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Fire District backed for re-accreditation

After an intense site visit last week that left no stone unturned, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Wayne Senter said his department looks to be accredited for another five years by the Commission on Fire Service Accreditation International (CFAI).

“It was a very in-depth review,” Senter said. “They turned over a lot of rocks and asked a lot of questions.”

But by the time the CFAI accreditation team left last Wednesday, Senter said the members were recommending his department receive the organization’s seal of approval for another five years.

Senter said the renewal — scheduled to be made official on Aug. 10 — means that not only was his department the first to be accredited in the state, it now has held that status the longest as well.

“We are one of only 96 other departments in the country to have this accreditation,” said Deputy Chief Dan Olson, explaining that he felt the assessment process was very beneficial, especially for identifying weaknesses in the department.

The major weakness identified in the team’s 25-page report, however, was no surprise, Senter said.

“They found that our level of career staff available to respond to emergencies is low, especially for (the amount of activity we cover),” he said. “By 2007, we will be at a critical point, and we will need to seriously consider funding issues at our next retreat.”

The department’s need for more firefighters was revealed in its Standard of Response Coverage, a document prepared as part of the accreditation process. A blueprint formed from state requirements, national standards and self-analysis of the department’s procedures, the response standard serves as both a service manual for the responders and a performance evaluation for the community.

To the department, it dictates who and what will respond to each 911 call, while to the community, it describes the level and speed of emergency service residents can expect from the fire district.

“It is the single most important document in the department regarding how emergency units respond to 911 calls,” said former Deputy Chief Gary Faucett shortly after the standard was completed in March.

To complete the document, Faucett said the department records detailed data on every incident, including how many engines or aid units responded to the scene, what they did, and when they left.

Such information paints an accurate portrait of what kind and how quick of a response the department can actually provide, not just what is ideal.

The department’s staffing need is that much more apparent in the latest document, Faucett said, because it is significantly different from the previous standard in its estimation of response times.

The first document, he said, detailed goals as response times, rather than the actual times. However, he said Chief Wayne Senter, who took over from now retired Chief Mike Brown in December, decided this time the department would report what the actual times were.

“He said that our standard will be what we actually do and what we actually are,” Faucett said. “We owe it to the community to report what we actually do and can do for them, (because) they have a right to know what they can expect from us.”

At the time, Faucett said there was always a possibility that the district’s revamped standard, which included the higher response times, wouldn’t pass muster with CFAI.

“The accreditation team will visit the station to see if the information holds true and to see if we live the document,” Faucett said. “If they find discrepancies, they won’t accredit us.”

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