[IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

Richard Arwood richard.arwood at comcast.net
Thu Dec 10 16:42:03 EST 2009


You are absolutely, positively correct regarding the amount of time and
experience that is normally required for Lieutenants to acquire skills for
initial command and the accurate development of strategy and tactics.
Sadly, even the largest, most active fire departments have those same
challenges; and the smaller departments have no way to meet them.

The problem was similar with the military, as I understand it, following the
Vietnam era. As a result, the military has embarked, largely successfully,
to develop computer-based simulation training (albeit very expensive) that
places students (officer and officer candidates) in very realistic
decision-making exercise through which they develop experience-based
abilities within a tense, complex decision environment (called
"recognition-primed" decisionmaking). A leading researcher and his work in
this area, Gary Klein, can be found here:

The National Fire Academy (Emmitsburg, MD) has many curriculum areas that
are founded upon Klein's research and the approaches currently being used by
the military to develop field and strategic command officers. However,
getting similar results at the local and state levels is very problematic.

Ideally (and as it happened in the not-to-distant past), a fire department
should place a Lieutenant directly subordinate to an experience mentor (a
Captain) where he or she would remain for a period of "mentoring" time. The
training period would also be supplemented with a required curriculum of
realistic simulation in which recognition-primed skills are developed. Only
after BOTH of these requirements are met, would the Lieutenant be eligible
to supervise independently in emergency situations. The problem is,
however, that no fire department in the United States has the money to do
it. Thus, we get far too many inexperienced officers who are forced into
decision-making roles for which they are minimally, if at all, qualified.

It has been that way for decades, and it will likely not change soon.


Richard Arwood, Fire Chief (retired -Memphis, TN)
Collierville, TN

Join with us at: http://www.iracing.com/


-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org]
On Behalf Of Joel Wiesen
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:11 AM
To: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: [IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

The recent thread on Ricci prompts this email on an idea that has
intrigued me for years.

We (and the fire service) might consider reconceptualizing fire
promotional exams. I see promise for improving
productivity/effectiveness and reducing adverse impact.

Consider the job of Fire Lieutenant. The current promotional exam
process is designed to select people who can do the job of Lieutenant
immediately on appointment.

Typically, the only entrance requirement for a promotional exam is
several years experience in the next lower title (e.g., as a Firefighter
for the job of Lieutenant).

To the extent that promotional exams test supervisory KSAPs, the current
promotional exam system leaves firefighters largely or completely to
their own devices to learn the job of Lieutenant. (Yes, often there is
a published reading list, however, the books do not address the
complexities and range of application of strategy and tactics seen in
firefighting, perhaps because real-world fire situations are so varied
and complex.)

There might be alternative promotional exam systems that would have less
adverse impact while maintaining or improving overall job performance of
Lieutenants, especially new Lieutenants (say for the first 5 or 10 years
on the job). For example, the fire department might offer training
classes for promotion to Lieutenant, designed so that successful
completion of the classes could serve as an entrance requirement for the
promotional exam. It may well be that all students would master the
material, as is typically seen in fire recruit training programs. The
promotional exam might then focus on past job performance (reliability,
customer service, cautiousness, judgment, etc.)

Any thoughts?


P.S. I suggest Fire Lieutenants might take 5-10 years to master
strategy and tactics because there are so few fires in most
municipalities (due to improvements in the building codes over past
generations). One Fire Chief told me he sends new Lieutenants to a
nearby large city to get experience fighting fires, as there are so few
fires in his community.

Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
Applied Personnel Research
62 Candlewood Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
(617) 244-8859

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