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Why Professional Credentialing Is Important

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It is with great humility and honor to share with you that I have earned the Fire Officer (FO) professional credential from the Center for Public Safety Excellence. Throughout this process I have been asked by many of my peers and fire service friends what this credential actually means. The very next question was how can they can start the process to earn a credential of their own. Allow me to first describe what the Center for Public Safety Excellence is.


What is the Center for Public Safety Excellence?

The Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. The primary resource for the fire and emergency profession to continuously improve services resulting in a higher quality of life for communities. CPSE has successfully helped public safety agencies around the world streamline and improve the services they provide their communities through its numerous programs and services.

CPSE provides the only accreditation program for fire service organizations in the world. The CPSE offers nationally-recognized designations for fire and emergency services officers. CPSE has over 200 accredited agencies and over 1700 designated officers throughout the world. The process of obtaining a credential is set by the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC). This commission is promulgated by rules and regulations set forth by the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). There is an Internationally accepted model which recognizes professional accomplishments and competence in fire and emergency services. CPSE offers fire and emergency service personnel career guidance and planning via many in-house programs and classes. 
(Click here for CPSE website)


Why Seeking Continuous Improvement is Important

As we progress in the fire service it is vital to perform internal checks and balances. These “gut checks” as I like to call them provide an unbiased outside evaluation of ourselves. Whether we serve as a career, volunteer, combination, paid on call, or what have you; we must pause from time to time and take stock in what and how we are moving forward personally and professionally. This is a prime example of operating outside of our comfort zones because the in-depth application process is reviewed by peers in the fire service with whom we have no connections with and forces us to reflect inward to look outward.

The balance of training and experience which is the holy grail in today’s fire service and highly coveted by all is part of the CPSE mission. Some will opine that simply placing a few letters after our names is not an indication of how salty of a firefighter/fire officer we are but I would challenge that sentiment with this question. “Have you allowed yourself to open up to an unbiased and critical evaluation of your professional pedigree?”

It is easy to continuously operate inside our comfort zones, surround ourselves only with likeminded peers, therefore never offering ourselves up for constructive criticism. This a disservice to those that we have sworn to protect.
I would be lying to all of you if I said that I wasn’t nervous and had second thoughts about submitting my application. Having said that, the process forced me to take an in depth look at my commitment to the fire service along with a ton of questions. Did I have enough education? Did I have enough experience? How will I explain this to the panel of peer reviewers? What if they say I’m not good enough?

In answering these questions, I realized that I was seeking continuous improvement and simply had to learn to itemize it! Think back to all those academy classes, individual self-study courses, countless hours of drills and many hours of reading publications. The college courses we felt would never end all the time questioning if this has any bearing whatsoever in performing our duties. I will tell you that it most certainly does! Everything that we do makes us better. We simply need to pause from time to time and take a personal inventory. This is what I call the process of seeking continuous improvement.

If you have been following me, you will know that I have a personal mission statement. This mission statement drives all of my decisions. It allows me to stay open and transparent with all of you and most importantly myself. If you have a mission statement of your own great! If not, I highly recommend that you start to develop one.
(I’m sensing another blog post on this)

The Process

This is a very brief overview of the application process. I have included the link to the CPSE website which will outline the process in greater detail once you obtain the application. There is no cost to obtain the application. Just go to the site, create a profile, and download the paperwork.

Be prepared to:
Write essays
Describe your position in the fire service such as job title functions
Create a table of organization showing where you fit in
Obtain letters of recommendation
Make copies of National, State, and local certifications
Chronologically list training, formal education, and continuing education
List professional affiliations to other organizations
List community service involvement
Speaking/Teaching engagements in conferences and such

All of this information will help in describing how you will measure up to the commissions core competencies. There are different competencies for each of the credentials. For the Fire Officer (FO) credential there are at least 12 that need to be satisfied. It would also be beneficial to review NFPA 1021 – The Professional Qualifications of Fire Officer. Each of the core competencies will need a signed attestation statement from a superior. So as you can see, this is not a walk in the park and there is a considerable amount of time that you will need to invest to complete this process. It took me about 4 months to complete. I can assure you though, once you complete the process you will have a 30,000-foot view of yourself and will see the path of continuous improvement before you in which self-reflection is a vital component.

In Closing

Again, I would like to thank all of my fire service peers and friends who have supported me throughout this process and encouraged me to fulfill my own personal mission as I strive for excellence. The brotherhood is alive and well!
If obtaining your professional credentials is something you are interested in, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be eager to tell you all about the process and be more than happy to help you complete the application. Please visit the CPSE website and see what credential is right for you. Be proud of who you are and what you have achieved. It’s a matter of personal pride and a sign of your continued dedication to the fire service.

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