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Accreditation important for SKFR | Guest column

Why is fire service accreditation important?

In August 2000, South Kitsap Fire & Rescue became an accredited agency through the Commission for Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). This was a three-year process that involved a complete assessment of how we respond and do business as a fire agency.

Since that initial accreditation, SKFR has successfully been re-accredited every five years, our last being in August 2010. Accreditation serves as a proven method of evaluation and is a valuable achievement for the organization and community.

There are two steps in the evaluation. Initially, accreditation involves a self-evaluation process that looks at over 260 criteria, including 82 core competencies which are

mandatory requirements. Each criterion must describe the program, analyze its effectiveness, plan for improvement and show documentation to prove it. This self-

assessment is divided into 10 categories: administration, planning, goals, finances, programs, physical resources, human resources, training, communications and inter-agency relationships. This is coupled with three mandatory base documents: the Standard of Coverage, Strategic Plan and a Community Risk Assessment. All of these

represent a comprehensive evaluation of how we provide emergency services in our community including response times, station locations, frequency of events,

critical staffing, resources, and historical data.

This self-evaluation manual is in essence a blueprint of our organization. By identifying strengths and weaknesses, it also becomes a roadmap to continuous self-improvement that allows us to work toward achieving the highest level of service delivery in the most cost-effective manner.

Once the self-assessment manual is completed and approved to form by outside peer assessors trained in this discipline, a peer team conducts an on-site review which usually lasts three days. The peer team is an independent third-party evaluation comprised of fire service members, city managers or insurance industry personnel selected from various areas within the United States who have experience with like agencies and have no relationship with our agency. This independence gives them the ability to objectively evaluate the organization based upon industry standards and best management practices.

If all the supporting documentation is verified as valid, then the site evaluation team recommends the organization for accreditation to the CFAI.

While the accreditation process is intensive and time-consuming, it has a direct positive impact on the way South Kitsap Fire & Rescue serves its citizens. The process provides a transparent and detailed method to determine how to achieve the highest level of service within the current levels of funding. It allows for strategic planning that will guide and direct the organization into the future. Accreditation also continually analyzes community risk to ensure that the organization is using its resources efficiently and effectively.

Accreditation continues to be a cornerstone at South Kitsap Fire & Rescue as we work to improve our service delivery to citizens. When we look to the future of fire and EMS service in the community, we are confident that accreditation will provide a well-defined roadmap that is realistic and credible. See http://publicsafetyexcellence.org/agency-accreditation/about-accreditation-cfai.aspx for additional information.

 

Doug Richards

Battalion Chief

South Kitsap Fire & Rescue

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