West Hills Regional Fire Department
1000 Luzerne Street - Johnstown, PA 15905
West Hills Regional Fire Department Receives Special Recognition
The West Hills Regional Fire Department has joined an elite group of Pennsylvania Fire Departments achieving silver rating. Of the 2,448 fire departments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for which 2,354 are all volunteer, 72 are combination paid/volunteer and 22 are career paid departments, only 371 fire departments are registered in the Participating Department Certification Program and 55 of the 371 departments are at the silver rating. In Cambria County, there are 50 fire departments, 49 volunteer and one career paid department, only 26 are registered in the Participating Department Certification Program, 15 are registered as having at least 10% of their members certified, 5 are at the bronze level (50%), 5 are at the silver level (75%) and one is at the gold level (100%) which is the City of Johnstown Fire Department, the only career department in the County.
The purpose of the Professional Certification Program is to identify and recognize emergency services personnel whose accomplishments in training and education meets or exceeds nationally recognized standards. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for Fire Service Professional Qualification identify the minimum requirements for a person at a particular level of progression. A person “certified” to one of the Fire Service Professional Levels will have demonstrated competency in the knowledge and skills required to perform at a particular level. The service that can be offered to the citizens and communities of the Commonwealth will be enhanced by the professional competency attained through this certification process.
In Pennsylvania, this program was established in 1983 when a committee was formed to explore the implementation of a voluntary certification program for fire fighters. The Fire Service Certification Advisory Committee (FSCAC) still provides the Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) with program guidance and peer review. After considerable work by the initial certification committee, the first certification exam was conducted at the PA State Fire Academy in 1984. The National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (NBFSPQ) observed the first examination and made suggestions for improvements in the process. In October 1985, the NBFSPQ approved the certification processes and procedures established by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner and accredited Pennsylvania to offer Fire Fighter 1 certification.
Since the initial accreditation, the Fire Service Certification Program has added six additional levels, Fire Fighter 2 was accredited in 1988 and Fire Fighter 3 was accredited in 1990. However, in 1995, the National Fire Protection Association changed the Fire Fighter Professional Qualification Standard and eliminated the level of Fire Fighter 3. Today, Pennsylvania sill recognized those people who earned Fire Fighter 3 certification prior to it being eliminated. In 1992, Pennsylvania received accreditation to offer certification at the Fire Service Instructor 1 and Fire Investigator levels. Fire Service Instructor 2 certification was accredited in 1994. The remaining level of Fire Officer 1 was accredited in 1996. Since 1985, the Office of the State Fire Commissioner’s Fire Service Certification Program has stood for examination and has received its five-year re-accreditation each time.
Since 1985 until present, over 21,000 Pennsylvania Fire Fighters have been certified, with over half being certified at more than one level. There are currently 18 levels of Pro-Board Certification offered with plans to add an additional 11 over the next five years. Many fire service organizations have set the requirement that new personnel in their departments must become certified within 1 to 2 years of joining the organization. In recognition of all fire departments that actively support the Pennsylvania Fire Service Certification Program, the FSCAC recommended that the Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) recognize them for their efforts in promoting certification. The Participating Department Recognition Program was established in 1999 to do just that. Any emergency service organization which has 10% of its “active” members certified at any level is eligible for recognition by the OSFC. Those organizations that have 50%, 75%, or 100% of their “active” members certified receive special recognition. All organizations recognized receive a certificate for public display and large decals for their apparatus.
Some of the benefits to having individuals certified are:
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