The Case for Credentialing – Those Who Can’t Get In

My final group of people who are not happy with credentialing efforts are the "outsiders".  To me, they are the ones with the most logical and compelling concerns about credentialing.  Ironically, these people are often those already with some responsibility for response, or they are in the process of trying to improve the capability.  In more than one case I am aware of, these efforts went about to fill a vacuum where poor or absent service existed.  And interestingly enough, the people working hard to improve the service have been effectively kept out of the loop by those who guard the credentialing development process.

Now to those who I hear constantly venting that they can't understand who comes up with "these standards", I tell these people all the time that as far as the NFPA standards go, THEY have an opportunity to write them if they were to just apply.  The NFPA standards process is very transparent and open to anyone who cares to get involved.  If you're new to the process, sometimes it takes a little of help navigating the process, but there are people (like me) who help people find the information they want and point them in a direction on a regular basis.  Even if you aren't on a committee, you are still encouraged to comment on proposed standards.  The public can attend NFPA committee meetings and the public and interested responders can discuss standards with principal members. 

However, there are groups making standards that may very well be used for credentialing purposes where I, and many in my same position, have no idea how the committees got picked.  When pushed for information, there have been slow or no communications in response to the standards being created. When asked, the individuals involved in these standards aren't so forthcoming with their process or their logic.  In fact, in some cases these groups have ignored the people who aren't in their "circle". So I can certainly understand the frustration, because I'm one of you.

There was a time in my early career that I wanted to get involved in improving my chosen profession and interestingly enough, met with resistance from those in control.  One situation I am referring to was while dealing with a committee appointed by a training institution for the purpose of developing curriculum that frankly, was teaching information and skills about ten years behind the existing technical rescue methodology.  The excuse?  "That's not how we do it HERE".

In fact, there have been times in the US&R industry (and this is occurring literally, right this minute), where players that have political power but no clue about US&R are actively pushing for control of that "legally authorized responder" designation for their own ill-prepared organizations, despite the presence of already qualified and genuinely proactive individuals who are already leading efforts.

So to me, here is the place where the credentialing talks meet resistance and an extreme amount of concern. I am not interested in a credentialing process that excludes individuals from contributing to the development of the standards used.  The concern is especially strong when in some cases, the standards are slanted toward keeping people in positions rather than in insuring qualified people have the qualifications.  There is a fine line between saying we require you to maintain certification from a certain agency and permitting equivalency in order to permit other certifications that meet the intent of the certification.  The easy way would be to simply identify objective criteria for people and organizations to meet and to certify to that standard, but then there comes the difficult (and expensive) method of evaluating that capability.

Really, where do you draw the line on "equivalency"?  If the Acme Fire Department issues a certification as a Rescue Technician, should that carry the same weight as someone with a certification from their state fire academy?  Or from a third-party provider?

These are hard questions to answer and the chief argument against credentialing.  It's because there are those of us in the industry fighting against those who have drawn a line benefiting a few to the exclusion of many.  My inner skeptic says that these standards have been established simply to promote someone's agenda.  Now this is an argument that has been inappropriately used against NFPA standards for a while- that a certain interest group would control the standards in order to further their own agenda.  If there is anyplace where that is less true, it would be in NFPA committees.  Especially in professional qualifications committees, if a certain balance isn't achieved to avoid self-interest, there are marked efforts to re-balance the committee.  I can't say that to be true about some of the credentialing proposals I have seen.

We do, however, have to insist not necessarily on adopting a certification from a certain agency to be credentialed, but instead to insist on adherence to evaluation and confirmation of knowledge, skills, and abilities that meet the needs of a certain position, or in the case of organizations and teams, meeting objective criteria that define a type and kind of response asset.  From here, this is where we will transition into the argument in favor of credentialing.  See you next time.

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