Re-Imagining the Accreditation Process

Twenty years ago, a group of thought leaders imagined a new system for fire departments to tell their stories. The system would introduce such terms as standard of cover and self-assessment to the industry. For 200 agencies across the world, strategic planning, risk assessment, and continuous improvement are now part of their everyday operations and the way they choose to run their organizations.

In 2012, efforts to reimagine the CFAI Accreditation Model began. Rather than a simple update, the ambitious goal of the Reimagining Project was to consider every facet of the self-assessment model and process and to ensure it continued to push for excellence in the industry.

The CPSE Board of Directors appointed a Steering Committee led by Chief Steve Westermann to oversee the project. Mr. Max Baker, Chief Derek Bergsten, Mr. Rick Brockman, Chief Allan Cain, and Ms. Sarah McEntee also serve on the Steering Committee. CPSE staff is serving as the project management team with four dedicated project leads considering changes to:

  • The model,
  • The process by which accreditation is accomplished and maintained,
  • The technology used during the accreditation process, and
  • The community risk/standards of cover publication.

By looking at the accreditation program holistically, CPSE is putting itself through a self-assessment activity…so far we have learned some interesting things.

Mr. Jerry Nulliner is heading up the model group and has engaged over 150 subject matter experts to review each category, criteria, and performance indicator. The next step for the model group is to release their current proposed version for public comment. The proposed model will be posted on the CPSE website on December 1, 2014 for a 45-day public comment period. An announcement with instructions for where to find the model and how to submit comments will be forwarded by email on December 1.

The process group is being led by Mr. Brian Dean, Senior Technical Advisor. He and a committed group of volunteers have reviewed 86 pages of survey feedback from over 180 respondents. They are using this feedback to formulate recommended changes to the peer assessment, annual compliance report review, and mentoring processes among other areas. Some of the recommended changes will go into effect quickly as fixes to identified issues. The remaining recommended changes will be long-term initiatives to improve the experience of agencies going through accreditation.

Working closely with Brian and his group, Ms. Rebecca Desch, is looking at technology solutions to facilitate agencies submitting their information to CPSE and review of that information. She is currently reviewing four solutions and is vetting them with members of the process group. CPSE is excited about enhancing its information technology not only for accreditation, but also for credentialing, technical advising, and workshops.

Rick Fagan, Director of the Technical Advisor Program, will take the lead on revising the Community Risk/Standards of Cover publication. His group’s work will kick into high gear when the new model is approved. In the interim, his group is conducting literature review of the current trends and teachings on concentration and distribution of resources.

CPSE is looking forward to an overwhelming response to the public comment period which will run from December 1, 2014 and close on January 15, 2015. The Steering Committee is meeting monthly with the project management team and project leads. The goal is to present the reimagined model to the Commission on Fire Accreditation International in March 2015 and publish the 9th edition of Fire & Emergency Service Self-Assessment Manual in summer, 2015. Agencies that convert to candidate status within 6 months of the publications of the 9th edition will be permitted to seek accreditation under the current (8th) edition. CPSE will be offering webinars following the model approval to educate agencies on the significant changes. Look for updates on the reimagining project in the CPSE monthly newsletters.

Reimagining is an excellent opportunity for CPSE to engage the community, enhance acceptance of the self-assessment model, improve process efficiency, and identify new business opportunities. If you have any questions about reimagining, please contact Preet Bassi, CEO, at or Karl Ristow, CFAI Program Director, at

CPSE Represented at Fire Sprinkler Summit

Sprinkler advocates from across the U.S. and Canada came together last week during NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative Summit in Durham, North Carolina. Addressing the crowd of more than 60 attendees, NFPA President Jim Pauley underscored grassroots efforts occurring in North America that spotlight the importance of home fire sprinklers and how this work is creating a wave of support for sprinkler requirements in new homes. Tom Mawson, CPSE’s Director of Business Development and National Director for the Residential Fire Sprinkler Contractor Accreditation Program (RFSCAP) attended the summit and presented an update on the status of the accreditation program.

“NFPA knows it can’t be everywhere,” Pauley told attendees, some of them members of state coalitions that have formed over the years. “We know the work gets done by people on the street–and that’s you.”

Fire sprinkler advocacy, added Pauley, has led to statewide sprinkler requirements in California and Maryland. Using a one-community-at-a-time approach to sprinkler code adoption, Illinois has close to 100 communities with sprinkler requirements for new residential construction on the books.

Larry Iseminger, Chief Fire Protection Engineer for the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal, provided a history of fire sprinkler regulations in Maryland. He said that in Prince George’s County alone, which has required sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes since 1992, there are more than 60,000 sprinklered homes. In the past 22 years, there have been 400 fires in sprinklered homes, but no fire deaths in those homes. See more at:

Save Money: Early-Bird Registration Closes December 19

Early registration for the 2015 CPSE Excellence Conference is about to close. Register before December 19 and save $70 on the full-conference registration price. CPSE’s 2015 Conference is set for March 17-20, at the beautiful Caribe Royale Orlando conference hotel in Orlando, Florida. After December 19, the registration fee increases to $745, so act today!

The Caribe Royale Orlando hotel is conveniently located just outside the entrance to Disney World. Make plans now to bring the family and enjoy the sights and sounds of Orlando while enjoying top-notch conference sessions and nationally-recognized keynote speakers.

The 2015 conference offers four outstanding keynote presentations, followed by 24 conference sessions, each one presented in a morning and repeated in an afternoon session, over three days. Topics focus on professional development, community risk mitigation, agency accreditation issues, professional credentialing for boosting career goals, performance measurement and many others. The Commission on Fire Accreditation International will meet to confirm the accreditation and re-accreditation of nearly two dozen departments. Individuals with an interest in hearing how the Commission operates are invited to sit in any of the sessions on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18. Additionally, the Commision on Professional Credentialling will hold its open meeting on March 17.

A new feature for this year is the “Technology Lunch” on Wednesday afternoon. During the lunch period, conference sponsors offering technology solutions for fire and rescue departments will have an opportunity to present a brief overview of their unique systems so that conference attendees can comparison shop the various offerings. In addition, table displays for actual demonstrations of software and technology will be open throughout the conference, Tuesday – Thursday (March 17-19) in the conference center foyer adjacent to general sessions and conference breakout sessions. Conference exhibitors as of November 20 include: Esri, Emergency Reporting, FireHouse Software, Deccan International, Intterragroup, Stats FD, Columbia Southern University and International Association of Firefighters.

A special event during the conference is our fundraiser on behalf of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). This year’s event takes place on Thursday, March 19. Plan to come and enjoy great food, beverages, and exciting prize drawings.


NFORS To Meet During Excellence Conference

NFORS is holding their spring 2015 meeting in conjunction with the Excellence Conference. The NFORS planning session will take place on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18 in space adjacent to the Excellence Conference.

What Is the NFORS Project?

The vision of the National Fire Operations Reporting System is to improve firefighter safety. Local fire departments using NFORS software can access the impact of their response availability, capability and operational effectiveness on the outcome of a structure fire event. For this project, an optimal outcome minimizes the risk of firefighter injury or death and property damage.

More than 25 stakeholder organizations composed of government and professional fire organizations are leading this project. NFORS is currently in year three of a three-year initiative. During years 1 and 2, a collaborative process created the NFORS Data Dictionary; identify key fire operation metrics critical to success and safety; evaluate fire policy to promote safe data use; and establish the basic technology and software requirements for the NFORS software. During this year, the software will be completed and introduced to local fire departments beginning in the Fall of 2015, allowing departments to easily document how they prepare for and manage structure fire events.

The Value of Hiring a Fire Chief with CFO Designation

By Christopher J. Cotter, CFO, ICMA-CM

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) is the world’s leading public sector human resource organization. Recently, they polled 135 human resource directors to identify a set of emerging HR issues. The survey results produced this list:

  • Affordable and competitive healthcare and employee benefits
  • Competitive Pay and Compensation Practices
  • Employee Engagement
  • Impacts of the Affordable Care Act
  • Impacts of the Economy (specifically the justification of services and the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization)
  • Impact of Technology on the Workforce
  • Recruitment and Retention for Hard-to-fill Positions
  • Workforce and Succession Planning

This list would not come as a surprise to many fire service executives; the emerging issues are very much a part of leading a complex organization. But there is a certain urgency associated with these issues that will challenge even our most talented leaders. And while the list may be familiar to some that doesn’t make it any less daunting.

Among public sector organizations, the fire service has unique and growing responsibilities on behalf of the greater community. Distilled to its most basic mission – the protection of life and property – the fire department enterprise is about protecting the community and its members. But achieving that mission in a rapidly changing society is not easy.

As the expectations for the fire service increase, so too do the expectations for the fire chief. Among the most important responsibilities for any appointing authority, whether it’s a municipal governing body, chief executive or city manager, is the selection of those that will hold key leadership positions in the municipal organization. After all, the consequences for better or worse, will have a profound impact on their community. And the leadership role with perhaps the greatest consequences for the community is that of fire chief.

Any selection process is intended to be a forward thinking exercise by attempting to answer an unknown: “How well will this candidate perform in the future?” A wide variety of instruments – some with greater likelihood of success than others – are applied to try to answer that important question. Competitive examinations and assessment centers are examples as are succession in rank and years of experience. Some organizations on the other hand, take a decidedly democratic approach and simply vote on the candidates. To meet the expectations that society has placed on the fire service and by extension fire chiefs, the selection of the best candidate for the executive fire officer role has never been more important. Making the right selection matters.

It’s been said that, “The best predictor of future performance is past performance.” If we consider performance in the broadest terms, that handy slogan for the selection process can be insightful. What’s needed in terms of performance today and in the future are leaders that have a commitment to continual learning and improvement – for themselves and their organization. Identifying those candidates that have demonstrated that commitment throughout their careers is a predictor of future success. The rate of change experienced today is an indicator of what’s to come – there will be more not less. The fire service leader that understands that will help prepare the organization with a roadmap through the strategic planning process as a way to make the future better understood in the present.

The successful fire chief will also understand the value of succession planning by mentoring future leaders within the organization. Mentoring strengthens relationships, accelerates learning and improves organizational continuity by setting the foundation for a succession plan. The very best leaders understand that they are building a sustaining organization that will thrive beyond their tenure.

Using third-party verification of professional competence is a valuable way to identify candidates that have demonstrated a commitment to continual career improvement. The Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Designation Program provides the framework for continued professional development by establishing core competencies for fire service executives. The CFO Designation recognizes a breadth of career and educational accomplishments that can be used to identify the most highly qualified candidates for fire service leadership positions. That level of accomplishment – verified by a third-party – is an important indicator of future success. With so much at stake, selecting fire service leaders does require careful consideration; CFO Designation should be part of the process.

Offutt AFB Achieves Accreditation

After an intensive, three-and-a-half day look behind the scenes, the Offutt Fire Department was recommended for accreditation with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) by the peer review team. This recommendation for accreditation came after an exhaustive, two-year evaluation of the department, including more than 1,500 hours of prep-work, providing data, documents, emergency response information and exhibits to the assessors.

“This is a great day for us, just wonderful news,” said David Eblin, Offutt fire chief. “They [the peer review team] dug really deep, deeper than even I anticipated, but what they found pretty much validates what we’re doing here at Offutt.” Once formally approved by the CFAI in March, Offutt becomes just the fortieth fire department within the Department of Defense, the fourteenth within the Air Force, and one of only 195 worldwide to earn the accreditation.

“This is huge and I take my hat off to the whole staff — they’ve really earned this,” Eblin said. “The bottom line is this all comes back to what they’re doing on a daily basis.”

The four person peer review team included fire-fighting professionals from Colorado, North Carolina, Washington and Italy. The Offutt Fire Department is a 62 member team, comprised of all Air Force civilians.

“My sincere congratulations to the Offutt Fire Department,” said Gary Chesley, 55th Civil Engineer Squadron director and Offutt fire marshal. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The Captain from Station 15

By Todd LeDuc, CFO

On a recent road trip I had the opportunity to stop into Station 15 at a metropolitan fire department along with two colleagues as a peer review team for accreditation. The station was much like many career fire stations in the United States.

The one stand out factor was the captain who lamented why more departments have not embraced accreditation and its processes. What struck me as odd was that this line captain knew more about accreditation and its virtues than many. He lamented that his organization, along with many others, could tackle many of the organizational opportunities for improvement by embracing such a rigorous process. It was interesting to hear the captain “story tell” why fire departments must embrace organizational excellence to improve and watch his crew nod their heads in affirmation. Those same crew members and also a chief officer who heard the captain’s impassioned pitch, no doubt pondered on its merits.

However, there is a reason why, of the approximately 30,000-plus organized fire departments in the U.S., there are only 200 accredited fire departments across 11 sovereign nations. If it was easy to challenge yourself and open yourself to transparent external review against industry best practices, many more than 200 would have done so since fire accreditation inception in 1997. However, is not every achievement worth accomplishing worth working for?

Accreditation is a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that enables organizations to examine past, current, and future service levels and internal performance and compare them to industry best practices. This process leads to improved service delivery.

The Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Accreditation Program, administered by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) allows fire and emergency service agencies to compare their performance to industry best practices in order to:

  • Determine community risk and safety needs and develop a community-specific Standards of Cover
  • Evaluate the performance of the department
  • Establish a method for achieving continuous organizational improvement

Local government executives face increasing pressure to “do more with less” and justify their expenditures by demonstrating a direct link to improved or expanded services. Particularly for emergency services, local officials need criteria to assess professional performance and efficiency. The CFAI accreditation process provides a well-defined, internationally-recognized benchmark system to measure the quality of fire and emergency services.

The challenge to each of us that represent the American Fire Service is what I have termed “WAHUT” or what actions have you taken? within your sphere of influence to elevate the continued advancement of improvements in fire service excellence. We have a rich and long tradition and history of service to community. Peter Drucker, the well-respected organizational excellence guru, has been credited with stating that “what gets measured gets done.”

As the Captain of the 15 house so eloquently said, “if we held ourselves to the highest industry standards- wouldn’t we know we were doing the best we could with the resources appropriately allocated?”

Give it some thought!

Todd J. LeDuc, MS, CFO, CEM, MIFirE is a division chief and 24-year veteran of Broward County Fire Rescue in Florida, an accredited department of over 700 personnel. Chief LeDuc is a board member for the IAFC Safety Health & Survival Section and a peer reviewer for chief officer credentialing and agency accreditation. He teaches fire and public administration graduate programs for Anna Maria College (AMC) and is on the editorial board for the IAFC’s On-Scene publication. He lectures and publishes frequently on fire service topics and received the 2013 IAFC Gary Briese Safety Award and Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Ambassador Award.

Reprinted with permission from from Blog URL: (

CPSE People in the News

Kayla Holiman, FM, to be Fire Marshal for the City of Yuma

Kayla Holiman, FM, has been selected as the Fire Marshal for the City of Yuma Fire Department. Kayla has served as Interim Fire Marshal since May of this year following the retirement of Kent Thompson. Kayla also becomes the City’s first female Fire Marshal.

Kayla has been in the fire service for more than 13 years and has served as a Fire Inspector/Investigator with the department for 9 years. She is a certified Firefighter/Investigator/Inspector/EMT. In August of this year, Kayla was awarded the official designation of “Fire Marshal” by the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) making her only one of 85 to hold the prestigious designation.

Chief John Cermak, CFO Moves to North County 

The North County Regional Fire Authority in Washington State has hired John Cermak, CFO. Chief Cermak comes from the Alhambra Fire Department in Los Angeles County, California, where he has worked since the 1980s. His contract with North County was finalized this week and begins his new position on December 9. Battalion Chief Scott Johnston has been serving as interim fire chief.

The fire authority was formed about six years ago, merging two fire districts that served the areas between Arlington and Stanwood and the Snohomish-Skagit county line. The fire authority serves about 22,000 people living in 105 square miles. Earlier this year, headquarters were moved from Warm Beach to Stanwood.

Bertral “Bert” Washington, CFO, Moves to Pasadena 

Chief Bertral Washington has accepted the position of chief of the Pasadena (CA) Fire Department. Chief Washington comes to Pasadena from Clark County, Nev., where he has served as the fire chief since 2010. Washington’s depth of experience, which was “very relevant” to Pasadena, was one of the major factors that led to his hiring.

“He also provided significant leadership experience within the region and put together a leadership academy for his fire department as well as local city departments,” Pasadena City Manager Beck said of Washington. “He has a very collaborative background.” Washington’s appointment comes six months after Chief Calvin Wells announced his planned retirement at the end of this year. The city hosted public meetings in June to get public input on the search for the new chief.

Washington said he, his wife, Cheri, and two children, Chandler, 13, and Blaire, 11, are excited to move to Pasadena. Bertral grew up in Los Angeles.

Several Workshops Coming to San Antonio

CPSE’s CFAI and CPC are teaming up to present a series of workshops for fire officers and departments interested in accreditation. CPSE is coordinating details with the San Antonio Fire Department. The workshops are scheduled for the week of February 23-27, 2015.

Details regarding exact location and dates of specific workshops are still in progress. However for planning purposes, we will present the following workshops during the week:

  • “(Basic) Self-Assessment and Community Hazards and Risks” (3-day workshop) $650
  • “Nurturing Fire Service Leaders Through Mentoring” (1-day workshop) at a special, reduced price of $200!

Be watching for more details and information on registration.

What else is happening in San Antonio during the week of February 23-27? The National Stock Show and Rodeo is in progress at the AT&T Center — more to come. Build your professional development portfolio while getting some great programming for you and your department in a fun and festive location.

Upcoming CPSE Workshops

CPSE has several workshops scheduled for the next few months. Register today to reserve your seat at the workshop that meets your needs. Please pass these dates and locations on to your colleagues at adjacent fire departments to help us promote attendance at all workshops.

For course details and registration, go to:

December 03, 2014
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Anaheim, CA

December 04, 2014
Marketing and Managing Your Department’s Reputation Through the Power of Social Media

December 08, 2014
Data Analysis & Performance Measurement for Fire-Based EMS Management
Culver City, CA

December 09, 2014
BIGGIE SIZE it NOT – Reducing Preventable Cardiac LODD and Injuries

December 15, 2014
DoD Only: Self Assessment & Community Risk/SOC
Camp Pendleton, CA

December 15, 2014
Data Analysis & Presentation Using Excel

December 15, 2014
Community Risk & Standards Of Cover – What Drives Your Business?

January 08, 2015
Advanced Technology for Community Risk/Standards of Cover

January 19, 2015
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Pearl Harbor, HI

January 27, 2015
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Alabaster, AL

January 27, 2015
Self Assessment and Community Risk/SOC
Brighton, MI

February 02, 2015
Data Analysis & Presentation
Peoria, IL