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

Joel Wiesen jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com
Thu Dec 10 17:35:09 EST 2009

Concerning Chief Arwood's comment ("no fire department in the United
States has the money to do it"), does anyone know how much money the
City has spent on the Ricci matter, so far? Or how much money is
typically spent on defending a class action, Title VII challenge in the
public sector? Is reliable cost information available?



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

Richard Arwood wrote:

> Joel:


> 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:

> http://www.stormingmedia.us/78/7886/A788622.html


> 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.


> ......................RBA


> =======================================

> 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?


> Joel


> 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.




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