The Houston Fire Department (HFD) has received Re-accredited Agency status with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) for meeting the criteria established through the CFAI’s voluntary self-assessment and re-accreditation program. The Houston Fire Department is one of over 200 agencies to achieve Internationally Accredited Agency status with the CFAI and the Center for Public Safety Excellence, Inc. (CPSE)
“The Houston Fire Department serves 2.2 million people within a 640 square mile area and is the largest accredited agency,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “ I am proud that HFD consistently achieves that status while utilizing strategic partnerships, innovation, best practices and shared sacrifice.”
CFAI is dedicated to assisting fire and emergency service agencies throughout the world in achieving excellence through self-assessment and accreditation in order to provide continuous quality improvement and the enhancement of service delivery to their communities. The CFAI process is voluntary, and provides an agency with an improvement model to assess their service delivery and performance internally and then works with a team of peers from other agencies to evaluate their completed self-assessment.
The HFD was first accredited by the CFAI on March 24, 2001, and has maintained accreditation status through the CFAI’s voluntary self-assessment and re-accreditation program conducted every five years.
Through this self-assessment process, which included a review of (43) criteria and (253) performance indicators, HFD staff members evaluated the operations of the department, identified its strengths and weaknesses, and developed a plan to improve areas that needed to be addressed.
“Like many top-performing, the Houston Fire Department is a dynamic, creative, and innovative organization that faces a wide array of challenges,” said CFAI Peer Team Leader Steve Olson, Retired Fire Chief of the Geneva, Illinois Fire Department. “It has used several strategies to meet the service demands of the community while working with fewer available resources.”
One of the examples the CFAI Peer Assessment Team gave of this creativity is the program known as ETHAN which is designed to treat non-emergent patients via a remote connection from the patients location to a medical coordinator in the 9-1-1 Center. In one year the program was able to successfully divert an estimated 6,000 patients from the EMS system to local clinics for treatment.
Through evaluation of the Houston Fire Department’s documents, interviews and direct observation, the peer team developed a series of recommendations designed to assist the HFD in the continual improvement process.
One area in particular that the team spent considerable time in observations and discussions was with the program managers involving call-processing. The team noted that overall processing time was extended when compared to accredited or similar sized agencies and developed recommendations toward reducing the overall time.
Consistent with the recommendations, the City has conducted several retraining sessions for the call-taking staff, work procedures have been modified and the individual work stations will be reconfigured to aid the telecommunicators in verifying the incident location.
The team observed the numerous and significant steps the Houston Fire Department took to prevent such tragic events following the four line of duty deaths from the “SW Inn Fire”. These steps included communications, field operations, and ICS procedures on department wide bases.
“The team commends the department and its members for the positive and aggressive manner in which it met this challenge,” said Peer Team Leader Olson.
Interim Fire Chief Rodney West stated that the Houston Fire Department’s achievement of Re-accredited Agency status “demonstrates the commitment of the department to provide the highest quality of service to our community.”
“We have also been able to use the Commission on Fire Accreditation International’s process as a proactive mechanism to plan the future of the Houston Fire Department and Identify areas where we can improve on the quality of the services we provided,” said West.
There are 220 agencies; including HFD accredited by the CFAI some which include: El Paso Fire Department, Plano Fire Department, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Atlanta Fire Department, Honolulu Fire Department, and Calgary Fire Department.