Fire department testing isn’t just for hiring and promotions. Firefighters may have to complete tests to obtain and renew special certifications and licenses. Many departments also use tests to assess firefighter comprehension after training.
And of course, in the fire service, knowing the proper procedures and information can be the difference between life and death.
Ineffective testing doesn’t just cause staffing problems. It may mean a firefighter gets certified in an area for which they’re not properly equipped. Or that leaders keep using confusing or ineffective training content. This can put firefighters at risk. They could find themselves in a dangerous situation and not know how to proceed.
Good firefighter training and testing helps create a culture of accountability and ensure that every firefighter has the knowledge they need to stay safe and serve the community well.
Online firefighter training and testing software can help commanders evaluate the effectiveness of training and spot areas that need improvement. A good firefighter training software gives department leaders an overall picture of training and also lets them see how each individual is doing. This can help them know which staff members are best qualified for different positions or specialization.
The Problem with Traditional Firefighter Testing
In the past, most fire departments used paper-based systems for firefighter training and testing. This approach to firefighter testing can take up valuable resources. The costs of paper, printing, and administrative hours can eat into training budgets.
For example, Russell Peterson, the Division Chief of Training & Risk for Brentwood Fire & Rescue, remembers spending hours writing different versions of in-service tests. After creating, printing, and distributing the tests, Peterson then would have to grade them by hand.
Plus, traditional firefighter testing methods don’t have many accountability measures to make sure firefighters really understand the information. If every staff member is given the same version of a paper firefighter civil service exam year after year, they can easily share questions and answers.
Some electronic solutions and online firefighter training systems create the same issue. With some electronic multiple-choice tests, Firefighters can easily memorize the answers without having to truly know the material.
In Peterson’s case, he originally switched Brentwood’s fire department tests to the online testing tool Quizegg. But the system did not allow for much administrative control, and he worried about the security of the information.
Brentwood eventually implemented PowerDMS’s online training software, which Peterson says made online training 33 percent faster than it was with Quizegg.
A good online firefighter training tool like PowerDMS keeps test information secure, giving administrators control over who can access what information before test day. It makes it easy to create and distribute customized firefighter tests, drawing on a bank of questions and answers to make each quiz unique.
How do you cheat on a firefighting test?
What constitutes cheating on fire department testing isn’t always clear-cut.
For example, in a recent incident at a department in Columbus, Ohio, several recruits prepared for a test using a website created by a classmate. The website included questions that were very similar to those on the division’s EMT test.
After an investigation, the department concluded that using the website wasn’t cheating because recruits already had access to many similar study aids.
In many cases, cheating scandals center around the question of whether some of the test-takers have an unfair advantage over the others. Therefore, some fire departments simply give all recruits access to a database of potential questions and materials to study.
This approach may prevent your department from ending up on the news because of a cheating scandal. But it may not be the most effective method of fire department testing.