1972, the Joint Council of National Fire Service Organizations (Joint Council)
founded the National Professional Qualifications System (NPQS) in an effort to
help guide the fire service toward professionalism. Certification arose over a concern that training was becoming
very uneven between jurisdictions and sometimes even inadequate.
As a result of these concerns, a nine member National Professional
Qualifications Board (Pro Board) was established by the Joint Council to direct
the new accreditation and registry system.
order to develop a system of rationalized training for fire fighters, the Pro
Board requested that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) charge
consensus technical committees with the development of unambiguous standards to
be used in the certification process. It
is important to remember that the professional standards were developed by
persons performing the jobs (e.g. fire fighters worked on the fire fighter
standards, fire investigators on the fire investigator standard, etc.).
The initial standard for professional competency was developed for Fire
Fighter in 1974.
the dissolution of the Joint Council, the National Professional Qualifications
System was incorporated in July 1990 as the National Board on Fire Service
Professional Qualifications (NBFSPQ) and continues to be referred to as the Pro
Board. The Pro Board operates
under the direction of a Board of Directors consisting of one member from the
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), International
Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM),
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and, North American Fire Training
Directors (NAFTD) and issues accreditation to those agencies that test to
approved fire service standards. Today,
accreditation is issued for certification in 72 levels of sixteen standards of
fire service related competencies. Individuals
may become certified in as many disciplines as they desire.
And, because examinations are based on widely available NFPA standards,
the Pro Board avoids problems inherent to local or regional certification
its most simple form, certification means that an individual has been tested by
an accredited examining agency on a body of clearly delineated material and
found to meet or exceed the minimum standard.
In this instance, certification provides the individual with the
opportunity to test skills and knowledge against peers from all types of fire
departments and fire service agencies. Well
into its third decade, the Pro Board is the premiere program in the United
States and Canada for certification oversight of fire service professionals,
career or volunteer.
the Pro Board process, agencies or organizations within States and Provinces
apply for accreditation in order to certify individuals to the NFPA standards.
These agencies then act as certifying agents operating under the aegis of
the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications.
success on the examination within a particular discipline, the candidate is then
eligible to join the National Register of Fire Services Professionals.
It is important to remember that under the Pro Board, certifications
belong to the individual–a tremendous advantage over local systems.
For instance, a certified firefighter on the National Register may, in
many cases, transfer between departments in states which are accredited by the
and placement on the National Register works to serve both the individual who is
certified and the department that he or she serves.
Certified individuals have a credibility that has already proven
invaluable to many arson investigators, fire inspectors and others who regularly
interface with the legal system. In
a profession, which is highly decentralized, certification provides the
individual with a sense of accomplishment and draws the fire service as a whole
into a much closer alliance. Volunteer
members of combination departments who are certified know that they are highly
regarded; and wholly volunteer services with nationally certified members know
that their competence is well established.
As an incentive to professional growth and advancement, certification
proves that the member is highly motivated and serious about measuring up to
national standards. Certification
also addresses the needs of fire service professionals whose career achievements
are not as easily rewarded or in evidence as sworn employees.
Civilians, many of whom function as inspectors, public safety
telecommunicators, life safety educators, and training academy instructors, have
long needed a way to present credentials within these disciplines.
Being certified to national standards goes far in addressing this
are also many reasons why having nationally certified members improves the
departments for which they work. First,
the respect, reputation, and prestige of such professional organizations will
expand in proportion to their number of certified members.
These departments will have officers and civilian professionals whose
credibility is unquestionable. Second,
a fire department’s training center will improve as higher goals are secured
through the acceptance of the standards. As
a result, such training centers will be able to measure themselves as part of a
national fire training system. Overall,
departments and services that teach to the standards and expect members to
become certified will become stronger entities.
departments with a commitment to the national certification process may have an
easier time during annual budget justifications. They can argue that having a high proportion of certified
members indicates a commitment to the community beyond the adherence to local
mandates. Certification indicates a
higher level of professional motivation that should be justly rewarded.
It is incumbent upon individual departments to encourage their members to
become certified by adopting the accreditation and certification scheme as an
expectation for all members who fall within the examined disciplines.
standards are particularly important in high-risk industries such as the fire
service. We must share the same
values if we are to evolve further as a profession.
The widespread adoption of the accreditation and certification movement
offered by the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications will
go far in ensuring that this trend continues to the benefit of each one of us.