In the early 1990’s, the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) floated an idea of how the fire service in genera, but more specifically, how a fire department could measure the quality of the emergency services they provide to their community with a process that had credibility.
From that idea a committee was formed and criteria was developed which lead to an Alpha Test conducted with the Tempe Arizona Fire Department which was later followed by Beta Testing with Fire Departments in Greensboro, South Carolina, Los Alamos, New Mexico, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska and Springfield. Oregon.
In 1996, the Board of Directors from the International Association of Fire Chiefs voted in favor of this newly created fire service accreditation process and the Commission of Fire Accreditation International was organized. The Commission is comprised of representatives from the IAFC, International City/County Management Association, Insurance Service Office, National Fire Protection Association, Department of Defense and the International Association of Firefighters.
Accreditation is a process that includes a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that allows an organization to examine their past, current and future service levels and compare them to industry best practices. The program will assist the department in:
Determining Community Risk and Safety needs and prepare a community specific Standard of Cover document which describes the level of services provided to the community by the Fire Department.
Evaluating the performance of the department.
Establishing methods for providing continuous organizational improvement.
There are ten (10) categories to which the self-assessment is based and the department was measured against:
Governance and Administration – Organizational Structure
Assessment and Planning
Goals and Objectives
Programs: such as Fire Suppression, EMS, Fire Prevention, Haz- Mat and Technical Rescue
Physical Resources: such as Apparatus, Fixed Facilities and Tools & Equipment
Training and Competency: such as education and training facilities that meet the need of the agency
Essential Resources: such as water supply and communications
External Systems Relationships: such as interaction with other government agencies
Within these categories there are 253 detailed performance indicators which define a desired level of achievement or performance for each specific task. Out of these 253 performance indicators 82 are considered core competencies and are required to be met to be considered as a credible organization.
The Cherry Hill Fire Department began this process in May of 2014 by becoming a Registered Agency. A fire department Battalion Chief was assigned as the Accreditation Manager and oversaw the project. The department became an Applicant Agency in December of 2015 and a Candidate Agency in March of 2016. Once becoming a candidate agency our Strategic Plan, Self-Assessment Documents, and Standards of Cover were reviewed by a peer assessment team who then completed a 1 week on-site visit in June of 2016 to validate the operation of the Cherry Hill Fire Department.
After their on-site review they were tasked with submitting a final written report to the Commission. In August 2016, Department representatives appeared before the Commission on Fire Accreditation where the Commissioners asked a series of questions about our training, incident command, operations, planning, finances, labor/management and areas of improvement.
At the conclusion of the questioning the Commissioners voted on our application and voted unanimously in favor of approving the Cherry Hill Fire Department as an Accredited Agency. This accreditation is valid for 5 years (2016 – 2021) and will require the department to submit an annual report to show the department’s continual improvement progress. In 2021, the department will go through a full re-evaluation.