Staff Editorial

Fire department deserves credit for accreditation

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department responds to a fire at an apartment building at 2135 Blairs Ferry Road NE in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Cedar Rapids Fire Department responds to a fire at an apartment building at 2135 Blairs Ferry Road NE in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

After four years of work, the Cedar Rapids Fire Department has become one of just 247 departments nationwide to be accredited by the Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Commission on Fire Accreditation. Cedar Rapids joins four other Iowa departments, in Iowa City, Davenport, Sioux City and West Des Moines.

The process required the department to look hard at its policies, regulations and processes. Its equipment, 911 system, data collection and coordination with several other city departments were scrutinized.

In all, the department was judged on 252 performance indicators, including 86 core competencies. A peer review team visited the city, speaking with not only members of the department but also the community it serves.

In the end, Cedar Rapids cleared the high bar. We applaud the department’s efforts and achievement.

But it’s only the beginning, according to city officials.

“It’s a continuous improvement model. It’s the journey, not the end,” Assistant Fire Chief Greg Smith told our editorial board. “Now, they expect you to do better.”

For Cedar Rapids residents, the accreditation process already is resulting in improved fire service.

Smith said scrutiny of the department’s procedures has led to changes that have helped shave its response times, after it fine-tuned how it deploys its resources to emergencies big and small.

Public Safety communications coordinator Greg Buelow said the number of blazes in which a fire was confined to a room or an object of origin has increased, saving property from damage.

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“It almost pays for the budget of the fire department, what you saved in property value,” Buelow said.

The journey, as Smith calls it, will continue. The department must file annual reports and will be up for reaccreditation every five years.

And, according to City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, the Cedar Rapids Police Department is preparing for its own national accreditation process through the Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation.

Public safety is the largest slice of the city’s budget and local government’s most important function.

Residents should be pleased by these rigorous efforts to analyze and evaluate how public safety agencies can better perform and improve.

“It’s not about a plaque on a wall. It’s about continuous improvement,” Pomeranz said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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