During fall 2018, the Davidson Fire Department began the early stages of the accreditation process sponsored by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). This self-evaluation process allows the Davidson Fire Department to look at all areas of the organization with an eye toward improvement. This accreditation is defined as “an all-hazard, quality improvement model based on risk analysis and self-assessment that promotes the establishment of community-adopted performance targets for fire and emergency service agencies.” To date, there are 247 international accredited agencies with 10% of the United States population being served by accredited fire departments.
Accredited agencies are often described as being community-focused, data-driven, outcome-focused, strategic-minded, well organized, properly equipped, and properly staffed and trained. This is a different process than being graded for Insurance Service Office (ISO) purposes. ISO establishes a score sheet that departments must meet to achieve the certain ISO classification number which drives homeowners’ insurance rates. CFAI accreditation determines if the organization’s standards are being met.
The accreditation process is very thorough. The accreditation model includes ten categories which cover the span of fire and emergency service operations:
- Governance and Administration
- Assessment and Planning
- Goals and Objectives
- Financial Resources
- Physical Resources
- Human Resources
- Training and Competency
- Essential Resources
- External System Relationships
The two major components of accreditation are the strategic operating plan and the standards of cover (deployment of emergency response). The content of these two items represent the bulk of the ten categories under the accreditation model. Both of these components will take time to complete, and the department is anticipating a timeline of at least two years. With the understanding that the process for accreditation is going to be both time consuming and comprehensive, the question may be asked, “Is it worth it?” Agency accreditation is a voluntary process. Some agencies seek a dollar-for-dollar return on investment before pursuing accreditation. The true investment is agency staff time, and the actual return is a better-run, higher-performing agency. Accreditation is an international recognition of achievement. It will show to the community that the Davidson Fire Department is performing to industry best practices and is holding itself accountable through an external peer review. Document review and onsite assessment by CFAI peer assessors is very thorough. Accreditation reports often include peer recommendations for improvement beyond those your agency may have considered. Accreditation will benefit the Davidson Fire Department internally by fostering pride among its members, community leaders, elected officials, town staff and citizens.
To prepare for this process, the department established an accreditation team whose members work closely with both internal and external community stakeholders to gather information to create our best practices going forward. The intent of the final product will highlight the strengths of the fire department along with identifying areas for improvement. This collaborative effort between the department and the community will help ensure that the Town of Davidson is being protected by an efficient and effective fire department.