The Case for Credentialing – Opportunists and Profiteers


And then, there are the profiteers.  My intent with Firehouse Zen is not to use it as a place to vent, but as a place to enlighten.  Venting may be entertaining for some, but for the most part, productive it isn't.

So let's talk about why opportunists would be against credentialing, which should probably be obvious.  The reason is because for most of them, it would require them to validate their claims of expertise, and thus exposed as not having the skills or knowledge, would blunt their mercenary motives for financial reward. 

These are not "buffs" or "whackers".  I have heard some of my colleagues use the term "buff" when referring to these groups, but I feel that this gives the real fire buff community a bad name, since there are so many out there who genuinely have a deep interest in the fire service but are unable for whatever reason to gain membership, (or just don't care to be IN the fire service) and many really do contribute in their own way either by helping operationally, or contributing to the body of knowledge about the history of the fire service.  And although I wonder if those who choose to call themselves "whackers" really get that we aren't laughing with them, we are laughing at them, the "whacker" mindset might be annoying and mostly about self-esteem issues; they act on more of an emotional reward for their ego, and still don't come close to the opportunists I am referring to.

Opportunists are those who profit financially from being associated with response to a disaster.  How does this work?  Those who attempt to profit by defrauding the response community do so either by direct effect or by diverting attention from legitimate organizations. 

Profiteering also comes in the form of using the event to establish credibility, despite the individuals questionable contribution toward the outcome (and again, detracting from the actual attempts to mitigate the event), which also often comes through self-deployment to an event.  In doing so, these groups divert attention from the real responders.  While they were taking short-cuts, the ones who did all the hard work of meeting requirements and responsibilities given to them by their legal authority were not able to get the legitimate message out.  Likewise, these individuals and groups intentionally or unintentionally siphon off donations and community support from groups that legitimately could use that support.

In one way or another, these opportunists find ways to profit from their involvement in the disaster, be it reinforcing their claims for injury or from "credibility", despite their lack of official involvement.  It should really go without saying that credentialing will help keep these people away; if forced to produce a recognized credential, most of these people would have been stopped at the door.  In the case of others, it would allow us to at least force them to affiliate themselves with a legally authorized responder, hopefully requiring them to undergo some background check and examination of their reason for obtaining credentials ("Why do you want to be a disaster responder?"). But by requiring the credential it also causes them to be placed in a group of some sort for accountability and would keep them from wandering off to do their own thing.

I wrote an article in 2002 for discussing even back then, accountability in regard to disaster resource management.  Accountability doesn't stop at causing you to know where people are, as you know, it keeps people from freelancing and doing things outside of the operational plan, as well as eliminating the unauthorized from accessing the scene.  Control and command of an incident requires that you isolate and deny entry to anybody that doesn't have the authority to be in that hot zone.  These types of people clearly have no business being where they are and the negative things they bring to this type of incident don't even begin to scratch the surface against requiring credentials, in fact, they reinforce the argument. 

In the next installment, we'll talk about the final area of concern with credentialing, which really isn't a valid argument against credentialing, but the concern of who determines who gets credentials and how they go about measuring the KSAs of people who genuinely desire to help.  After that, we'll talk about the pros and cons and discuss other initiatives that also benefit from credentialing.

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