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New training lets firefighters study online

Ask any small fire department, be it paid or volunteer, and no doubt one of the biggest challenges is the state-mandated continuing education courses that firefighters must take to maintain their certification.

Attending the necessary courses often meant traveling to a larger city and taking time away from work and family. There were cost involved, too.

Now, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has developed an online training program that offers a number of necessary courses not only to firefighters but also to emergency medical service technicians.

The Ohio Fire Academy Online Training Service offers programs based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), and International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) standards and materials, according to information from the fire marshal’s office. The cost is $20 per firefighter per year. The classes eliminate the need for travel, an important consideration given that volunteer firefighters often had to take time away from their paid jobs to get the necessary training.

“They can take them at home, at the fire station, anywhere there is a computer,” Rome Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steven Rutherford said. “This is a great tool for us.”

Rutherford pointed out some classes will still require travel and hands-on training that simply can’t be done on a computer. But for those classes that can be taught online, the firefighter or EMT saves time and money.

State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers said since the online program began three weeks ago, he has gotten positive feedback from departments across the state.

“We are always trying to find ways to keep (firefighters and EMTs) well-trained and yet keep from having this become a burden to them,” Flowers said. “This has been a long time coming. We are really excited about this.”