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    Fire Department Accreditation
     
    2016-04-05 Accreditation Decal.pngThe Grand Rapids Fire Department received international accreditation on March 16, 2016 becoming one of just over 200 accredited fire agencies in the world. Fire Service accreditation is administered by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) and requires an embedded culture of quality throughout an organization. Maintaining accreditation is a significant undertaking and requires the combined best efforts of all members of the fire department. Accreditation necessitates the development and maintenance of several key documents including a Community Driven Strategic Plan, Self-Assessment Manual (SAM), and a Standards of Cover (SOC) deployment analysis.
     
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    (In photo Left to Right: GRFD IT Support Specialist Jordan Van Overloop, GRFD Captain-Planning Brad Brown, City of Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Eric Delong, CFAI Commission Chair Steven Westermann, GRFD Deputy Chief of Operations Margaret Felix, GRFD Lieutenant-Planning Scott Gray, CFAI Peer Assessor Team Leader Ruth Obadal)  
     
    What is Accreditation?
     
    Accreditation is a comprehensive assessment and evaluation model for fire and emergency service organizations. The accreditation process helps to determine community risks and fire safety needs, evaluates the performance of an agency, and provides a method for continuous improvement. The accreditation and certification bodies change requirements over time, requiring accredited agencies to continue to evolve and improve.
    The Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) is governed by an 11-member commission representing a cross-section of the fire service industry, including fire departments, city and county management, code councils, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the International Association of Firefighters. The full commission meets bi-annually to review all agencies applying for accreditation or re-accreditation status.
     
    Why did the Department pursue Accreditation?
     
    * Because it was the right thing to do. Conducting a comprehensive assessment and identifying areas where we could improve was a responsible course of action. Having a detailed evaluation for our use provides a basis for good decision making.
    * Reassures the citizens we serve and ultimately protect their interests and investments in City services.
    * Provides a comprehensive internal and external review of the services we provide to the community.
    * The promotion of excellence in our organization is an initiative that both management and labor are fully committed to. Accreditation was a recognized framework to guide this endeavor.
    * Accreditation provides assurances to our stakeholders that we are doing a good job. Stakeholders in our organization include the citizens we serve, city governments, businesses, neighboring agencies, and others.
    * Accreditation allows us to showcase our capabilities and quality. Assessments of our agency have the transparency of external peer review.
    * Fosters pride within our organization
    * Because the timing was right. Our organization has always focused on the most important task at hand. A pause in growth and other challenges at the time allowed for a top to bottom review of our current practices.
    * Expanded GRFD’s organizational knowledge, including its business operations.
    * Assists us in maintaining/improving our ISO rating; creates the environment to pursue a rating improvement and ensures the lowest fire insurance rates possible in the community we protect.
    * Provides a long-lasting shared knowledge of the organization and provides a foundation for sound succession management.
    * Brought our membership together to build a better organization.
    * Determined the Department's strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and opportunities for improved service.
    * Provided a method to analyze the services provided by the Department and how best to deliver those services.
     

    Are CFAI Accreditation and ISO Class (PPC) the same?
     
    No. CFAI is the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. ISO is the Insurance Services Office. ISO ratings are somewhat limited in their application because they are related mostly to firefighting operations. As noted in the ISO's Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, "The Schedule is a fire insurance rating tool and is not intended to analyze all aspects of a comprehensive public fire protection program. It should not be used for purposes other than insurance rating."
    CFAI accreditation takes a far broader look at an organization. Within the accreditation model are ten categories that fire agencies use as the basis to benchmark and evaluate performance. These categories are: 
    * Governance and Administration * Physical Resources
    * Assessment and Planning * Human Resources
    * Goals and Objectives * Training and Competency
    * Financial Resources * Essential Resources
    * Programs * External Systems Relations
     
    The ISO is a national insurance engineering service organization that assigns a public protection classification (PPC) to jurisdictions based on fire agency services. Insurance companies typically establish insurance rates for individual occupancies or groups of occupancies based on information gathered as part of the PPC. The PPCs are established using the ISO's Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). Once widely used by fire departments to evaluate system performance, the FSRS's use is somewhat limited in that it only evaluates fire protection (not EMS or wildland fuel modification, for example). Also, the FSRS does not consider efficiency (e.g., how many resources are
    deployed in comparison to the number of actual calls). Though not as widely used today, ISO ratings are still appropriate to consider as part of a more comprehensive system performance review. Combined with other assessments, ISO standards are a useful component of fire protection planning. 
     
    To analyze a community's fire protection, the ISO uses a grading system of 1 to 10. A community protection factor of 1 is the highest possible grade with insurance rates likely to be lowest for the community (ratings increase by 1 for every 10 credits, eg., Class 1 = 90.00+ credits, Class 2 = 80.00-89.99, Class 3 = 70.00-79.99, etc.). A community with a Class 10 rating means that there essentially is no recognized fire protection system or availability of water for fire suppression. Only a very small number of communities with very effective water distribution systems and highly capable career fire departments are able to achieve a rating of 1. 
     
    The Grand Rapids Fire Department is currently an ISO Class 2, placing them in the top 2% of ISO rated departments in the country. 
    The three components evaluated by ISO in making a final determination of PPC are:
    * Fire department: fire station locations, number of engines/trucks, staffing levels, training, etc. (50 percent)
    * Water supply (40 percent)
    * Emergency dispatching and communications (10 percent)
    The Public Protection Classification (PPC) program recognizes the efforts of communities to provide fire protection services. Some insurance companies use the PPC information to help establish fair premiums for insurance. By offering economic benefits for communities that invest in their firefighting services, the PPC program provides additional incentives for improving and maintaining public fire protection.
    The most significant benefit of the PPC program is its effect on fire losses. There is a direct correlation between providing better infrastructure relating to fire protection and lower fire losses experienced by a community. Although homeowner’s insurance rates are driven mainly by your area’s claim experience, your community’s PPC can also be important.

     

    2015 Standards of Coverage