I just recently returned from my second trip to the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg Maryland. The first time was a few years ago when I took Command and Control of Target Hazards, this time around I took Fire Protection Systems for Emergency Operations. The class itself was good and I learned a lot about integrating with different systems and how they can be used to enhance emergency operations on the fire ground.
The National Fire Academy has a wide variety of classes to offer, however some can be confused about the type of classes offered just by the name National Fire Academy. The classes offered are of a more collegiate level. You will not learn how to stretch hand lines, climb ladders, or force doors better. What you will learn is how to improve your management skills, your leadership skills, scene management skills, and fire investigations skills. The NFA is for the current and future leaders of our fire service to gain skills to better lead fire departments, and manage incidents of all types. So if you’re looking for the backwards riding firefighter skills then NFA is not going to fulfill your needs.
Why You Should Go
The Education is by far some of the best you will receive anywhere in the world. The instructor staff is top-notch and the in class material is kept as up to date as possible by dedicated program training technicians. Additionally the in class networking is PHENOMENAL! Getting to meet fire officers from all over the country and pick their brains on tactics, policy, etc. This trip I got to meet a group of awesome guys from class and even some from outside of class and the discussions ranged from what you send to a first alarm, to why the mission of the fire department has changed. You can go as many times in a year as you want but you only get a travel stipend for 1 trip a year. Your room is free, but you have to pay for your week of meals (around $130) and one dollar to the recreation association for use of the Command Post Pub, Gym, and pool. I know of some departments that even reimburse your meal cost making the trip virtually free (more on that later)
Besides that is the campus itself. The campus houses the National Fallen Firefighter Chapel, and Memorial, the To Lift a Nation statue, and the walk of honor that has several sections of brick with names of fallen firefighters, messages, etc.
In addition the campus is close to Gettysburg Battlefield, Washington DC, and Baltimore Maryland so depending on the time of year you can catch a baseball game, football game, the history of our country, or just some night life.
What They Don’t Tell You
Remember how I said the trip was virtually free? Well there are some things that you do not find out until you get there. First off like I mentioned you have to pay a recreation fee in order to use the gym, pool, and pub. Then every class usually gets a class shirt which can range from $30-$50 depending on the type of shirt you get. Then each class usually donates something to the National Fallen Firefighters usually no less than $100 per class so your share will depend on class size. Next is your class party which can be done several ways, or if your like my class this time and have 2 class parties one on campus and one-off, which can be more expensive. Then they have a vendor come and take class pictures, and pictures of your graduation all of which can be bought for a fee. Then of course there are souvenirs, beers, trips out, etc. all of which can cost you money. Not including if your department will not cover your meal plan costs. So that “free” trip just got a little more expensive.
I guess the biggest question is, is it worth it? I say YES! The experiences, skills, and relationships you will gain by going to NFA will last you a life time. I am already trying to plan my third trip.
So go http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/ and look for a class and date that interest you. Then fill out the application. While there be sure to look around and see all the stuff NFA has to offer, and look at the campus orientation video.
I have gained a lot by going to NFA, it is tough spending a week or two away from the family, but the skills gained will allow me to do my job better and that is worth it!
If anyone else has been to NFA please share your story.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!