The Argument for Credentialing – Moving On

Now that we have discussed the four major players in the argument against credentialing, lets talk about the argument for it.

A credential is only as good as the standard by which it is issued.  The point of having a credential should be to identify an individual or other resource as a certain type and kind.  If there is no standard, you might as well tell the carrier of a credential, "just stand over there until I can find something you can't screw up."

A worthwhile credential should also have some security associated with it.  After all, if anyone could get one, what good would it be?  So there are issues of validation involved as well.

In disaster after disaster, free-deploying individuals and "organizations" (and I use that term very loosely) go to "help" and in many cases, put a drain on an already over-taxed system and cause the diversion of legitimate resources from going to areas in need.  And while there is obviously some merit in the use of bystanders for certain aspects of disaster response, that has to be weighed seriously against the risk of their involvement, including the risk to themselves and the affected community, as well as the risk to rescuers, who ultimately must rescue the well-meaning if things don't go according to plan.

There is no way to eliminate the truly altruistic in their quest to render aid.  Nor should there be.  But likewise, the civilians must understand implicitly that there comes a point when they must be diverted from the scene so the professionals can take over, especially when it comes to the extremely hazardous parts.

The standards in themselves seem to be quite the sticking point with some.  Standards utilized for the purpose of credentialing should be consensus standards and all keyholders included in the development of those standards, versus the exclusivity of some of the currently suggested drafts.  But once these are done, ratified, and chosen to be the driving force in identification of the qualified, there needs to be the embracing of the concept.  If organizations can't agree on and use a standard that has meaning, then the credential is useless.

Like anything else, the change in this concept might be painful for some.  There are departments out there who are struggling with the unfunded mandates.  I can also sympathize with the organizations who want to become part of a greater plan like a National Mutual Aid Box Alarm System but don't seem to know where to start or how to get involved.  I guess my first order of business, then, is to tell you how to get involved.  If there's anything I can do, it's point you in a direction toward activism.

Change will only come about if we work together to make it happen.  If you won't stand for change, you don't stand a chance to change.  Our industry is going through some important times but as you might notice (as I do all too well, sometimes), these initiatives take off for a while then they lose momentum.  Of course, that's just until the next disaster.

Let's work together to make something move.  In the next post, I'll talk about opportunities to get involved.


  • Rescue911 says:

    During Hurricane Charlie, people outside the affected area wanted to help. PIO’s put the word out for anyone wanting to help, come to a well known landmark (church) and there will be people giving out work assignments. That was myself and Tracy Sergent from GA EM. The PIO also advised, there will be no water, food or fuel for volunteers to consume. They advised come and help, but be prepared not to use local resources. Also, the volunteers had to be out of town by 6 pm per the Hardee County’s curfew. Duties performed by volunteers were pulling brush to the road side, feeding animals left or lost by their owners when they had to evacuate at the last minute, raking yards and patching roofs. Also, pets were not “shelter” friendly and Katrina taught us if you wanna ’em to evacuate, let ’em bring their pets. My opinion is there is a time and place for volunteers when you have control of what they do. Great blog Mick !

  • Dalmatian90 says:

    I just came across this series, and sadly don’t have time tonight to read it all.

    However, I’ll offer a variation on this topic:

    What is truly needed is a top notch Resource Management System that can match disaster requests with the closest, appropriate resource.

    When you read the stories from Katrina, you read stories of humans being overwhelmed. There’s no need for that — assembling lists of whats needed, whose available, and where they are can be done by computere. Just give a person the responsibility to approve the computer generated orders.

    That’s actually not much different from our dispatch center today on a much smaller scale — you dial 911, their screen pops up with the normal response matrixes for that location (EMS, Minor Fire, 1st Alarm, etc) and the dispatch just punches the screen to approve it…or can modify it if something is unusual with the call.

    Anyway, at least for handling requests outside of normal mutual aid channels (i.e. when State OEMs get involved) those requests should be funneled through a resource management system.

    I’m not as concerned about credentialling individuals as departments. Acme FD gets a call to participate in a strike team, they’re responsible for assuring the members they send meet the requirements.

    Chief gets the page asking to accept the mission, he approves it entering which Engine will handle the call. At the assembly location the Strike Team Leader checks in the apparatus. They get checked in at staging as well. These are points to correct any biological interface problems that occured to put the wrong unit designator in the system.

    When they reach the checkpoint to the incident, they better be in the Resource Management System as being assigned to that incident and that checkpoint. Otherwise positively no entry.

    Hopefully such a system would be tied to a 700mhz system that provides the data links. Authenticating a vehicle should be as simple as typing in a strike team / task force #, and reading each unit ID wirelessly. If they’re not on that group, we have a security problem to address.

    Eventually, if we wished, this system could be expanded to handle individual credentialling — and yes, I’m talking hand over your credential, it will be checked on the computer to ensure it’s still valid AND you’ve been officially assigned.

    Obviously these controls are meant as an incident transitions from an initial response using daily resources to an extended response involving departments you don’t normally deal with and over and extended time.

    I also believe, strongly, in like-covers-like. I’m not really that concerned whether you have some cert like FFII or not; I wouldn’t want my department from a “rural suburban” department covering NYC, nor NYC covering my area. We’re not well practiced in dealing with their larger buildings, they would seriously struggle to establish water supply for a fire bigger then a room & contents in my town.

    Resource Management means being able to classify Urban / Dense Suburban / Rural and matching departments to cover similiar areas when extended coverage is needed. That goes beyond a simple certification or national standards issue.

    Resource Management may also involve some degree of trust. It doesn’t have to be absolute — any department pledging resources would need to be approved at the State and probably also County level to make sure they’re a legitimate group. Let anyone with a quick sign-off like that call themselves a Heavy Rescue team; but classify them as “Untyped.”

    Untyped basically means a team has self-identified itself as qualified, and is viewed as a legitimate organization at the county and state level. There can be a use for “Untyped” teams for basic work, say the inspection of woodframe single family dwellings…you’re trusting they’re a bit more trained and qualified then just a plain engine strike team that hasn’t proferred they’re qualified.

    Untyped teams could submit to an evaluation by a organization of US&R teams to be classified, etc to earn a “Type 3” or even “Type 2” or “Type 1” or whatever classifications we chose. Obviously there’s incentive — your chances of deploying into a valuable assignment as “untyped” is pretty low.

    Meh, this has gotten long…bottom line:
    — Computerize this.
    — Assign & Track resources by unit & organization. Let them be responsible for individual qualifications, at least at basic levels. More specialized resources and of higher responsibilities are where to focus individual certifications.

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