Ethical and Legal Issues in the Fire Service

Ethical and legal issues in the fire service are often overlooked due to the overshadowing inherent physical dangers of the job.  ATPC 2720 Ethical and Legal Issues in the Fire Service teaches fire officers and administrative staff how to navigate ethical and legal topics they will encounter, such as labor relations, human rights, diversity, conflicts of interest, and ethical decision making.

The following is a short list of NFPA 1021: Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications standards that are covered in this course, along with NFPA 1031: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner.

Human Resources Management

Human resources is an important part of the job, and is directly impacted by ethical and legal issues in the fire service.  Students will learn how to establish procedures for hiring, assigning, promoting, and encouraging professional development of members.   They will learn to maximize efficiency by assigning the correct personnel to tasks based on experience, training, and overall knowledge in accordance with policies and procedures. 

Ethical decision-making plays a large part in human resources management, starting with removal of unethical options up front.  Leaders must learn to evaluate decisions by applying consistent ethical principles to come to the correct ethical option. 

Legal Issues

You don’t need to be an attorney to be familiar with ethical and legal issues in the fire service, nor do you need an invitation to be held accountable for them.  Students will learn how to follow federal, state, and local laws in relation to these processes.  They will develop procedures and programs for promoting members that is valid and reliable, job-related, and nondiscriminatory.

If you are lucky, your department may have legal counsel to help discuss projects, processes, and procedures with.  Regardless, being familiar with important legal issues that directly impact your agency is a must.

Job Performance Requirements

Develop professional qualification standards for specific jobs.  This is referred to as JPR’s.  They help define what an individual must be able to perform successfully as a requirement of their position.  The components are broken down into such:

  1. Task that is to be performed.
  2. Tools, equipment, or materials must be provided to successfully complete the task.
  3. Evaluation parameters and/or performance outcomes.

Most if not all job descriptions have job performance requirements assigned to them to help define what personnel are responsible for knowing and/or accomplishing on a routine basis.  All job descriptions in the fire service have been assigned JPRs.  If you look at the courses taught through Couch Courses, you will see that each course has assigned JPRs in the course syllabus.  This is to assist you with what topics will be covered, and the expectations of what you should know upon completion of each course.

Training Programs

Training programs are important to meet the requirements of the organization.  You will learn to develop an ongoing educational program to meet those requirements, so members of the organization are given the appropriate training to meet the mission.  This training should be job specific, with the goal of obtaining desired results in different positions.  The JPRs that are developed for these positions will help dictate the training that is needed.

Course Takeaway

Ethical and legal issues in the fire service is a requirement for Fire Officer III and Fire Inspector II.  Fire Officer III courses are meant for administrative positions that are directly responsible for knowing and following standards and laws in relation to hiring, firing, training, and maintaining personnel.

This course will transfer and convert to a 3-hour credit for satisfaction in FIR 3311 Legal Aspects of Emergency Services with our partner at Columbia Southern University.

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