CPSE President Allan Cain, CFO-2009


CPSE Corner had an opportunity to talk with the CPSE Board President Allan Cain, CFO-2009, about his first year as president and the organization’s direction for the future.

CPSE CORNER: What is your vision for CPSE?

PRESIDENT ALLAN CAIN: The world is changing at an ever increasing pace, and the fire and emergency services are being faced with new challenges on a daily basis. While we always pride ourselves on being able to handle anything that is thrown our way, CPSE wants to help agencies plan and prepare for the future. We want to accelerate the transformation of the fire and emergency service by helping promote continuous improvement through both agency accreditation and officer credentialing.

We also want to position CPSE as a thought leader, stimulating conversations on some of the most pressing issues facing fire and emergency services. As I said, the world around us is changing and we need to be responsive to these changes and be looking down the road.

Another key point is diversity in the fire service, and I mean in both the people that make up departments and the conversations that we are having. We should make strong efforts for our agencies to reflect the makeup of the communities that we protect because we are a part of the community. Also, we need to encourage dialogue that represents varying points of view as to how a department can best serve the community. This is how we foster innovation that moves an agency forward in a world, as I mentioned earlier, that is changing quickly.

CPSE CORNER: What has been the biggest change you have seen in CPSE?

CAIN: In looking back, I am amazed at the transformation that the Excellence Conference has undergone. It has really become the cornerstone for bringing people together and is an incredible learning and networking opportunity. Each year we sell out registrations earlier and earlier, and this year is no exception, we are way ahead.

Excellence Conference 2018

And we are constantly looking at how we can make it better. Based on feedback from past ones, we redesigned the educational tracks by focusing on the areas that are of most value, which I think is one of the major driving forces for increased attendance. We learned that there was less interest in the awards banquet, so we did away with it to help make room for the educational programs and networking events.

CPSE CORNER: CPSE is all about continuous improvement in the fire service. How does this apply to CPSE as an organization?

CAIN: We are no exception, we need to walk the walk. From a Board perspective, we are looking for continuous improvement throughout the organization and how we operate so that we can deliver the best possible service to our agencies and officers. For example, over the past year there were specific reinvestment initiatives that the Board identified and that we have completed.

Consortium Coordinators Workshop

One is a renewed focus on the Consortiums. The Consortiums are a vital way for people to get together on a regional level to share and learn from each other. These are also a great opportunity for the CPSE staff to stay in touch with the field and learn what is important to our agencies and officers and what they need from us. The Consortium Coordinators are a key component in making all of this happen. In April, we hosted the Consortiums Coordinators for a two-day workshop as a way of showing our appreciation for all of the hard work that they put into this program while also providing them tools so they can continuously improve.

As another step in helping to stay in touch with people, we totally revamped our website in 2018 with a whole new look. Along with that, we have really stepped up our use of social media, and both have resulted in a huge growth of people coming to the site for information, more followers on social media, and our reaching a much wider audience than ever before. I encourage everyone to follow us on Facebook (@CenterforPublicSafetyExcellence), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/company/center-for-public-safety-excellence) and Twitter (@CtrPubSafExc) and be a part of the conversation.

Our partnerships are key to helping build an effective organization. We benefit from the wisdom and support of our friends at organizations such as IAFC, IAFF, and ICMA. This year, CPSE became a ICMA Presidential Level Strategic Partner.  I attended the ICMA conference in September on behalf of CPSE. A great finding from the ICMA conference was bestselling author Daniel Pink and his presentation based on his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It seems there is a scientific basis centered on our internal clocks for when most people should engage in such work as analysis, administrative, and reflecting for insight in order to produce the best results. We are going to experiment with Pink’s work with future Board meetings.

CPSE’s origin is connected with the ICMA and we are working on a White Paper with them to explore the future of the Fire Service in context with how local governments are adjusting to our changing future. Cities and counties all over our country are struggling with sustainable funding for all programs and services, and public safety is no exception. We are also seeing significant innovations in technology and their impacts on how citizens interact with their local governments and I believe we are not exempt from those external forces. Fortunately, Randy Bruegman, CPSE’s immediate past president is leading that effort for us. We wrote about this in a recent article on CPSE Corner. (You can read the blog post here.) 

December 2018 CPSE Board Meeting

In looking to the future, we have undertaken a Strategic Workforce Planning effort to identify areas where we need to grow. Towards this, we have completely redesigned the office space at CPSE’s headquarters, creating a much more functional workspace and also providing for future growth as we look towards developing more programs. Earlier this month, we held our annual Board meeting in our headquarters office for the first time in corporate history and the Board, CFAI and CPC Chairs and Vice Chairs, and staff took time to reflect on that milestone event.

CPSE CORNER: What other projects were started in 2018 that will spill over into 2019?

CAIN: Debbie Sobotka is working with CPC in completing the automation of the credentialing application process, moving away from a paper-based system, which I am sure everyone will appreciate, especially the staff. We also recognize the challenge that the volunteer fire service faces when it comes to accreditation and Karl Ristow and CFAI are working with our partners to develop a CFAI Volunteer Fire Service Certificate Program that is more in line with their needs. These efforts are designed to help reduce barriers to entry for our programs and really exemplify more examples of the continuous improvements efforts we are making. The staff has also started conversations with other entities that prescribe 9-1-1 call handling procedures. CPSE is taking the lead to discuss, and hopefully build, a common language for performance-based metrics for that critical element of public safety response.

CPSE CORNER: What role do people such as the Peer Assessors, Peer Reviewers, and other volunteers play in CPSE?

CAIN: Unquestionably, what makes everything that CPSE does in both accreditation and credentialing possible is what I call our Volunteer Army. Without these people stepping forward to go on the road and be Peer Assessors or devoting time as Peer Reviewers, neither program would exist or be the success that we see. The Board recognizes these efforts and speaking for all the board members, we just can’t say enough about how much we appreciate the hard work and hours that everyone puts in throughout the year. Of course, the same goes for the commissioners on both the Accreditation and Credentialing Commissions who dedicate their time and talents to CPSE.

CPSE CORNER: What is ahead in 2019 for CPSE?

CAIN: A lot! A major new initiative for us is creating CPSE University. Education and training have always been a key part of what we do, and with the launch of CPSE University in 2019 we are looking to create new programs and more opportunities for people to take part, either online or in the field. We have hired a great CPSE University manager, Tom Kuglin, and he is moving full speed ahead in getting it off the ground in time for the Excellence Conference. During our board meeting, Tom shared his work to date and our community will be seeing a lot more about the University and his work very soon.

Preet Bassi and I are really looking forward to greeting everyone at another exciting Excellence Conference in March. As I mentioned, the number of registrations is way ahead of where we have ever been in the past, so if you are planning on attending, you might want to think about registering very soon before it sells out. And it always does.

Another major project is the update of the CFAI model. We have launched the process for updating to the 10th edition and we have created a very deliberate system for managing this and we have put out a call for volunteers. Like our program work, building the model has always been and will continue to be the collective work of our community, so I encourage anyone reading this article to get involved with the 10th edition process. There is a lot of work to do and we want your help.

As part of our continuous improvement process, we are developing another round of Reinvestment Initiatives for 2019 that include Quality Management and IACET Accreditation and working with NFPA to hopefully develop a Fire Analyst Professional Qualification Standard.

CPSE CORNER: Are there going to be any changes in the Board in 2019?

CAIN: We have two new members joining the Board of Directors. Ben May, a retired corporate executive and avid supporter and contributor to the fire service, and Chief Mary Cameli (CFO) from the Mesa Fire Department (a CFAI-accredited department) will be joining us January 1, 2019. We are bidding farewell to our longtime member, Kevin Miller. Kevin has served on the Board of Directors since 2011 and has most recently served as our Secretary/Treasurer. He has brought a unique, and needed, corporate perspective to our work.

I’m honored to be working with our continuing board members, Darin Atteberry, Jeff Piechura, Jeff Pomeranz, Jim Pauley, Lori Moore-Merrell, and Tom Harmer, on moving the organization forward in 2019.

CPSE CORNER: As we wrap up, do you have any closing thoughts on what you learned in your first year as President?

CAIN: Like what each of us do to serve our communities at home, it never ceases to amaze me what committed people can do when they are brought together to pursue an admirable and needed mission, this pursuit of excellence. Improving our communities through the work of CPSE humbles me and reminds me of the incredible responsibility each of us have with this organization to continue to lead, to continue our efforts to build better tools and seek better ways to help fire and public safety agencies serve their communities. I have learned that together, the people who volunteer and serve within the CPSE community are the best equipped to tackle whatever lies ahead.

Allan Cain was appointed the Director of Public Safety for the Town of Cary, North Carolina in 2018. Prior to this, he was the fire chief for the Cary Fire Department, a CFAI accredited agency. He started his fire service career with the Fayetteville Fire Department before moving on to become Fire Chief in Dunn, North Carolina. He was then hired as Deputy Chief in Cary, where he progressed up through the ranks to Fire Chief in 2003 until 2018.

Chief Cain served on the Commission for Fire Accreditation International from 2009 to 2015 and was the commission chair from 2012 to 2014. He has served on the CPSE Board of Directors since 2016 and was appointed Board President in 2018. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College and certifications for Community Preparedness – Disaster Management, Municipal Administration and Budgeting and Financial Management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a graduate of the NFA Executive Fire Officer program and has been a credentialed officer since 2009.