September Newsletter

The focus of much of the nation during the months of August and early September was Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and then the wildfires in Southern California over the last few weeks. This month also happens to be National Preparedness Month. Each week throughout the month of September, had preparedness themes to help the public prepare for whatever may come their way.

Likewise, CPSE’s programs outline specific actions and competencies that will assist agencies and officers to respond to and, when possible, prevent whatever they may face.

All-Hazard Risk Assessment: Be Prepared in Advance of the Threat

As we look back on the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma over the past few weeks, and in realizing that this is National Preparedness Month, the Technical Advisor Program takes pause to look at community risk assessment and how it gives you the best chance to be prepared.

It is important that agencies use quality intelligence gathering processes to proactively mitigate domestic attacks and threats. Fire departments should also be utilizing vulnerability and assessment techniques to be as prepared as possible for extreme weather, wildland fire threats, and earthquake challenges. This is all part of a required “all-hazard” risk assessment.

No one agency can handle these major types of events on their own, so it is important that communities have local, regional, state, and federal relationships to assist in the accomplishment of their mission: operations in disasters. Every community is unique, and each will find its own challenges in putting together the necessary preparation and well-defined response strategies. It is imperative that effective local, regional, and national planning occurs on the front end, along with relatively defined deployment and coverage plans.

We applaud the hard work of all response teams to the current wildfire and disaster response areas in our country, and we encourage agencies in all non-affected areas to ensure that your community’s “all-hazards” risk assessment is contemporary and up-to-date.

Are You Prepared for the Worst?

Is your agency familiar with the statement: “the agency operates an all-hazards preparedness program that includes a coordinated multi-agency response plan designed to protect the community from terrorist threats or attacks, major disasters, and other large-scale emergencies occurring at or in the immediate area”? It is Criterion 5D of the Fire and Emergency Services Self-Assessment Manual, 9th Edition.

The first performance indicator serves as the criterion’s core competency: “the agency publishes an all-hazards plan that defines roles and responsibilities of all participating departments and/or external agencies. The agency identifies and authorizes an appropriate multi-agency organizational structure to carry out the all-hazards plan predetermined functions and duties.” This core competency sets the stage for the remaining seven performance indicators, all of which involve ensuring the agency complies with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and has a documented effective preparedness plan that matches community needs.

Risk assessment is at the heart of the accreditation process and provides agencies with the necessary information to begin preparing. Category 2 asks agencies to identify risk categories and classifications so current deployment and performance can be identified and evaluated. Plans to maintain and approve only serve to strengthen the agencies’ response capabilities and asks them to be transparent with the information to the community and the authority having jurisdiction (elected and appointed leaders).

Category 5 was purposely planned out to emphasize risk reduction efforts before response. Four of the five E’s of risk reduction (Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Economic Incentives, and Emergency Response) fall within Category 5 and three of the five make up Criterion 5A, 5B, and 5C. While the fire service is typically seen for their pro-response efforts, accredited agencies have learned that prevention is cheaper than response. Thus, their efforts to prepare communities center around public education programs and code adoption and enforcement. Essentially, they are finding that they cannot be everywhere all the time nor can they always get there fast enough.

Criterion 5D encourages agencies to have plans ready for events that are few and far between. Agencies nor communities can afford to staff for hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc. on a daily basis and have to rely on plans should these emergencies present themselves. As noted above, Category 2 identifies these risks for agencies; however, 5D is the collector of those events that fall outside of the day to day workload.

Preparedness and planning all starts with an adequate risk assessment. The CFAI model clearly has agencies prepared for everyday events as well as those that are infrequent and over task their communities when they happen.

Is your community prepared? How do you know?

Understanding Emergency Communication as Part of the Fire Officer Designation

By: Michael Walton, CFO, CTO, Battalion Chief, City of Yuma Fire Department, AZ

As a company officer, you play a key role in the successful outcome of any emergency response, and effective emergency communication is a significant part of ensuring this outcome. Whether it is communicating with your crew, other agency responders, or outside agency partners, the company officer must be proficient in managing the communication needs of the emergency. Understanding the company officer’s role in emergency communications, in fact, is so important that it is one of the 12 Technical Competencies (TC) addressed in the application for designation as a Fire Officer through the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC).

To answer the competency, you will need to evaluate your knowledge, skills, and abilities as it pertains to emergency communications, which may require some introspective review. Think through your career and your role as a company officer. In your role you may have been exposed to a wide variety of emergency communication experiences. These experiences may range from significant events to routine daily emergency responses. Undoubtedly the company officer has a wide range of experience with emergency communications, but trying to articulate what you have accomplished is sometimes difficult. Remember to think beyond emergency response and include communication training you have received as well. The communication training can be from a formal source, such as a course at the National Fire Academy, or a department refresher program discussing existing communication policies, procedures, and operations. Don’t forget the informal sources as well. This may include talking to your crews to help them better understand how to communicate during emergency operations.

The key to successfully addressing this TC comes down to succinctly describing your understanding of the communication systems you use, including effective operations on assigned response channels, department policies that direct emergency communication standards, and, overall, how you use these as an officer during emergency response, all with an emphasis of ensuring the safety of responders. Your role as a company officer during emergency response is to ensure that emergency communication is understood by others, effective, and directed at keeping responders and our communities safe, which is why this TC plays an important role in the application for designation as a Fire Officer.

Understanding how to document your experience in TC 12, Emergency Communication, should help you get a better understanding of what can be used to meet the experience requirements in each of the remaining 11 Technical Competencies. If you have any questions the Commission on Professional Credentialing can direct you to a mentor willing to assist. Good luck, and be safe.

Save the Date: 2018 CPSE Excellence Conference

The Excellence Conference will take place March 13 – 16 in Orlando, FL. Registration will open for the 2018 CPSE Excellence Conference in early October. Be on the lookout for an announcement of the unique education sessions and engaging presenters we have lined up.

CPSE Supplement in Fire Engineering

Did you catch the CPSE supplement in the August 2017 edition of Fire Engineering? If not, be sure to take a look!

Thank you to all those who contributed articles. Each insightful piece highlights a different perspective on how the CFAI Accreditation Model and process benefit an organization and the community it serves.

CPSE Responds to Communication Survey Feedback

In August, CPSE conducted a survey seeking feedback on our communication practices. The input received has been truly illuminating. Respondents wanted more timely and frequent information in multiple formats and on platforms they are currently using. To address this feedback, CPSE will be taking a short hiatus from our monthly newsletter and will return with a new and improved edition later this year. In the meantime, look for briefer but more regular communication.

Thank you to all those that provided feedback. It will greatly assist CPSE in continuously improving our strategies to meet your needs.


Consortiums serve as the connection between CPSE and our community, and September saw a busy month for visits. CPSE representatives visited four Consortiums, three of which were in-person visits: Heart of America, Georgia, California, and Iowa.

In the Heart of America, 21 individuals represented nine agencies at the meeting. CFAI Program Director Karl Ristow provided the consortium with CPSE organizational updates, CFAI timelines, and answered questions regarding commission hearings.

At the Cobb County Safety Village, almost 25 individuals representing 15 departments from the Atlanta Metro area attended the Georgia Consortium meeting. Karl Ristow provided the consortium with CPSE organizational updates as well as a presentation on credentialing.

With seven people in attendance, spanning in-person and online, Iowa’s consortium meeting was small, but the discussion was significant. Questions arose regarding the accreditation culture and how a department can instill the culture in their employees. This meeting proved a consortium does not have to be large to have beneficial and fascinating discussion.

California’s consortium meeting took place in conjunction with the 2017 Cal Chiefs conference, both of which Education Director Rick Fagan represented CPSE at. The consortium meeting saw 20 representatives from agencies as far as San Diego County and included Air Force and Marine Corps agencies, as well as municipal, county, and tribal departments. CPSE organizational updates were provided, as well as a presentation on “Achieving Success Through the Process” and “Tracking Category 2.”

Coming up: CPSE Workshops

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

For course details and registration, go to our Workshops & Events page.

October 13, 2017
Exceeding Customer Expectations
Pasadena, CA

October 24-26, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Lincoln, NE

October 24-26, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Atlanta, GA

November 13-15, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Winter Park, FL

November 14-16, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Kent, WA

November 16, 2017
Nurturing Fire Service Leaders Through Mentoring
Winter Park, FL

December 5-7, 2017
Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Slidell, LA

December 5-7, 2017
DoD Only: Quality Improvement Through Accreditation
Seaside, CA