Tuesday, August 30, 2016

National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Credentialing Program

As more industries use unmanned air crafts such as drones to inspect facilities, land and infrastructure, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi developed a program called the National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Credentialing Program (NUASCP) to improve the safety of the skies.


This program is tailored for U.S. commercial
service providers and public safety organizations utilizing small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) who have obtained a Section 333 exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate in the national airspace system. Four companies have successfully completed this program, with the most recent company being Precision Aerial Compliance Solutions, located in Conroe, TX. Precision Aerial Compliance Solutions LLC is an aerial data collection and inspection service dedicated to providing their clients with a safe, cost-effective, and efficient way to gather actionable data for their business.

“Precision Aerial is pleased to be a member of this elite group of UAS operators who have graduated from the NUASCP,” said Scott McGowan, CEO of Precision Aerial Compliance Solutions. “This program's certification gives our current, as well as potential clients, a more informative way to make choices in using and integrating UAS service companies and their capabilities into their own business operations. Safety and professionalism are the key factors in hiring a potential UAS operator and this program makes that process easier by doing a lot of that groundwork for them."

The National sUAS Credentialing Program has been included in at least one Request for Proposals for a large flood control district in Texas.  The district reviewed the baseline program and felt it was a way to have a vetting process for the UAS Service Providers they will be reviewing to award the contract.  This will set apart all others.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration website "by law, any aircraft operation in the national airspace requires a certificated and registered aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operational approval. 
Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (PDF) grants the Secretary of Transportation the authority to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the National Airspace System (NAS)". As of 8/19/2016 there have been 5,542 petitions for exemption have been granted and 1,692 have been denied.

Completion of the voluntary credentialing program enables companies to certify compliance to FAA regulations regarding commercial UAS operations and demonstrate safe flight. The 3rd party vetting of Section 333 requirements includes an oral audit as well as a  live-flight audit with full launch recovery. Operators who complete the program receive a certificate demonstrating their ability to safely and effectively operate Section 333 exempted small UAS in the national airspace. 

Learn more about the National UAS Credentialing Program.

By Steve Williams, Director of Operations and Strategic Development with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.    

Thursday, July 14, 2016

TEEX & SFFMA: Upholding Fire Service Standards

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), Emergency Services Training Institute’s (ESTI) main training facility is known as Brayton Fire Training Field (BFTF). Today, this facility is comprised of 296 acres in College Station, Texas, making it the world’s largest, most comprehensive campus for fire responder training in the world. The Brayton Fire Training Field is home of some of the best and most complex training in the country. BFTF’s 132 training props and training stations include a multitude of realistic training props that provide students the means to practice their skills under realistic conditions.

In 1929, the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas (SFFMA) selected Texas A&M University as the site for a permanent firefighter training school. In 1931, the Texas Legislature authorized the creation of the school by passing House Bill No. 921. This bill authorized the A&M College of Texas (later becoming the Texas A&M University) to create, conduct and maintain the Training School. Though a long-standing relationship between TEEX and the SFFMA, many advancements and accomplishments in the fire service have been achieved. 

This partnership has been instrumental in establishing a baseline of safety and training for thousands of first responders. In FY15, 92,704 students (1,675,485 contact hours) participated in ESTI’s rigorous, hands-on training in Firefighting, Emergency Medical Services, Hazardous Materials, Rescue, Incident Management and other specialized programs both on site and around the world. Staffed by hundreds of experienced instructors, technician and support personnel who represent more than 130 specialty areas, ESTI offers approximately 200 different courses to students from across Texas, the United States, and around the world.

Advances and Benefits

During the past 87 years of TEEX's existence, there have been countless advances in the fire service.  Our main focus continues to be firefighter safety. There has also been a desire to “unify” the fire service.  What is meant by this is people desire training that is quantifiable and measured against existing standards.  Beginning in January 2015, TEEX and the SFFMA formalized a “certification pathway” for SFFMA members based on the NFPA 1001 requirements of Firefighter I & II and NFPA 472 Hazardous Materials Awareness, Operations (PPE & Product Control).  This is a voluntary certification program not meant to penalize, but reward those through the validation of their knowledge and skills.  Through advancements like these, we have moved one step closer to becoming a response community with equal knowledge, capabilities and the passion to succeed.  

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Annual Spanish School.  Participants and Guest Instructors from some 20+ Latin American Countries and US Territories attend training at TEEX’s Brayton Fire Training Field. Dates for this year’s school are July 10-15, 2016.  These participants proudly represent their Countries and the Fire Service as a whole. Three years ago, the Annual Spanish School changed its curriculum to match the SFFMA certification program. This provides an opportunity for SFFMA International Members to quantify their training and become part of this certification process. In addition to the fire-based courses, there are a wide variety of educational opportunities available including: Rescue Training, Hazardous Materials Training, Pump Operations, Marine Fire Fighting, EMS training, Instructor Certification, Incident Command / Incident Management, Incident Safety Officer and other training opportunities.  

To learn more about the Annual Spanish School, please visit the Bomberos pageSFFMA Membership Form.

By Gordon Lohmeyer, Executive Associate Director of the Emergency Services Training Institute at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.        

Friday, June 3, 2016

Oldest, youngest fire academy graduates share love of firefighting and serving others

Separated by space and time, it was the love of firefighting and a desire to serve others that brought together the oldest and youngest graduates of the TEEX Online Recruit Firefighter Academy.

Coming from different countries and different generations, Andrew Makey-Heindl, 18, from Orillia, Ontario, and Neil Summer, 63, from College Station, TX, shared an intense, 21-day hands-on, up-close-and-personal introduction into real-world firefighting and the brotherhood of firefighters during April.

Firefighting has been the goal for Makey-Heindl since he was a youngster, and as an 11th grader, he was able to spend five months at a fire station as part of a school coop program.  He occasionally went on calls with the fire department, and watched the operation from the sidelines. But he couldn’t wait until he could become a firefighter and join the team.  So when he graduated from high school in 2015, he got a job a Home Depot and began researching firefighting academies. TEEX and the Brayton Fire Training Field were at the top of his list. 

“The number of projects and the state-of-the-art facility meant I could get double the hands-on training I would get at home,” he said. 

He will resume his job at Home Depot and begin working as a volunteer firefighter when he returns to Canada.  He plans to begin working toward his EMT-Paramedic certification in the fall.  “My ultimate goal is to work at a fire station in the Greater Toronto Area, but any job in emergency services would be great,” he added.

Summer’s path to the Recruit Firefighter Academy took a bit longer. Originally from South Africa, he left home at 18 to work as a diver in the North Sea, and eventually worked as a geologist in the offshore oil & gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, where he specialized in deepwater geohazards. He was well-acquainted with TEEX and Brayton Fire Training Field through marine firefighting and offshore survival classes he attended in the 1990s. When he lost his job in the oil & gas industry, he saw an opportunity to pursue his firefighter certification. 

Last fall, he began volunteering at the South Brazos Volunteer Fire Department, but realized he needed to be a certified firefighter to fully participate and serve his community. A Director and Founder of Ecolyse, Inc., Summer says this is one way he can “pay back” his community by working as a volunteer firefighter and also with FEMA in emergency response. 

“I am highly impressed with this organization and the instructors. They cram a lot into 21 days,” Summer said. “I took it seriously and have been exercising every day since October.” 

Thanks to his preparation, he said he had no problem with the physical demands of the “boot camp.”

Both Makey-Heindl and Summer would agree:  No matter your age, you can pursue your dream to do something you love.

NOTE: If you are interested in training to become a certified firefighter, you can learn more about the TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy.