Blog - The Raven Speaks

Does ProBoard Certify Me For Life?

Question: Does ProBoard Certify Me For Life?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No.

Because…

We regularly talk with students who are interested in taking a ProBoard qualification exam to demonstrate their competency of content learned during their NFPA-compliant rescue course.

Sometimes, these students have an additional motive – they’d like to be “certified for life” in a given rescue discipline to avoid the requirement to recertify every three years, and are hoping that a ProBoard exam will give them this "lifetime guarantee".

It takes us a moment or two to set the record straight, but shedding light on the misconception of “certification for life” is essential to maintain the integrity of qualified rescue personnel.

 

THE HISTORY

ProBoard exams were designed as a third party examination that could verify the demonstrated competence of individuals claiming a certain level of technical rescue ability.  With that objective in mind, individuals can take ProBoard exams in any NFPA 1006 technician-level rescue discipline they wish.

Here’s the rub: these exams are intended for use within the context of a supervised group (think: fire department/professional rescue team), which the NFPA refers to as Authority Having Jurisdiction.  An AHJ is defined in the NFPA as “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or procedure.”

Under the ongoing supervision of the AHJ, a freshly-minted ProBoard certified rescue technician will be required to maintain professional development standards year after year.  Exactly how an AHJ maintains the professional development of their personnel will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; although there are best practices within the rescue industry (we’ll talk about those in a moment) and provincial workplace regulations do have something to add to this conversation at times, particularly in the discipline of confined space.

The bottom line is this: A ProBoard exam serves as a snapshot in time that verifies a level of competency, whether you're overseen by an AHJ or not.  Within the context of the AHJ, that level of competency will be maintained. Outside the context of an AHJ... the value of a ProBoard exam has a limited lifespan.

 

THE INDUSTRY STANDARD FOR ProD

2017 brought with it a new edition to NFPA 1006, a standard that drives the choices of professional rescue organizations throughout North America. Other standards – such as those published by Rescue 3 International – are global in their scope, with rescuers around the world turning to them for direction. You can learn more about how the industry standard is created on our blog.

The industry standard in the world of rescue has been influenced by multiple sources, and has quite a bit to say about professional development. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus specifically on the NFPA’s contribution to the industry standard, by highlighting some specific content from the 2017 edition of 1006.

These highlighted segments set an industry standard that requires ongoing training, demonstrated competency, and “maintaining a certification through a national certifying body”:

2017 1006 Chapter 1.2.6 - Technical rescue personnel shall remain current with the general knowledge, skills and JPRs addressed for each level or position of qualification. Technical rescue personnel shall remain current with technical rescue practices and applicable standards and shall demonstrate competency on an annual basis.

A.1.2.6 - The committee recognizes the importance of formal and continuing education and training programs to ensure technical rescue personnel have maintained and updated the necessary skills and knowledge for the level of qualification. Continuing education and training programs can be developed or administered by local, state, provincial or federal agencies as well as professional associations and accredited institutions of higher education. The methods of learning would include areas of technology, refresher training, skills practices, and knowledge application to standards. The subject matter should relate directly to the requirements of this standard.

Ongoing training and continuing education are necessary to ensure that technical rescue personnel remain current in the ever-changing field of technical rescue. Attending workshops and seminars, reading professional publications, and participating in refresher training are ways technical rescue personnel can update their knowledge and skills. Proficiency in current rescue practices can be demonstrated by achieving and maintaining certification through a national certifying body.

 

SO WHY PROBOARD?

So if ProBoard doesn’t get you out of having to maintain your training and certification, what’s the point?

To date, nothing speaks as clearly to your demonstrated competency of the NFPA standard as a third party professional qualification exam, such as ProBoard or IFSAC.  But while a professional qualification is a powerful tool if wielded within a group that oversees and maintains that demonstrated competency, it doesn't replace the need for regular training.

So if this works for you and your AHJ, plan to join us during our next Technical Rescue Academy for your ProBoard rope exam.

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