Volunteer Incentive Program Offers Special Training Opportunity to the Volunteer Emergency Services

By Kevin D. Quinn, NVFC Chairman

Kevin D. Quinn (right) with NFA Acting Superintendent Kirby E. Kiefer at the VIP graduation ceremony.

Kevin D. Quinn (right) with NFA Acting Superintendent Kirby E. Kiefer at the VIP graduation ceremony.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a week long Leadership and Administration course at the National Fire Academy (NFA) in Emmitsburg, MD. The course was part of the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP), an intensive six-day educational program offered by the NFA specifically for volunteer and combination department emergency service personnel.

VIP offers an incredible opportunity to firefighters, EMS personnel, and rescue workers looking to enhance their skills and education. Instead of the NFA’s normal 10-day course format, the curriculum is condensed into six days to make it more accessible to the schedule of volunteers. The best part is that all NFA courses and course materials are free, and the NFA reimburses firefighters, EMS personnel, and rescue providers for travel, lodging, and meal expenses.

Offered at the NFA campus three times a year, VIP courses are tailored specifically to the special needs of volunteers. One of the great benefits of attending a VIP course is that students have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and information with colleagues from across the country. Courses cover a wide range of topics, such as leadership, incident management, fire prevention, health and safety, EMS, and much more.

Unfortunately enrollment in VIP has been declining in recent years. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has partnered with the NFA to determine why this has happened and how participation can be increased. I attended the Leadership and Administration course to evaluate its effectiveness, determine the importance of the course for use in the volunteer fire service, and to share my participation with fire service leaders.

It was with this eye toward assessment that I started my six-day course on February 28. I hoped the lessons learned through the course would increase my abilities as Chairman of the NVFC as well as provide me with progressive ideas to bring back to my own volunteer department to improve the service we provide to the residents.

The course description promised to focus on adaptive leadership skills for fire service officers to identify contemporary issues while enhancing the administration and implementation of emergency services. It would emphasize the importance of understanding the foundation of your organization and how to implement positive changes. Topics to be covered included setting the stage, planning, forging partnerships, human resource management, recruitment, retention, needs assessment and assets, risk assessment, leading change, and putting it all together.

I was pleasantly surprised at the content and learning offered from the Leadership and Administration course. I have taken many, many fire service courses over the years and can honestly say I highly recommend the VIP courses. I found the instructors to be insightful and inspiring. The mix of students from all over the country was extraordinary. Everyone benefited from the sharing of experiences and knowledge among so many skilled leaders.

Although dedicating six days to a course is a big commitment for volunteers, I found the value gained was most worthwhile. The course content was spot-on and resonated to the core of seeking positive change within my fire department and beyond. The components of the course motivated the students to take this information and apply it to benefit their organizations.

After attending the Leadership and Administration course, I would highly encourage volunteer fire service leaders and their organizational officers to consider participating in the VIP program. There are a wide variety of courses available during the VIP weeks. It is free to attend, and the learning you will receive is priceless.

For more information on the VIP program, visit https://www.usfa.fema.gov/training/nfa/programs/vip.html.