Though women have held top positions in volunteer fire stations since the 1930s, only in the last several decades have the number of women holding leadership positions, such as fire chief, battalion chief or fire inspector, increased each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2012, nearly 8,000 women work as firefighters, with around 2,000 serving as fire inspectors. The path to becoming a fire code inspector includes specific training, including certification as a uniform fire code inspector.
Each state utilizes its own fire code consisting of rules and regulations to protect the citizens and property of that state. This uniform fire code provides identical safety protocols that can be applied to all public buildings, private residences and other structures in that state. Most fire departments and government agencies require a fire code inspector to earn certification so that she is well-versed in fire inspection procedures, as the uniform fire code is often detailed and complicated to comprehend.
Providers and Types
Certification for fire code inspectors comes from several different sources, including national and international organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association, National Association of Fire Investigators and International Association of Arson Investigators. Certification comes from local and state governments, as well as state and local code enforcement boards and fire marshal offices. Several different types of fire code inspector certifications exist as well. For example, the NFPA offers three levels of fire inspector certification – Fire Inspector I, Fire Inspector II and Fire Plan Examiner.
In order to obtain certification, each applicant must fulfill certain requirements, such as submitting an application and paying a certification and exam fee. Other requirements include having attained a minimum educational level, usually at least a high school degree, although most require at least an associate's degree or higher. A provider may accept experience in fire safety, fire code enforcement or a related field instead of a specific education. For higher-level certifications, such as the Fire Inspector II certification, applicants must have earned prerequisite certifications. A certification provider may also require the applicant to be a member of that organization in order to earn certification. (Reference 6)
Training and Testing
Most of the certification programs require the applicant to take part in some type of training, as well as take and pass an exam, to earn certification. The training may come in the form of classroom, at-home or online study, completing case studies or practical hands-on training. The NFPA requires certification applicants to take and pass the exam and then participate in a six-month practicum, where the inspector must complete and report on seven inspections. Certification exams generally take place at on-site testing centers, although many providers are starting to move to computer-based testing for certification.
Every few years, a fire code inspector must renew her certification. The recertification process typically includes filling out a recertification application, paying a recertification fee and earning a certain number of continuing education credits. Some certification providers allow fire inspectors to earn continuing education credits by fulfilling other work-related duties, such as teaching, writing for industry publications or participating in industry associations.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Household Data Annual Averages
- National Fire Protection Association: Fire Inspector Certification
- Jackson Fire District: New Jersey Uniform Fire Code
- North Carolina Office of State Marshal: Certification Tools
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fire Inspectors and Investigators
- National Association of Fire Investigators: Certification
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