Iowa City Fire Department reaccredited


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Despite a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to three years, one local emergency-response agency has been granted accreditation again to better respond to community’s risks.

The Iowa City Fire Department announced that it regained international accredited status last week through the Center for Public Safety Excellence and the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

While the department first became accredited in 2008, it is required to reapply every five years in order to keep the designation.

In addition, a department with the accreditation has to submit a report each year.

“It’s been a good opportunity to look at what we’re doing and what we can improve on,” Iowa City Fire Chief John Grier said. “The template includes what the top-tier fire departments are doing around the world.”

There are currently around 400 fire departments in the world registered through the commission’s program and are either internationally accredited or going through the process to become accredited.

Although going through the accreditation process is completely voluntary, it is strongly recommended to become accredited, said Paul Brooks, the executive director of Center for Public Safety Excellence, because it ensure that the department has sufficient amount of resources for the area’s population.

“It asks agencies to evaluate what they are doing, why they are doing it, how it is being done, and what can be done better,” he said. “It allows agencies to match resources with risks.”

The Iowa City, Davenport, and West Des Moines Fire Departments are currently the only three in the state that hold international accreditation.

Donald Cox, the fire chief of West Des Moines Fire Department said the city was the first department in the state of Iowa to become accredited in 2006.

“You are continually improving once you’re certified,” he said. “You can’t just rest on your laurels.”

The department, which primarily serves the growing city of nearly 60,000 residents, regained accreditation in 2011.

In order to become a contender for accreditation, fire departments must pass performance evaluations on several criteria, including essential and financial resources, governance, and goals and objectives.

After passing the evaluation process, to become accredited, departments have to go through self-assessment and must be reviewed by a peer review team. The peer review team is made up of volunteers that are from similar agencies and have similar experience and background to the agency they are reviewing.

“It’s not an easy process; there is rigor involved,” Brooks said. “[The fire departments] have to have commitment within the organization.”

The process is not only lengthy but can be considered pricey. The accreditation fees are based on a city’s population and can range from $6,000 to $11,000, Brooks said. Fire departments also have to pay for peer review groups, which can be from $5,000 to $6,000.

However, becoming internationally accredited is not for every fire department, especially volunteer fire departments. Because of the cost and the intense labor, some volunteer fire departments find it more difficult to become accredited, said Bill Schmooke, an assistant fire chief of North Liberty Fire Department.

“The process itself requires a lot more resources than average volunteer fire departments have,” he said. “An accreditation would be outside the realms of our budget.”

Greg Buelow, special-projects coordinator at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, said the city is seeking accreditation and has been going through the process for the past six months. Its goal is to hopefully become accredited in two to three years, he said.

“It’s going to be a lengthy process to become accredited,” Buelow said. “It’s a healthy process to reflect what we were doing right, to help us improve our efficiency, and help us provide a better level of service.”

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