The AAAE/ARFFWG Designation Program Process—An Overview Introduction

By: Matt Mauer and Jim Nilo

The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Working Group (ARFFWG), together known as the ARFF Training Alliance offer two ARFF Certifications.

The ARFF Training Alliance, ARFF Professional Designation Program, is a two-tiered process. The first-tier, Airport Master Firefighter (A.M.F.), is designed to provide ARFF personnel with a comprehensive knowledge base of advanced ARFF operations and basics of airport administration and management. This advanced knowledge is well above the basic knowledge that would be learned in an introductory ARFF certification program. Successful completion of the A.M.F. program to earn the A.M.F. designation is accomplished by passing a 150 multiple-choice examination with a 70% or better.

The second-tier, Airport Fire Officer (A.F.O.), is a professional research and assessment designation program designed specifically for high level leadership in the ARFF profession. To successfully earn the A.F.O. designation, candidates must successfully complete the A.F.O. 100 multiple-choice examination with a 70% or better and successfully complete ONE of the following:

  • Management Research Paper
  • Case Study or Proposal or Project
  • Submit an official transcript of record from an accredited university or college to the ARFFWG Educational Affairs Committee to verify that you have earned a Bachelor’s degree or Graduate Degree. The major course of study must have been in fire service administration, emergency services administration, public safety administration, or related.

While not required, the AFO candidate is highly encouraged to present on the management research paper or case study at an ARFFWG sponsored event or related conference (event/conference registration fees will not be charged). Additionally, a Summary Article (1,000-word Article) should potentially be published in ARFF News or AAAE Magazine to share information that may be relevant and assist other ARFF originations.

Upon successful completion of all parts, the candidate will earn the A.F.O. designation.

Candidates have one year from the time of enrollment to complete the A.M.F. program and three years to complete the A.F.O. program. Extensions may be made on a case-by-case basis and may be subject to an additional fee of $100.

Each element in the designation process is carefully monitored by the AAAE/ ARFFWG Professional Designation Program Committee. It is the mission of the AAAE/ ARFFWG Professional Designation Program Committee to ensure that the quality of each designation step promotes the high standards of the ARFF Professional Designation Program and the privilege to use the A.M.F. and A.F.O. designations.

Past Chairman, Jason Graber was recently appointed to the position of Educational Affairs Officer which handles this type of certification. In this position, Chief Graber will follow through on his capstone work which he did on the AMF/AFO project. All ARFF training officers and Chiefs need to consider Jason’s capstone document required reading. He has done the work to create a roadmap for ARFF officer professional development. The document is a management tool that allows the user to plan, manage, conduct, and evaluate a career field training program. It is also intended to help supervisors identify training at the appropriate point in an individual’s career. It identifies task and knowledge training requirements for each skill level in this specialty and recommends education/training throughout each phase of an individual’s career.  Finally, it lists training courses available in this specialty and identifies currently available sources of training and their delivery methods. Chief Graber’s text is well aligned with the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Officer Development Handbook. Without giving you the whole work, Chief Graber’s manual gives any ARFF officer (or firefighter who aspires to be an officer) a rich resource that lays out the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations & Standards, lays out an Initial Training for ARFF Firefighters, discusses and explains the NFPA 1003 Certification, along with OSHA required training for AHJ where that is applicable. He also goes through recurrent and so much more.

Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) is a complex profession that incorporates specialized firefighting skills with a multi-faceted aviation industry. This unique group of firefighters requires specialized training to develop and maintain the skill sets necessary to protect the millions of passengers traveling daily throughout the United States and across the globe.

Currently, the ARFF industry only has a basic certification process available to firefighters through International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) or the Pro Board of Fire Service Professional Qualification System or Pro Board. There are no other programs in existence to certify or designate firefighters at higher levels of ARFF proficiency. The complexity of airport environments and ARFF responsibilities requires a need to establish advanced programs to meet the demands of both industries. Utilizing combined expertise from the ARFF Working Group and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), a program meeting these challenges can be developed and maintained to enhance the ARFF profession and airport safety worldwide.

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