Illinois Fire Service Institute


Messages from the Director


July 9, 2020

I want to give all of you an update on where we are with regard to delivering on our mission in the COVID-19 impacted world.  As I indicated in my last message dated 4 May, we spent May and June putting into place several actions that would allow IFSI to fulfill our essential mission while remaining consistent with all COVID-19 UIUC, CDC, and IDPH protocols.  Our goal was to be ready to deliver training and education as soon as departments were ready to receive it.  As such, we;

  • Continued a full and comprehensive delivery schedule of “Facebook Forums” and Virtual Cornerstone Program online deliveries.
  • Developed comprehensive policy and procedures to be able to operate and keep our students, instructors, and staff safe. The full document is available on the IFSI COVID-19 Information Portal:
  • Laid out a “crawl, walk, run” plan that would enable us to incrementally test our mitigation procedures. 

         Crawl: 18-30 May.  Select classes that were stopped mid-stream by the COVID shutdown allowed to be completed            Spring Academy, BOF Program

         Walk: 1-30 June. Selected classes allowed to be delivered at specific locations statewide.

         Run: 1 July and beyond. Gradual resumption of normal delivery schedule statewide.

  • Stock-piled COVID mitigation supplies to support training---PPE, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Developed headquarters staff protection and manning plans that would support each phase of the “crawl, walk, run plan.

Our plan has worked.  We learned and adjusted in the crawl and walk phases and we are now “running”. 

With fully compliant, common sense COVID mitigation procedures in place with all programs, IFSI is now ready to deliver training and education state-wide. 

Moving forward we must be ready to adjust if the situation changes.  We must be flexible in our delivery approaches to ensure we can support the needs of Illinois first responders and their departments.  Every department is different and each of them will have different local restrictions.  Now more than ever, one size delivery does not fit all.  We must build our skill and ability to accomplish our mission in the COVID impacted environment during July and August.  The late summer and fall of 2020 brings a busy and heavy schedule---BOF Blended: August-October, Fire College/IFA Weekend: October, Fall Academy, and a full schedule of Firefighting, SOTP, and Leadership Development and Command Programs deliveries.

Thank you all for your dedication, support, and hard work in ensuring IFSI continued to support the fire service in Illinois and nationally.


Royal P. Mortenson

Colonel USMC (Ret.)

Director Illinois Fire Service Institute


May 4, 2020

With the 1 May release of the Governor’s Executive Order 202-32, I wanted to provide an update on the status of our operational way forward. According to the May Executive Order, as well as the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity FAQ document dated 4 April 2020, IFSI is deemed as an essential business/function and is categorically exempt from the Executive Order.  A degradation of public safety resulting from continued suspension of first responder training and education, due to COVID-19 response actions, is unacceptable.  The IFSI team is working diligently on the development of training and education procedures that will allow us to gradually resume a more normalized delivery of training and education across the state. 

We understand completely that this “new normal” must include institutionalized procedures to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to our students, instructors, and staff.  These specific procedures and required actions/activities for staff, instructors, and students will be in place before we begin operations.

As we continue to prepare for this transition, I have made the following decision regarding our plans moving forward:

Unless otherwise specifically articulated by the Director, All IFSI courses/classes scheduled to take place between 18-31 May are cancelled.

Starting 18 May, IFSI will facilitate training for courses currently in progress.  These include the Spring Fire Academy, Basic Operations Firefighter    Blended programs and select courses that have maintained virtual activity during our COVID-19 reduction of activity period.  This will allow the opportunity for students to successfully complete the course requirements necessary to receive state certification.

All off-campus Cornerstone Program course deliveries are cancelled through 30 June. Cornerstone deliveries will resume statewide 1 July.

The IFSI Program Leadership is evaluating the most needed and appropriate options for program specific course deliveries during the month of June.  Depending on their recommendations, currently scheduled courses for June may be cancelled and/or replaced with alternative delivery.  I will review their recommendations and make scheduling approval decisions accordingly. These decisions will be communicated with impacted students and shared with all staff, once available.

It should be noted that regardless of location, course, or enrollment timeline, our team is and will be addressing the specific protocols that will be implemented to ensure the health and safety of our students and instructors for all IFSI deliveries. The above actions will allow IFSI to “crawl, walk, and the run” as we gradually resume operations.  To include all staff supporting this gradual restart. 

I appreciate your continued support of our organization and look forward to the incremental resumption of our standard operations.



April 20, 2020

I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on the status of the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI). 

IFSI continues to lead the nation with the delivery of training and education opportunities to first responders utilizing online platforms. 

The University of Illinois/Champaign County EOC continues to operate out of the IFSI Learning, Resource, and Research Center. Selected IFSI staff are in direct support of that effort 

Regional Representatives, Program Managers, and Program Directors are working closely with leadership and functional support activities to ensure we are ready with what is needed when we can begin training again.  An IFSI working group is developing policy and procedures for my review that address what we need to put in place to ensure our students and instructors are as safe as possible when training and education does start up again. 

I have decided to extend the cancellation of all in-person training and education through to 15 May. 

Fire College and IFA Down and Dirty Weekend will be delivered the same weekend in Champaign.  Fire College has been reschedule for October 1-4 2020.  IFA Weekend will take place October 2-3, 2020.

We continue to deliver the best on-line first responder training in this COVID-19 restricted activity period.  The following is the upcoming delivery schedule:

Cornerstone Virtual Classes:

  • Fire Behavior and Smoke                 April 14     6pm – 8pm      April 18    10am – 12pm  
  • Fireground Communication              May 4        6pm – 8pm      May 9       10am – 12pm  
  • Rural Engine and Tender Ops           May 26      6pm – 8pm      May 30     10am – 12pm  
  • Fire Ground Search and Rescue       June 8        6pm – 8pm      June 13    10am – 12pm  
  • Basic Company Officer                    June 22      6pm – 8pm      June 27    10am – 12pm  
  • Thermal Imaging                            July 6        6pm – 8pm      July 11      10am – 12pm  
  • Responder Intervention Team          July 20      6pm – 8pm      July 25      10am – 12pm  
  • Tactics and Strategy                        August 3   6pm – 8pm      August 8   10am – 12pm  

Facebook Forum – Live Training Broadcasts:

  • Ground Ladders                             April 16      1pm
  • Thermal Imaging Camera               April 23      1pm
  • Rural Command                            April 30      6:30pm
  • Roof Operations: Milwaukee Cut     Week of May 4 – date and time to be announced soon
  • Pump Operations                          Week of May 11 – date and time to be announced soon

Thank you for all your support during this difficult time.



Royal P. Mortenson

Colonel USMC (Ret.)

Director Illinois Fire Service Institute


March 29, 2020


I wanted to provide you with an update of the last 10-14 days.  Below are some of the things IFSI has done and will continue to do during the COVID-19 response limited activity period;

Reduced on sight staff to minimum, established work from home capability for most staff.  Maintaining compliance with all UIUC/IL requirements.  We are maintaining our continuity of operations in order to ensure we can ramp up quickly when the time comes.

Supporting the UIUC/Champaign County EOC in our LRRC  to include; building/room configuration, functional and logistics support, IFSI executive staff and NIMS/ICS SMEs directly involved with EOC operations as needed, staying involved in virtual meetings concerning COVID response at all levels, UIUC, county, city, state, national.

IFSI Facilities and Maintenance continues to facilitate the F & S installation of the chiller in 0294 and the construction operations on the SOTP Rescue Prop.

IFSI retrieved 50 cots from Normal, Illinois and brought them to IFSI for UIUC Athletic Recreation Center surge hospital (if needed). 

IFSI research utilized a WHO approved recipe and made hand sanitizer for IFSI use. 

Provided IFSI research personnel and recipe to support and supervise UIUC production of hand sanitizer on a larger scale.

We shared the IFSI recipe and expertise on home-made hand sanitizer with UIC, CPD and CFD that is now being mass produced in Chicago to support 1st responders.

We assisted in transporting chemicals from Roger Adams Lab to the UIUC IBG Lab for production of hand sanitizer.

Donated and delivered 5000+ N-95 masks to Carle Hospital.

Preparing to support storage on site of 1st responder PPE to support UIUC/county area EOC distribution.

Facilitated just-in-time and refresher training for EOC members who are distant or unfamiliar with NIMS/ICS.

Designed and launched the IFSI Facebook Forum Series on IFSI social media on 23 March.  Subsequent live forums were broadcast on 25 and 27 March.  The series continues.

Rapidly established on-line learning for the IFSI Spring Academy so that it could continue.

Designing for delivery the week of 30 March on-line Cornerstone classes.

PDs and PMs using the time to conduct curriculum reviews and training and education products that are needed but difficult to do during normal operations.

Aggressively maintaining and updating the IFSI COVID-19 Information Portal on our website.

This is just the highlights.  As is always the case, there are many people doing work behind the scenes to ensure IFSI remains ready and functioning.

The IFSI COVID working group continues to meet 2-3 times a week.  They review our current support efforts and COVID activities, and they are looking at the remaining activities between now and the end of 2020.  They will provide me with analysis and recommendations.

Thank you.



Royal P. Mortenson



March 17, 2020


As IFSI continues to manage our procedural and operational activities to adjust to the COVID-19 response, I wanted to provide another UPDATE and additional clarification/information. 

  • The IFSI COVID-19 Working Group (WG) continues to meet daily (virtually) to refine our response/activities and make recommendations to me.
  • We continue to implement/operationalize the details associated with “UPDATE #2: A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR – COVID-19 (March 13 2020)”--- on our website.
  • IMPORTANT: While IFSI has temporarily stopped delivering face-to-face classes unless approved by me, IFSI headquarters (Champaign) and associated essential functions are not closed or stopped.  We are simply working in a different way---ensuring compliance with UIUC and State of Illinois COVID-19 directives/guidelines for protecting personnel and reducing risk of virus spread (social distancing in the work place, good personal protection habits, limiting the size of group gatherings, etc.  On-line programs continue. 
  • IFSI essential functions that MUST be done daily to ensure our operational/business continuity and our ability to rapidly start up normal course/class delivery when directed are and will continue to be done.  Every function you associate with IFSI headquarters in Champaign is being done.  It is simply being done using common sense and remote workers where feasible.  
  • While IFSI headquarters is closed to visitors, IFSI employees can coordinate with their supervisor coming in to pick-up something and/or conduct essential business. 
  • I ask all of you to look at this temporary hold on face-to-face course/class delivery, not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to catch-up on all those IFSI job related things you need to do but have not had the time.
  • To help fill the void of the next 4-5 weeks, IFSI will be producing 60-90 minute live-feed informational video presentations on fire service issues for social media as well as Cornerstone-type essential skills videos for our website.  More to follow.
  • Supervisors at every level (this is a requirement for exec team and PD levels) should immediately write their plan of action of what their priorities and actions will be for the next 4-5 weeks.  Special emphasis should be placed on achieving goals and judicious and thoughtful use of resources---funds/money and people. 
  • Attached is the latest WG product to help guide our employee at IFSI.
  • Below is a link to IAFC information that may be useful.  Provided as info only.

“Key Takeaways from the IAFC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update (17 March 2020)”

We will utilize the IFSI website and our social media handles to communicate additional information as appropriate.



Twitter:           IFSI

Instagram:       illinoisfireserviceinstitute

Please do not hesitate to contact me or anyone else if you have questions.

Thank you.


Royal P. Mortenson

Colonel USMC (Ret.)

Director Illinois Fire Service Institute

University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign



March 13, 2020

 The Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) in conjunction with the University of Illinois, our community partners, and local and national health care professionals, is continuously monitoring the situation with the COVID-19 virus. Considering the rapidly evolving recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus, effective 13 March IFSI is postponing delivery of all scheduled classes and events that require in-person attendance through 30 April 2020. Courses offered exclusively online will not be impacted and will continue as scheduled. Blended programs will continue online delivery and postpone the in-person components, if possible. Our leadership team will continue to monitor the emergent situation and will provide additional follow-up on potential future postponements.

We appreciate your support and patience as our team works through all details related to this decision. Please review the below statements regarding our current operational efforts:


Effective 13 March, we are significantly reducing the number of personnel working onsite in Champaign. Department supervisors have communicated with their respective units on temporary staff assignments and remote working protocol. Only directed, essential personnel should report onsite in Champaign. This change will remain in place until 30 April 2020 with unit supervisors providing frequent updates to impacted personnel.

Instructors scheduled to teach postponed courses will receive follow-up communication from the Program Manager or Program Director regarding the rescheduling options. 


Students enrolled in a course(s) impacted by a postponement will receive a follow-up email with details regarding specific course rescheduling dates and/or tuition reimbursement, if applicable.

Additionally, we will provide email updates to Training Officers and Chief Officers who have fire department personnel enrolled in our courses once our full operational plan is available.


Our Champaign office location will remain closed to visitors until further notice. Exceptions to this policy relate to essential personnel and Emergency Operations Center activities.


We will utilize the IFSI website and our social media handles to communicate our future operational plans.



Twitter:           IFSI

Instagram:       illinoisfireserviceinstitute

Thank you.

Royal P Mortenson

Director IFSI

March 12, 2020


 The Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) in conjunction with the University of Illinois, our community partners, and local and national health care professionals, is continuously monitoring the evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus. I have been in communication with Associate Chancellor Delorenzo.  The University of Illinois System has begun to migrate courses to online or alternative delivery methods, with a goal of completion by 23 March. University units have been directed by campus leadership to evaluate plans of action specific to department circumstances.  An IFSI working group has formed to formulate our actions to comply with UIUC directives and to evaluate the impact on our courses and scheduled events. This team will take into consideration University and health organization recommendations/directives, and provide to me appropriate actions to be implemented no later than 24 March. The comprehensive and strategic plan of action will be provided to students, staff, and stakeholders before the implementation on 24 March. 

 Between now and the plan implementation on 24 March, all IFSI activities are proceeding as scheduled as they are in compliance with the University COVID-19 policies.

 For individuals scheduled to attend courses or work between now and 24 March, rest assured we have been taking additional measures to reduce the risk of cross exposure by increasing the cleaning of common areas and surfaces, and deep-cleaning shared areas of the Champaign facility. To support these efforts, we ask that any student or staff member with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat not attend class or come to work.  IFSI employees should immediately contact their supervisor to report their absence. Students should contact the IFSI Class Support Team at 217-333-3800 to notify IFSI prior to the first day of class.

 I have full confidence that the appointed working group will work diligently and effectively to provide a plan of action that supports the IFSI Mission and complies with all University policies.

 Semper Fidelis,


Royal P. Mortenson, Col. USMC (Ret.)

Director                IFSI



Royal P. Mortenson
University of Illinois Fire Service Institute
11 Gerty Dr. - Champaign, IL - 61820-7404
Tel: 217-300-0229

Jim Keiken
Deputy Director
University of Illinois Fire Service Institute
11 Gerty Dr. - Champaign, IL - 61820-7404
Tel: 217-300-4275

Brian Brauer
Associate Director
University of Illinois Fire Service Institute
11 Gerty Dr. - Champaign, IL - 61820-7404
Tel: 217-333-9027

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