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Russell Strickland offered a voice of reason and experience at Pro Board Advisory Committee Meetings and Conferences for many years.  As a Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute employee and the Pro Board liaison person for the Maryland Fire Service Personnel Qualifications Board, Inc., Russell represented the accredited agency that certified the most candidates of any Pro Board accredited agency. His broad knowledge, experience running such a comprehensive certification system, easy approachability, and willingness to share made Russell an asset to the Pro Board and the agencies it accredits.    

His absence at this Decemberís Advisory Committee meeting did not go unnoticed.  Although some of you may know, Russell has moved on to a new stage of his career.  He is still actively engaged in the emergency services, but no longer the Pro Board contact for the Maryland certification system.  Below is an excerpt from an announcement of Russellís new position and an interview with him conducted earlier this month. I believe I am safe in saying that we will all miss his contributions, but wish him all the success in his new position.   

 

 

        

Steven T. Edwards, Director of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, University of Maryland and John W. Droneburg, III, Governor Ehrlichís recently appointed Director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency are pleased to announce the executive loan of Russell J. Strickland, Assistant Director for Field Programs to MEMA.  Russell will assume his new assignment at MEMA on January 13, 2004. Russell will join Director Droneburg as part of the senior management team charged with the reshaping of that agency.  Director Edwards and Director Droneburg both view this as an excellent opportunity for MFRI and MEMA to improve the emergency management of the state. (from MFRI announcement)

Russ, I have the press releases you sent me, but tell me what you are doing at MEMA? And how you enjoy it? (KO)

First let me tell you, I like it very much, and I am having fun!. 

It is different from my role at MFRI, which was mostly education and training focused. At MEMA, although I have responsibility for exercises and training, I also have responsibility for the state emergency operations center.  (Russ)

What exactly are your areas of responsibility?

Maryland Joint Operations Center and the State Emergency Operations Center

Exercises & Training

Regional Programs

Domestic Preparedness

Is it just responsibility for the Joint Operations facility or do you have an active role in emergency operations?

It includes an active role in operations.  When the center is staffed for an exercise or an event I am the center commander.

Maryland Governor, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. has clearly established five pillars for his administration.  One of those pillars is public safety and he envisioned that emergency management be elevated to a more functional role in public safety coordination. That is, not just gather resources in the event of a disaster, but also be more customer service oriented and proactive.

I know the public is the ultimate beneficiary of your services, but to whom are you referring as customers?

Our customers are local emergency managers and public safety organizations. We see most events as unfolding as local events. It has become clear that disaster and emergency response is seldom a single discipline response.  The event today can involve fire, police, public health and other response partners. Our governor wanted to bring in a diverse set of public safety backgrounds into MEMA to develop better prevention, preparedness, response and recovery for disasters and other emergencies.

Do you have input into the development of this changing model?

Yes, it keeps the job very interesting.  We are dividing the state into six regions and there will be six Regional Program Administrators. This is very similar to the MFRI regional system model for state fire training. We plan to use technology to enhance communications and allow the regional administrators to work without the overhead of a ďstorefrontĒ.

I assume your responsibility over training at MEMA allows you to leverage your relationship with MFRI.  With what other agencies do you deal with regard to training?

I do, of course, deal with MFRI.  In addition, I work with the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and state Department of Transportation. The fact that I have worked with persons in all of those organizations while working at MFRI helps as we move the new model forward.

According to the announcement that you sent me you are technically on loan to MEMA from MFRI. Is there a chance you will return to MFRI?

Thereís a chance, but I have no immediate plans at this time.

Letís change the topic to the historic and folkloric: What was your first contact with the Pro Board?

Well I was aware of it in the days of Dave Gratz and John Hoglund. 

What was your role with the initial Maryland application for accreditation?

In the spring of í86 the Maryland Fire Service Personnel Qualifications Board, Inc. was created.  I was working for MFRI at that time and was active in the study of, and initial set up of the state certification system. I am a charter member of the MFSPQB.

There were many others who made great contributions to the system.

One of the yardsticks we used to measure success, from the beginning of the vision of a state certification system, was to get the system accredited.

In 1993 when the Maryland Board filed its application for accreditation I was the point of contact for the Pro Board. We applied to accredit our Firefighter I, II and II programs. 

Do you still have any association with the MFSPQB?

I am the MFRI alternate to, and the board elected treasurer of the MFSPQB

In retrospect, assess the Pro Board accreditation system for me.

From my perspective, the MFSPQB and Pro Board experience has been healthy.  There have been challenges and disagreements along the way, but nothing that precluded the growth of either system. Both Pro Board and IFSAC provide an excellent system of checks and balances. In fact, I believe it strengthens a certification system to undergo that type of evaluation and use the process to improve the system.

Speaking of challenges; Marylandís Option 2 really opened the door to different methods of evaluation especially for higher-level certifications.  It certainly had the potential to be a disagreement, however, I donít believe it ever deteriorated to that level. I remember the documentation of the Option 2 process that you sent the COA members as being complete, logical and understandable. Were you directly involved in putting that package together? 

Yes, and it was a real coordinated effort from all members of the MFSPQB and the Maryland fire service.

Were you involved in the development of the Option 2 process?

Option 2 was actually a Baltimore County method of certification evaluation that was developed by their county certification system before there was an MFSPQB.

Do you have any comments on how that was handled by Maryland or the Pro Board?

The greatest challenge of our certification system evolved with the changes in the NFPA standards.  They went from a simple KSA format to the JPR format at the same time they were expanding in number of pro-qual standards and levels within those standards.

I am a proponent of JPRs and outcome based evaluation. They opened the door for more creative types of evaluation. In fact, I believe that someone certified to Fire Officer IV by submitting to Marylandís Option 2 evaluation is more valid that someone who sits through a class and takes a written test.  It is more like the defense of a dissertation.  It requires the candidate to defend their ability to perform at the level the standard dictates for 100% of the standardís JPRs.

Who took over your responsibilities at MFRI?

There has been some administrative restructuring and they have been divided among several persons.

Who took over your responsibilities at MFRI with regard to accreditation and certification?

Larry Preston took that piece.

Are there any bubble pens left at MFRI? (Russell distributed pens with the MFRI logo and that had a wand and bubble solution in the barrel at a Pro Board conference a few years back.  They were big hits with the attendees)

There are a few in the archives.

Thanks for taking time to talk with me and thanks for all the years you dedicated yourself to fire service training and certification issues.  Iíll let the Pro Board agencies know what you are up to these days. 

Youíre welcome.

Contact Info:

Russell Strickland,

Deputy Director

Operations Directorate

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

State Operations Center

Camp Fretterd Military Reservation

5401 Rue Saint Lo Drive

Reisterstown, MD  21136

1-877- MEMA-USA

rstrickland@mema.state.md.us

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