In 2016, the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District began an accreditation process with the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), a national organization whose mission is to lead fire and emergency service to excellence through the continuous quality improvement process of accreditation, credentialing and education.

What is accreditation? Accreditation is a comprehensive self-assessment and quality improvement model that enables organizations to examine past, current, and future service levels and internal performance and compare them to current research and industry best practices. This process leads to a more efficient and effective emergency service organization.

CPSE’s Accreditation Program is administered by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), 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 process of achieving accreditation includes four steps and can take up to five years to complete. North Collier Fire Rescue is currently working through Step 1, having become a Registered Agency in March of 2017.

Step 1. Becoming a Registered Agency

This step allows a department to be involved with the Accreditation process for three years. Registered Agencies gain access to the CFAI network and all related guideline materials to guide it through the proper preparation required to proceed to the next step. Step 1 includes a comprehensive identification of local needs and circumstances, community risks, response capabilities and opportunities for improvement as well as the creation of plans to address, maintain and/or improve service delivery. The gathering of input from both internal and external stakeholders is also important in this Step 1, helping to guide the development of future goals and objectives. The District has a goal date of October 1, 2018 for completion of Step 1.

Step 2. Becoming an Applicant Agency
Agencies in this status have 18 months to complete a comprehensive self-assessment process where all procedures and policies are documented to ensure best practices. The step results in the development of planning documents, including short-term action and long-term strategic plans – important tools in the budgeting process and a basis for justifying departmental programs and services. Accreditation has the potential to dramatically improve a department, its services, and its vision for the future. This step demands the largest portion of time to achieve accreditation.

Step 3. Becoming a Candidate for Accreditation

Following the self-assessment process, the Applicant Agency submits all self-assessment documentation to CPSE. If approved, an on-site peer assessment is conducted. The peer assessment team then submits a final report on its recommendation for accreditation to the agency and the CFAI.

Step 4. Achieving Accreditation
Twice per year, the CFAI hears candidacy reports from the peer assessment team leaders in the presence of the Candidate Agencies’ representatives. At this point, the commission grants, denies, or defers accreditation.

Once accredited, the process does not end there. The CFAI confers Accredited Agency status for a period of five years, during which an agency must submit four Annual Compliance Reports to demonstrate their continued compliance with core performance indicators and report on progress in executing their plans for improvement. The Commission determines if the reports are acceptable and the agency may retain its accredited status. At the end of the fifth year, an Accredited Agency must seek reaccreditation and successfully complete the peer review process to remain accredited.

Fewer than 240 agencies in the United States are accredited. North Collier Fire Rescue is proud to be the first agency in Southwest Florida to become a registered agency. We also understand that achieving Accredited Agency status takes work, but knows it is well worth the effort. To learn more about the process, visit www.cpse.org. We will continue to keep you posted on our accreditation process.