Category: CPSE On the Road

James M. Higgins, CFO, CEMSO, CTO Joins CPSE as the Commission on Professional Credentialing Program Manager

Mike joins CPSE after retiring from the Columbus Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services in Columbus, Georgia as the Deputy Chief in the department’s Resource Management Division. He was with the department for 36 years, and during his tenure he was their accreditation manager for 15 years, managed the department budget, equipment and supplies, recruitment, personnel services records management, and information technology. Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from Troy University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbus State University.
Mike is a familiar name to many in the CPSE community when he became a peer assessor for CFAI in 2005 and in 2012 became a CFAI team leader. He is a regular speaker at the Excellence Conference and has been a contributor to the CFAI 9th and 10th edition model updates.
Congratulations and welcome aboard!

CPSE Learning Opportunities

Quality Improvement Workshops

On Demand Webinars

Resource Documents

At the Center for Public Safety Excellence® (CPSE®) we are excited to bring you the latest learning opportunities to advance your department and career.

Quality Improvement for the Fire and Emergency Services Workshop – 3 Days, In-Person

June 13-15 – Miramar Fire Department, Miramar, FLClick here for registration and additional information

June 13-15 – NAS Fort Worth JRB Fire and Emergency Services, Fort Worth, TX (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

June 15-17 – Ramstein Air Base Fire Department, Ramstein, Germany (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

July 7-9 – Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CanadaClick here for registration and additional information

July 11-13 – Williston Fire Department, Williston, NDClick here for registration and additional information

August 8-10 – Bowling Green Fire Department, Bowling Green, KYClick here for registration and additional information

August 9-11 – USAF Academy Fire Department, USAF Academy, CO (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

September 13-15 – Westover ARB Fire Emergency Services, Chicopee, MA (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

September 13-15 – Orland Park Fire Protection District, Orland Park, ILClick here for registration and additional information

October 3-5 – Poudre Fire Authority, Fort Collins, COClick here for registration and additional information

October 11-13 – Hayward Fire Department, Hayward, CAClick here for registration and additional information

October 24-26 – City of Fairfax Fire Department, Fairfax, VAClick here for registration and additional information

October 24-26 – District of North Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services, North Vancouver, BCClick here for registration and additional information

November 1-3 – DLA Richmond Fire and Emergency Services, Richmond, VA (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

November 2-4 – Myrtle Beach Fire Department, Myrtle Beach, SCClick here for registration and additional information

November 7-9 – Parris Island Fire and Emergency Services, Parris Island, SC (DoD Only)Click here for registration and additional information

On-Demand Webinars and Resource Documents
We encourage you to take the time to access these free resources in the CPSE University:
On-Demand Accreditation Videos

Writing the Four-Part Answer – A webinar explaining development of the four-part answer for the self-assessment manual.
Performance Statements – A webinar explaining development of performance statements.
Creating a Strategic Plan – A webinar explaining the creation of a community-driven strategic plan.
Developing Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives – A webinar explaining how to develop effective goals and objectives for a strategic plan.
Tech Writing 101 – click here for an overview of the Advanced Technical Writing Certificate Program at George Mason and click here for more detailed information and how to register.

Resource Documents

Annual Appraisals – A handout to assist with developing annual appraisals.
Critical Tasking – A handout to aid in conducting critical tasking for all emergency response types.
Engaging Stakeholders – A handout explaining how to engage stakeholders in the CRA/SOC process.
Fire Department Strategic Plans and Community Master Plans: Are They The Same? – A handout comparing and contrasting fire department strategic plans and community master plans.
Performance Statements – A handout outlining how to develop performance statements.
Writing the Four-Part Answer – A handout explaining development of the four-part answer for the self-assessment manual.
Completing the Designation Application – Learn tips on completing the designation application for CFO, CTO, CEMSO, FM, or FO
21st Century Fire and Emergency Services White Paper – Handouts and videos on the critical issue areas. 

CPSE is looking for agencies to host the Quality Improvement for the Fire and Emergency Services workshop in 2022. If you are interested in hosting a 2022 workshop, download the hosting agreement for more information. 
For questions or assistance contact or 703-691-4620.

2022 Excellence Conference


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Following the virtual Excellence Conference in 2021, it was so great to be back in-person. With over 700 in attendance, we set another record. What made it even more special is that this is the first opportunity that we have all had to get together in two years – the 2020 Excellence Conference was held just before the pandemic shut everything down.
A landmark moment for CPSE is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the organization. To commemorate this milestone, all conference attendees received a special 25th anniversary challenge coin.
To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we put together a series of videos called The Faces of CPSE comprising individuals from CPSE’s past and those that represent CPSE’s future. You can see all of the videos by clicking here, as well as the one below.

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First-timers had a chance to talk with CPSE staff at a special reception on Monday evening.
We had a record number of 345 people attending the conference for the first time. On Monday evening, we held a reception to welcome them to conference and to help them get familiar with the CPSE community of agencies and officers.

Networking is always a key part of every Excellence Conference, and this year was no exception. While there are a lot (a lot!) of great education sessions, the opportunity to talk with others from across the world and exchange ideas is really what makes these in-person conferences such an invaluable experience.

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Joint Board and Commission Meeting

On Monday, meetings were held that brought together the CPSE Board of Directors and the commissioners from the Commission for Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) and Commission for Professional Credentialing (CPC). This is an opportunity for all the CPSE governance members to brief each other on their activities and to get corporate updates from CPSE staff.
The meeting provided the perfect time to recognize the hard work of several Board and Commission members for their service.

Chief Derek Bergsten, CFO, CTO, CEMSO, being recognized for his service to the CPC by CPSE Board Vice President Mary Cameli (CFO) and President Jeff Pomeranz.

IAFF Chief of Operations Jim Brinkley being recognized for his years of service representing the IAFF on the CPSE Board of Directors by Vice President Mary Cameli (CFO) and President Jeff Pomeranz. 

IAFF Assistant to the General President Thomas Breyer was recognized for his time on the CFAI Commission as he moves to the CPSE Board of Directors representing IAFF by CFAI Commission Chair Steve Dirksen, CFO.

CPC Commissioner Greg Rogers, CFO, FM, was recognized for his years of service on the Commission by Vice Chair Matthew Vinci, CTO, and Commission Chair Derek Bergsten, CFO, CEMSO, CTO.

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Opening Ceremony

CPSE Board President Jeff Pomeranz
The conference kicked off with a welcome from the CPSE Board President, Jeff Pomeranz, City Manager, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In sharing the theme of the conference, Resiliency and Reinvention, President Pomeranz shared “for all of us in local government and fire and emergency service, the last two years have been a testament to our resiliency and our ability to reinvent.” He continued by saying “I am happy to report that the Center for Public Safety Excellence has not only survived but thrived over these last two years.”
A testament to CPSE’s accomplishments can be found in the 2021 Annual Report. Some highlights include:

Inaugural Virtual Excellence Conference
Strategic Plan Update
Updates from CFAI and CPC
Volunteer Activities

…and more. You can read the entire report, as well as previous Annual Reports, by clicking here.

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A high point of the opening session is presenting the annual CPSE awards to individuals and organizations that embody the mission and vision of CPSE and have made a significant difference to their department, community, and the greater fire and emergency service.

Ray Picard Award
The recipient of the 2022 CPSE Ray Picard Award is Senior Management Analyst Norma Jean Valdez with the Los Alamos County (NM) Fire Department, a CFAI Accredited Agency. Ms. Valdez has been involved with accreditation since the beginning, when Los Alamos was selected as a beta site for the accreditation process. According to one of her colleagues, she has since been continually a part of the department’s accreditation, having “vision, dedication, heart, balance, determination, and the desire for continuous improvement to keep LACFD’s accreditation quest alive and striving, always being the one to carry that torch towards success.” Ms. Valdez serves as a champion of the accreditation process, both in New Mexico and beyond, and exemplifies the spirit of Ray Picard in receiving this award.

Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Legacy Award
Deputy Chief Jeff Lucas, CFO, FM, is this year’s recipient of the Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Legacy Award. As a Deputy Chief with Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire-Rescue, a CFAI Accredited Agency, he has served as a mentor for a number of his officers within the department who are seeking credentialing through CPSE. He has given his time to help them prepare and review their applications on their paths to designation and has encouraged a process of self-assessment to bring out the qualities of achievements in others.
Outside of his department, he has served as a champion for professional development and provides mentoring for personnel seeking CPSE designation. He serves as a CPC Peer Reviewer and a CFAI Peer Assessor.

Randy R. Bruegman Agency Innovation Award
The City of Riverside (CA) Fire Department, a CFAI Accredited Agency, is the recipient of the 2022 CPSE Randy R. Bruegman Agency Innovation Award. 
In the early days of COVID-19, in 2020, Riverside was faced with the same problem as cities across the nation – how to decontaminate offices and work areas that had been occupied by workers that tested positive for COVID-19. Initially, one employee’s workspace was cleaned by a private vendor at a cost of $40,000, but this was clearly an unsustainable solution.
The fire department’s hazardous materials team identified an alternative using a combination of a decontamination solution that is used for chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear (CBRN) incidents and ultraviolet lights. The initial startup cost was approximately $3,700, and the department’s hazmat team was able to clean all 14 fire stations as well as City Hall, saving the city millions of dollars.

Cliff Jones Ambassador of the Year Award
The Cliff Jones Ambassador Award recognizes an individual who goes above and beyond in their support of accreditation, credentialing, and CPSE as a whole.
This year’s recipient is Fire Chief Scott Kujawa, CFO, CTO, from Washington Township Fire Department, Dayton, Ohio, a CFAI-accredited department.
Having earned his Fire Officer (FO) designation in 2015 and then his Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation in 2016, Chief Kujawa has embraced the credentialing process by having more designated officers in his department than any other department in the state of Ohio.  
Within the past several years, Chief Kujawa has encouraged other departments around the county to follow the CPC philosophy because he understands the value it brings to the department and ultimately the community.
Chief Kujawa is an active member of the Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky Consortium. He has provided professional development for others beyond his own agency through mentoring as an advocate for the credentialing and accreditation process. He continues to serve as a CPC peer reviewer and a CFAI peer assessor.

Michael Worthington Scholarships
In 2016, CPSE created the Michael Worthington Scholarship in continued remembrance of our long time Board member and friend, who passed away September 25, 2015. Annually, CPSE awards up to five scholarships. Recipients of the scholarship earn their Fire Officer (FO) designation and have their initial application fees as well as the registration fee to attend the CPSE Excellence Conference waived. This year’s recipients were:

Captain Timothy Carroll, Peterson Fire & Emergency Services, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Captain Justin Champion. Williston Fire Department. Williston, North Dakota
Lieutenant Landon Churchill. Colorado River Fire Rescue. Rifle, Colorado
Captain Bradley French, Dayton Fire Department, Dayton, Ohio
Lieutenant Bassel Ibrahim, Orlando Fire Department, Orlando, Florida

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Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator
We were very honored to be able to have U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell give the keynote presentation. Dr. Moore-Merrell has a long history with CPSE having served as a CFAI commissioner for nine years and as a Director on the CPSE Board of Directors for eight years.

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CFAI Hearings

This year’s conference brought back the first in-person accreditation hearings in two years. A total of 20 agencies, including eight first time, appeared before the CFAI Commission, and all were granted accreditation. For the first time in the organization’s history, we have reached 300 accredited agencies (#CFAI300) Read more about this milestone at

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Volunteer Breakfast

The accomplishments of CFAI, CPC, and CPSE as a whole would not be possible without the time and talents of our volunteers. Whether conducting a site visit, reviewing a designation portfolio, or providing subject matter expertise to a CPSE project, the work of CPSE would not be possible without our volunteers. We had over 180 volunteers join us for this special event to recognize the hard work and dedication of our volunteers.

CFAI Volunteers

CPC Volunteers

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Education Sessions

One of the core tenets of CPSE’s mission is education, and the Excellence Conference provides just that opportunity. With a revamped schedule, the Excellence Conference provided an opportunity to attend over 70 education sessions in five different tracks: Accreditation, Credentialing, Leadership, Resiliency, and Reinvention. Click here to see the full list of sessions.

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NFFF Fundraiser

CPSE has been a long-time supporter of the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation, and as part of its 25th Anniversary, CPSE made the commitment to raise and donate $25,000 to the Foundation. As part of the campaign, CPSE will donate $25 for each registration to the 2022 conference.
We are encouraging everyone to help us in reach our goal by donating at least $25.00 by clicking here!

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Consortium Meetings

A strong part of the networking throughout the year are the State and Regional Consortiums where people can get together to share ideas and strategize on how to make their departments better through continuous improvement. This year we were able to host those consortiums wanting to meet at the end of the conference day. 11 of the 19 consortiums took advantage of this opportunity. This also provided the opportunity for CPSE staff to meet with them in-person and learn more about the challenges they face and how CPSE can support their continuous improvement efforts.

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A huge thank you to the 20 sponsors and exhibitors of this year’s Excellence Conference. Attendees were able to spend time in the exhibit hall on Tuesday and Wednesday to speak with industry-relevant companies and learn more about what they have to offer through their cutting-edge services and products. You can learn more about them by clicking here .
Some of our sponsors, choose to be part of the Tech Sessions on the first day of conference.

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Before we know it, 2023 will be here! We are back in Orlando, FL so mark the dates – February 28 to March 3, 2023. Do you have a program that you might want to present? Now’s the time to start thinking about it and preparing for the Call for Presentations! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn where we will be making announcements later in the year – and see you in Orlando!

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CPSE Reaches 300 CFAI Accredited Agencies for the First Time in Organization’s History

In March 2022, the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) awarded its 300th accreditation. With a current total of 301, this is the highest ever number of accredited agencies. Formed in 1996 to award accreditation to fire and emergency services agencies worldwide, today CFAI, along with the Commission on Professional Credentialing, operate within the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE).
“This tremendous achievement is the direct result of the dedication of CFAI accredited agencies, led by outstanding leaders in the fire and emergency services,” commented CPSE Board President Jeff Pomeranz, City Manager Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We live in safer communities because of the unprecedented commitment to continuous improvement by accredited agencies and their members every single day.” 
From its inception, CPSE has valued having a diversity of involvement from organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International City/County Management Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Protection Association, the Insurance Services Office, and the Department of Defense on our board and commissions.
The mission of CPSE to lead the fire and emergency services to excellence through the continuous quality improvement process of accreditation, credentialing, and education is carried out in large part by a legion of dedicated volunteers. Hundreds of individuals over the last 25 years have contributed to this milestone achievement by developing the CFAI accreditation model and serving as CFAI commissioners, team leaders, and peer assessors.
“Reaching the milestone of 301 accredited agencies is an incredible achievement. The milestone is not reached without the countless hours put in by the volunteer team leaders and peer assessors” shared CFAI Chair Steve Dirksen, CFO, Fire Chief of the Fargo (ND) Fire Department. “Our volunteers are the heart and soul of what makes the model work. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to all who volunteer to ensure continuous quality improvement for those agencies who embrace the CFAI model.”
Agency accreditation is a process by which departments undergo a voluntary and thorough self-assessment focused on identifying strengths and areas for improvement. The accreditation process provides a framework for determining community needs and demonstrating that they are being met.  CFAI awards accredited status to agencies following a peer review of agency documents and a site visit. In March 2022, CFAI met in Orlando, FL for two days of accreditation hearings. During this round of hearings, seven new agencies and 13 renewing agencies were accredited.
“Agencies that engage in continuous improvement efforts like seeking accreditation are to be commended for approaching their work in a human-centered and progressive manner”, highlighted CPSE Chief Executive Officer Preet Bassi. “Agencies that remain accredited and implement prevailing, leading, and emerging practices enjoy a positive culture shift in their organizations.”
Beginning with 13 alpha and beta test agencies in the late 1990s, CPSE has experienced significant growth in the number of CFAI accredited agencies in recent years. CFAI accredited agencies are city, county, and district departments as well as Department of Defense and industrial installations. Some are smaller agencies, protecting as few as 1000 residents, and others are larger, protecting populations of nearly 3 million. They can be found in the United States, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
“None of these agencies are different from any other fire department in the world today,” commented CFAI Program Director Karl Ristow, CFO, “but all of them have unique risks that impact their communities differently and determine how they will respond”  
In August 2022, CFAI will hold another round of hearings in Denver, CO. During these hearings, it is anticipated that some of those beta agencies will receive accreditation for a sixth time, having been accredited for 25 years.
As the global organization dedicated to collaboratively improving health, wellness, and safety outcomes in all communities, CPSE is honored to have worked with so many departments to improve their service to their community.

CPSE Board of Directors Welcomes Thomas Breyer, IAFF, as its Newest Member

The CPSE Board of Directors welcomes Mr. Thomas Breyer, Assistant to the General President, Technical Assistance and Information Resources, with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) as its newest member. 
Thomas Breyer is the Assistant to the General President, Technical Assistance and Information Resources, with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Before starting with the IAFF, Thomas was a firefighter-paramedic with the City of Forest Park Fire Department in Ohio, eventually promoting to a lieutenant, and then the department’s EMS coordinator. As the IAFF’s Director of Fire and EMS Operations, Thomas provides direction to a talented and dedicated group of GIS analysts, data analysts, and subject matter experts who perform response, risk, and demand analysis for fire and EMS departments across the United States of America and Canada. Prior to his appointment to the CPSE Board of Directors, Thomas served as a Commissioner on the CPSE Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI).