Friday, March 20, 2009

Can TEEX courses lead to a college degree?

They can.

Our agency is best known for providing world-class training and technical assistance, whether it’s in areas of safety, search and rescue, EMS, firefighting, law enforcement, public works, manufacturing or economic development. But TEEX’s instructor workforce and quality of curriculum are so respected that genuine opportunities now exist to qualify our classes for academic credit in colleges and universities.

Example 1: San Juan College, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Let’s say you’re a safety professional who already holds a TEEX Certified Safety & Health Official (CSHO) certification. Thanks to our relationship with San Juan College in New Mexico and with Texas A&M University-Commerce, you can receive 18 hours of college credit and complete degree requirements online. We’re working on a similar arrangement with Francis Tuttle Technology Center, located in Oklahoma.

Example 2: West Texas A&M University
Here’s another example: Through a TEEX partnership with West Texas A&M University, emergency services personnel are able to earn a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management Administration through distance-learning. The goal of this degree program is to prepare students for advanced levels of administration and management within the emergency service community. Graduates walk away with the ability to interact effectively with law enforcement, public works, and city and county officials of all levels.

Example 3: Blinn College
And if you live in close proximity of our College Station, Texas, headquarters – and you’re seeking a career in law enforcement – you should know about TEEX’s agreement with Blinn College.

Blinn criminal justice students now are able to participate in TEEX's Central Texas Police Academy as a component of their associate in applied science degree. TEEX police academy faculty then provides classroom and hands-on field application and training experiences for qualified Blinn students. Under this agreement, students will have access to the 2,000-acre Texas A&M Riverside Campus for the practical field experiences they need to work as police officers: a firing range, driving track and residential prop houses that provide realistic scenarios. This agreement expands the offerings Blinn and TEEX already provide that place a semester at our world-renowned Brayton Fire Training Field into the fire science certificate and degree curriculum.

Surprised?
The above examples are the seedlings that allow TEEX-trained professionals to pursue an academic education through a wide range of community colleges and universities. In fact, it’s among the strategic initiatives that are core to our agency. Providing our students with professional options and practical relevance to their respective career aspirations is immensely rewarding for us. I hope you feel the same way.

Want to learn more about opportunities with TEEX? Visit us at TEEX.org.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Advances in firefighting showcased at Annual Spring School

NOTE: The photos in this blog post are of students pre-planning inside the Henry D. Smith Building at the Brayton Fire Training Field.
TEEX’s Annual Summer Fire Training School, held each July at Brayton Fire Training Field, is the most publicized and recognized three weeks in agency’s training calendar. But this week, another part of the Annual School Program – all be it significantly smaller – is bringing emerging technologies to the forefront of firefighting.

Each March for the past 21 years, TEEX has hosted the Spring Fire Training School and, this year, a record 361 students are enrolled in the week-long event.

“In the summer, we run the traditional programs like firefighting, rescue, fire prevention and investigation – to name a few,” said Harvie Cheshire, Training Manager of the Annual Schools Program. “In the spring, we offer more specialty courses where we go to a more advanced level. We also bring in new classes which focus on new technologies, ideas and innovations.”

One of those new classes is Advanced Municipal Fire Operations, Pre-Response Information Management Exercises, or AMFO PRIME.

Mike Montgomery, the Director/Fire Marshal for Harris County, Texas, is one of the guest instructors for the AMFO PRIME course. He’s one of 61 guest instructors at TEEX’s Spring School this year.

According to Montgomery, pre-planning has been very important to fire departments for a long time and it allows firefighters to get familiar with buildings and structures in their response area and jurisdiction.

“Firefighters are curious,” Montgomery said. “We want to know what is going on inside the building. It allows us to manage risks better if we have a better understanding of what we are getting into. When you are called to a fire at 2 a.m., it’s not the ideal time to have your first experience with the building.”

Traditionally, pre-planning information is stored in some sort of paper form, whether it be maps, diagrams or literally hundreds of documents to help firefighters to be aware of their surroundings.

“It seems like we have pre-planned since the beginning of time,” Montgomery added. “But it has been difficult to institutionalize. The maps and files that you have to carry are too cumbersome.”

And there’s the problem.

The solution: Technology.

1. Fire departments are now able to use technology to their favor by storing data on servers and accessing it through laptops or from computers in the fire engine itself.

2. Digital photography can accompany the pre-plans.

3. There are prepackaged and customized software to help draw building diagrams.

4. Diagrams can be super-imposed onto Google Earth or MapQuest maps so firefighters know fire hydrant locations, fire department access lane locations and obstructions that may interfere with a truck’s ability to get into a location. You can also mark hazardous entities on the maps –septic tanks and hazardous materials locations – to name a few.

Montgomery said the ultimate goal is to get all the information to a common clearing house where it would be available to all fire departments, law enforcement agencies and other first responders. In some instances, the information is becoming an integral part of a communities’ emergency plan.

“Regardless of whether it’s a fire, weather disaster or terrorist incident, the information is useful,” Montgomery said. “The information is being gathered and stored and now it’s easier to manage and be used by others.”