State Firefighters Pick Up Online Training

May 21, 2004

A new partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) and Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) will help make training for similar scenarios somewhat easier in the future by creating an online learning model.

Starting April 19, Massachusetts firefighters for the first time were able to study online during their downtime at the firehouse rather than traveling to classroom sites. This will allow DFS to respond more quickly to training needs and with greater flexibility to accommodate the call, volunteer or career firefighters schedule. It should result in cost savings for local fire departments that will now be able to coordinate training with downtime and eliminate the need for travel time.

Online education fits perfectly with the demands of the firefighters schedule and allows the firefighter to maximize time spent at our training facility on the practical training that cant be done elsewhere, said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. Firefighters are always juggling the need for training with a full-time job – whether that full-time job is as a firefighter or not. Online education gives firefighters greater and more flexible access to training, said Coan.

This course will be our pilot, said David Kelley, executive director of MCO, a consortium of the 24 Massachusetts state and community colleges. Once we have a model, DFS and MCO will seek funding to transfer many of DFS’s classroom courses to online delivery.

The partnership between MCO and DFS will begin with a single course on radiation awareness that will serve as a model for future courses. This new course is designed to address how to respond safely to leaks at a laboratory, plant or medical facility. Framingham State College (FSC), an MCO member, worked with DFS to develop the online version of this course and will be hosting it. Firefighters will have three weeks to complete the course online, which would have been a three-hour classroom course, allowing them to move through the material at their own pace.

To register for this course or for more information on other Department of Fire Services training programs contact the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy at (978) 567-3200 or online at For more information on MCO, contact David Kelley at 978 556-3401 or

In the future, many classroom courses will be replaced by online delivery and tracking, administered by MCO. In addition to accessing coursework, firefighters will be able to take tests, view course schedules and descriptions, and review their own course history online.

This partnership between public higher education and a public agency has many benefits, said Kelley. DFS is tapping into the expertise of another arm of the state to improve what they do. We hope that it will provide a model for other agencies as well as private industries with training needs.

The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, a division of the Department of Fire Services, provides training to municipal fire departments free of charge. This rigorous professional training provides firefighters and fire officers with the skills to perform their jobs effectively and safely. Today’s firefighters do far more than fight fires. They are the first ones called to respond to chemical and environmental emergencies, to rescue a child who has fallen through the ice, to rescue people from stalled elevators, to extricate people trapped in vehicle accidents, to provide life-saving emergency medical care or to prevent fires through code enforcement and public education. They test and maintain their equipment, ranging from self-contained breathing apparatus to hydrants, to hoses, power tools, and apparatus. All these skills require classroom learning as well as practice to achieve proficiency.

Launched two years ago, MCO is designed to pool courses and programs and offer one-stop shopping for students who are looking for online education. The MCO website, , includes over to 680 credit courses and more than 30 degree and certificate programs. The consortium has also enabled the colleges to better market their online offerings to a number of target audiences such as high schools looking to provide dual enrollment opportunities and Advanced Placement courses; state agencies that need effective, low cost training options; and businesses that want to convert existing classroom courses to online delivery.

Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO)
David Kelley
978 556-3401

Ernie Greenslade
603 431-5758

Department of Fire Services
Jennifer Mieth
978 567-3381