor Program has facilitated continuous improvement and provided contract-based technical assistance to:

  • help fire and emergency service agencies around the world formulate community-based strategic plans
  • help fire agencies through the self-assessment process to determine their unique community’s hazards and risks
  • provide fire department facilitation and consulting services
  • help fire agencies develop standards of cover based on the unique needs of their respective communities
  • conduct station location studies
  • provide customized consulting services regarding personnel or purchasing decisions, etc.

Regardless of whether your agency is seeking accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International of the CPSE or not, TAP can provide outstanding technical facilitation for your department. TAP professional advisers and facilitators have many years of experience in the fire service and can assist in designing strategic solutions to improve your delivery of services.
Call or email today for a free quotation. Contact Rick Fagan at 866-866-2324, Ext. 201, or email:

Upcoming CPSE Workshops

CPSE has several workshops scheduled for the next few weeks. Register today to reserve your seat at the workshop that meets your needs. Please pass these dates and locations on to your colleagues at adjacent fire departments to help us promote attendance at all workshops.

For course details and registration, go to:

April 25, 2014
Peer Assessor Virtual Workshop – April

April 26, 2014
Standards of Cover Workshop
Conshohocken, PA

May 01, 2014
Advanced Technology for Community Risk/Standards of Cover

May 06, 2014
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Henrico, VA

May 06, 2014
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Eau Claire, WI

May 09, 2014
Under the Dust is My Strategic Plan – Why Didn’t I Execute It?

May 12, 2014
Data Analysis & Presentation Using Excel
Montgomery County, MD

May 12, 2014
Technical Competency – Writing to Achieve Designation

May 19, 2014
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Centennial, CO

May 21, 2014

Chief Officer Credentialing…Where Do I Stand?

May 28, 2014
DoD Only-Self Assessment & Community Risk/SOC
Goodfellow AFB, TX

June 03, 2014
Infusing Lean Methodology into the Fire Service

June 16, 2014
Credentialing: Pathway to Personal and Professional Excellence
Davis, CA

June 16, 2014
Data Analysis & Presentation Using Excel
Plano, TX

June 17, 2014
Self-Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Davis, CA

July 14, 2014
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Peoria, IL

July 18, 2014
Peer Assessor Virtual Workshop – July

July 23-25, 2014
Self Assessment & Community Risks/SOC Workshop
Buffalo, NY

July 30, 2014
Chief Officer Credentialing…Where Do I Stand?