CEDAR RAPIDS — For the first time since its founding, the Cedar Rapids Fire Department has earned accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, joining only four other departments in Iowa and less than 250 nationwide in meeting an internationally recognized benchmark for fire and emergency services.
“Accreditation is really about making a commitment to continuous improvement,” said City Manager Jeff Pomeranz. “It’s not about a plaque on the wall ... it about meeting standards and best practices and making a determination as to whether that department meets those high standards.”
Being an accredited agency, Pomeranz said, means the fire department has made a commitment to continuous self-assessment and improvement, which boils down to “making sure our department is the nest department it can be.”
The self-assessment process divides the department into 10 categories, including operations, governance and administration, human resources, and finance, which are assessed, researched and evaluated, emphasizing present performance, past performance and the future plans to continue to meet certain objectives.
Additionally, a community risk analysis is performed, which evaluates the hazards and buildings in the community, and risk evaluation assessments ensure fire protection is current and relevant for the community and protected areas.
This includes evaluating the community’s demographics, population density, land and infrastructure limitations, and building stock, as well as assessing the department’s resources and performance, including staffing and deployment objectives; time of day demands on the department’s resources; and total response times, turnout times and travel times.
Departments are also required to create a strategic business plan, which serves as the repository of all identified short-, medium- and long-term goals and objectives.
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Once completed, all are tied together to promote strategic discussion among the senior leadership and to plan for the future.
“We’ve been working in this for about eight years, so there is a lot of work that goes into this,” Pomeranz said. “The amount of work and effort that it takes to get to the accreditation point is tremendous and it’s not an easy process.”
Accreditation lasts for five years, Pomeranz said, during which the fire department will be required to continue its self-evaluation and ensure they are meeting the highest standards in efficiency, technology, equipment, policies and procedures
Though accreditation may to the public seem unimportant, Pomeranz said citizens should find the fact that CRFD is now an accredited agency reassuring.
“The public obviously relies on the fire department, and I think they should feel a lot of confidence that we have a fire department that has been reviewed by outside experts, who have assessed its abilities, and through this accreditation process the department now meets the highest standards,” he said. “It says a lot about the professionalism and commitment of our fire department.”
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