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Austin, Steve. Investigators on the Firing Line. Fire Chief. Vol. 40 No. 7 (July 1996), pp.44-47.

Abstract: Fire investigators face a unique competency challenge. How many other professionals must testify under oath as to how they reached their conclusions? Mistakes can have serious results. Therefore, the competency and training of investigators falls under scrutiny. This article explores the possibility that NFPA 1033 may be a useful tool in aiding chief investigators as they determine what level of competency their staffs require to perform their jobs.

The NFPA 1033 provides the job performance requirements that meet the minimum standards for a fire investigator. It can also be used for performance evaluation, improving the professionalism of the unit and aiding in identifying court experts. It was developed by experts in the field.

When the NFPA 1033 is to be used in a department, personnel need to be trained to meet the standard. Therefore, educational opportunities must be examined. Related questions include: Who will perform the training? Will the training follow Job Performance Requirements (JPRs)? Will the training reference NFPA 921? Will the training be tested? Do existing courses and seminars prepare investigators to meet the standard?

The National Fire Academy's use of its resources to provide basic training instead of advanced courses is also questioned. The traditional NFA two-week course might not be as readily available in the future.

Alternative approaches to education are considered, including community college and distance learning as well as interactive video training. Private firms are offering courses that might meet the needs of higher standards and lower budgets.

The author submits that the NFPA 921 and NFPA 1033 are two of the most important documents in the system and calls on the entire community to submit proposals and comments to improve them. He also suggests using NFPA 1033 as the basis for training.

For more information, contact:
Fire Chief
35 E. Wacker Drive, Ste. 700
Chicago, IL 60601-2198
Phone: (312) 726-7277

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