LFD applies for accreditation
LaGRANGE — Firefighters with the LaGrange Fire Department train tirelessly for emergency situations: from blazes to car crashes to search and rescue and more.
Now, they are preparing to become one of the elite fire departments in the world by becoming an accredited agency through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
Sgt. Mike Webb, a 20 year veteran with LFD, is heading up the process to achieve the prestigious honor.
“It’s fairly tedious. We actually started this process three years ago,” Webb stated.
Webb started by reviewing manuals that contained the department’s protocols, procedures and policies. Anything that did not meet the accreditation criteria had to be changed, rewritten and resubmitted to LFD’s 56 firefighters.
That also would mean more training, but Webb discovered the firefighters were already well ahead of the game.
“We didn’t have to do a lot of training. The LaGrange Fire Department is one of the best trained fire departments in the state. We always have been,” he stated.
But in addition to Webb ensuring the fire department is up to date on all its practices, he also has to prove it to the accreditation commission. The international committee has a manual of their own with more than 256 questions that must be thoroughly answered by the fire department.
“For each question you have to give a description and appraisal of how you do it (like policy and technique) now … and you must write a plan of how you will do it in the future,” Webb explained. “You also have to give them (accreditation commission) references and and examples to back up your description.”
The Commission on Fire Accreditation International focuses their 256 questions and criteria around 10 categories, such as a fire department’s goals and objectives, financial and physical resources, administration, training, programs including fire suppression, rescues, public education sessions and much more.
A Peer Assessor Team initially inspects each fire department by the answers given in those 256 questions, said Webb. The group will also schedule a three day visit to the city and visually assess the LaGrange Fire Department. The team will then make a recommendation to the commission on whether to approve or deny awarding accreditation to the department.
If granted, LaGrange Fire would become only the seventh fire department in Georgia to be accredited, said Webb. There are 31,000 public fire departments worldwide, less than 1 percent are accredited, he added.
“It gives us a standard to strive for,” Webb said. “Achieving accreditation gives us a direction and a goal to reach. It’s also a source of pride. … More fire departments are catching on and striving to do this.”
While the process for accreditation is long and tedious, Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar said it is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the agency and find better ways to serve the community.
“It requires you to look at situations that you may not have encountered or encountered recently,” he explained. “… It lets us constantly evaluate policies and incorporate best practices and procedures. It ensures in those cases where we find a deficit, that it is addressed and we meet those standards. … It creates an opportunity to look at methods and techniques that have evolved over time and ensure that what we’re doing here is up to standard with the the rest of the country. That will help us further our commitment to excellence and service as it relates to our department.”
“This is a self assessment which will make the department better in what we do,” stated Webb. “ … This (accreditation) will help us when we apply for grants. A lot of people look at that when handing out grants. This has become the new standard. There are also other avenues we can look into and improve the education of the department.”
Webb plans on submitting the written portion of the accreditation process by the end of September.
The Peer Assessment Team has three months from that point in time to schedule a visit with the LaGrange Fire Department.
If all goes well, LFD could be accredited by early 2017.