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Staff Spotlight: Captain Kevin Reed

07/14/2021

The Hillsborough Community College Fire Academy has served the west central Florida area since the early 1970s by providing highly skilled firefighters to the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and other surrounding municipalities. 

Earlier this year, HCC’s Fire Academy was named the 2020 Fire Training Center of the Year by the Florida Fire Training Directors Association (FFTDA)

With over 50 training locations available in the state, this annual award is provided to the center that goes above and beyond the minimum standards by demonstrating innovation in training, implementation of new programs and maintains a high level of students, certifications and job placement. Additional criteria include hosting fire service projects, diversity of students and possessing high level instructor qualifications. 

Spearheading the program is Captain Kevin Reed, HCC’s postsecondary adult vocational (PSAV) Fire Science and Fire Academy program manager.

Captain Reed has known the impact HCC makes on the community far before calling the College his workplace. A Hawk alumnus himself, he graduated from HCC’s EMT, paramedic and fire programs in the 1980s. 

For most of his career as an active firefighter, he worked with Tampa Fire Rescue.

He also worked as an educator, serving in positions such as a training coordinator for Tampa Fire Rescue and as an instructor for the HCC EMS program

“Personally, I always wanted to learn more and then convey my knowledge as a firefighter and paramedic to others.” 

In January 2015, he came back to HCC to work within the fire science program. 

Reflecting on the growth of the program in the last few years, Captain Reed says, “Recently the state added an additional 94 hours to the program, making it 492 hours total instead of 398. 

This new requirement has made a huge difference because it allows instructors to give more time to the students and teach content that there wasn't time for before. Fire service has changed over the years, and we’ve evolved the program to teach hazardous materials response, medical, extrication and so much more.” 

Fire Academy classes are taught at the HCC Ybor City Campus Training Center and are scheduled year-round. Currently, classes are offered both on a part-time or full-time schedule to accommodate student needs.

The full-time program is offered three times a year and can be completed in four months. The part-time program, offered twice a year, is completed in six.

“Comparing our program to others, I would say we, HCC, really strive to not only follow the state curriculum, but also stay on top of industry standards. Whenever something industrywide changes, we adapt. Whether it be equipment, technique, style, we bring the change to the College. That way, when students graduate from our program and start working in the industry, they aren't surprised by anything. 

We’re also one of the few academies in the state that owns its own fire trucks, including a ladder truck. This sets us apart because not having the appropriate equipment for students makes a huge difference in their education.” 

Students can expect an even balance of didactic and practical instruction. 

“We do lectures and online workbook assignments while also training outside in the elements. The only thing that will ever stop us from training outside is lightning. My staff is very strict and disciplined in order to train our students and their employability skills from day one. 

I’ll be honest; when you come to the academy, it’s a non-stop commitment that won’t be easy. While there will be time to ask questions and go back to review information, the individual students have to keep their eye on the target if they want to be successful throughout the program.

If you’re looking on joining us and striving to be a firefighter, you will have to push yourself more than just physically. This program isn’t about learning how to squirt water on a fire. Any profession has to be backed up with knowledge. 

Pay attention during lectures, read your textbooks, take notes and study. All the written and classroom aspects of the program are just as important as the outdoor training.” 

After graduation, students should be prepared to go where jobs are available, says Captain Reed. 

“We highly encourage all our students to sign up for the ‘A-List’ which is sent out almost daily from the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training. It includes training announcements, pertinent news and, most importantly, job openings.

Statewide, there is always demand for firefighters. Within a year of completing the program, I would say over 70% of our students find employment.” 

In the last few months, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, appointed Captain Reed to serve on the Firefighter Employment, Standards and Training Council that sets the employment and training standards for all firefighters in Florida, in addition to the Fire and Emergency Incident Information Systems Technical Advisory Panel.   

He will also serve as the Chair of the Florida Fire Training Directors Association (FFTDA) for 2021-2022. The FFTDA works with the Florida Bureau of Fire Standards and Training to help ensure the statewide curriculum is current, as well as ensures consistent information and coordination for training standards.  

Please visit the program websites or contact Captain Kevin Reed by email at kreed7@hccfl.edu to learn more about HCC’s Fire Science or Fire Academy PSAV programs. 

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