MCFRS News Release
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Receives Accreditation
Largest Combination Department in Country to be Accredited
The Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Service recently attained the distinguished Accreditation status through the Commission Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), which falls under the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). The CPSE program, among other things, provides an excellent self-assessment and peer review process for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and other fire and rescue agencies across the United States. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is the largest combination (career and volunteer) fire and rescue service in the United States to achieve accreditation.
In 2005, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service became a Registered Agency through the CPSE and began the process that usually takes several years (sometimes as many as 4 or 5 years). The MCFRS was committed to providing excellent internal and external customer service and in a relatively short period of time, about 18 months, conducted an accelerated and intense self-assessment. In April of 2007 an on-site peer assessment took place. The peer assessment team submitted a final report in May 2007 to MCFRS and to the Commission recommending accreditation status.
Accreditation was granted and officially announced at the CPSE Annual Awards Ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on August 23, 2007.
Of the approximately 32,000 fire departments in the nation, only 122 have achieved Accreditation status and are fully accredited as of 2007. In the State of Maryland, only Howard County, City of Annapolis and Naval Air Station at Patuxent River have achieved Accreditation.
Benefits of accreditation and self-assessment include:
- Promoting excellence within the MCFRS and improve our abilities to recognize and better understand potential risks and hazards.
- Improve the quality of life in our community.
- Encouraging quality improvement through a continuous self-assessment process. Providing a detailed evaluation of the MCFRS, detailing the services it provides to the community.
- Identifying areas of strength and weakness within the MCFRS.
- Creating methods or systems for addressing deficiencies while building organizational success.
- Encouraging professional growth in addition to its personnel involved in the self-assessment process.
- Providing a forum for the communication of organizational priorities.
- Fostering national recognition for the MCFRS by colleagues and the public.
- Creating a mechanism for developing concurrent documents to include strategic and program action plans.
The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has received Accredited Agency status with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) for meeting the criteria established through the CFAI's voluntary self-assessment and accreditation program. The accreditation process involves first being a Registered Agency, then becoming an Applicant Agency, next qualify as an Accreditation Candidate and finally achieving accreditation.
The CFAI process is voluntary, and provides an agency with an improvement model to assess their service delivery and performance internally, followed by a team of peers from other agencies to evaluate their completed self-assessment.
Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr stated that the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service achievement of Accredited Agency status "demonstrates the commitment of the men and women of MCFRS to provide the highest quality of service to our community." Chief Carr added, "We have also will be able to use the Commission on Fire Accreditation International's process as a way to continuously evaluate our progress making the MCFRS safer, more efficient and a high quality public safety agency."
During the on-site evaluation last fall and earlier this year, the peer assessment team reviewed all of the MCFRS policies, procedures and processes as they relate to the more than 250 performance indicators and 108 core competencies, which are part of the assessment process. In doing so it was noted that the MCFRS needed to refine data collection procedures and how we use that information in our decision making. In addition, with the increased population growth, continue to concentrate on emergency response times and develop flexible ways of responding to the needs of the community.
The peer assessment team also noted that the MCFRS possessed an outstanding community outreach and public education effort as it related to the delivery of emergency service and public safety.
"Our career and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel are among the best in the nation, and I am elated that the Commission on Fire Accreditation International's evaluation indicated just how well prepared and functional the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is to handle a myriad of community wants and needs," summarizes Chief Carr.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service
The Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS), an Accredited Agency, is a full spectrum life safety agency protecting about 500 square miles and nearly 1 million people who live and work in Maryland's most populous jurisdiction. Under the direction of County Fire Chief, Tom Carr, the MCFRS is a combination system (career/volunteer) in the suburban Washington, D.C. area, operating with an annual budget of about $200 million dollars. The MCFRS annually handles about 100,000 emergency calls for service and is staffed by nearly 1300 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom are actively involved in emergency response.
In the last year Montgomery County has been recognized in many ways including thye recognition of several individuals from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for their outstanding contributions to the national fire service, including Battalion Chief John Tippett, 'Fire Instructor of the Year' by the International Society of Fire Department Instructors and Assistant Chief Denise Rankin-Pouget, 'Safety Officer of the Year' by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and Fire Department Safety Officers Association. While the MCFRS was working to achieve Accreditation, the agency was presented with the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation (NFFF) 'Seal of Excellence' for not only being the first organization to institute all 16 Life-Safety Initiatives adopted by the NFFF, but also as being the largest agency to do so. The County Executive and Chief Carr commissioned a Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force report that was presented and led to 'SOS - Summer of Safety', a multi-faceted life-safety program for seniors. The MCFRS also became the first in the nation to acquire direct negotiations and collective bargaining for volunteers. Operationally, the fire code enforcement section received additional staffing, 'flex' EMS units were placed into service in strategic areas, emergency unit staffing is being enhanced, new fire and rescue apparatus has been and will be placed in service and several new fire stations are expected to be built.