27 June 2023

Accredited Fire Agency: Everything You Need To Know!

If there’s one thing we love about fire services (and emergency services as a whole), it’s the constant push to be the best possible version of ourselves. From individuals all the way up to the organizational level, we all want to get faster, stronger, smarter, and better for our communities. One sure fire (sorry for the pun) way to do that is by becoming an accredited fire agency!

So, before we jump into how to get the process started, why would you want to become accredited in the first place?

Why Become An Accredited Fire Agency?

We’re not going to lie to you, the process isn’t just a matter of filling out a few forms and waiting for the thumbs up. There is some hard work that has to be put in, as with almost anything worth doing. Some benefits and value that agencies receive once they become accredited include:

  • Achieve greater community alignment
  • Encourages quality improvement
  • Allows for stronger communication and helps build a positive relationship with labour
  • Helps you figure out where exactly your strengths and weaknesses lie as an organization
  • Will give a heading so you can plan for improvement
  • Gives you the data needed for critical decision-making
  • Build and communicate your organization’s leadership and management philosophies
  • Create and define clear missions and objectives
  • Encourages the development of procedural documents for your organization

Becoming An Accredited Fire Agency

Through a process of agency self-assessment, training, and peer assessment, you will work towards becoming an accredited agency. The time needed to achieve accreditation varies by organization, factoring in things like team size, expertise, and more. However, agencies have reported spending around 2,000 hours preparing documents, and a following 13,000 hours addressing the things they learned in the self-assessment. According to the Center for Public Safety Excellence, agencies generally take around 3 to 5 years to complete the process.

The process breaks down like this:

Step 1: Familiarization

This is where you get familiar with the process before actually starting it. You can attend a training that is held around 20 times a year, visit online resource libraries, and more.

Step 2: Registering

This is really the start of the process. It includes comping the registration form, paying a fee ($615), watching orientation, and assigning an accreditation manager. You will also gain access to special publications, training, and full access to the online learning platform. This stage is valid for 3 years, though you can renew as many times as you need.

Step 3: Application

There are a few things to be done in this stage but the main 3 are completing the Community Risk Assessment, Community-Driven Strategic Plan, and Self-Assessment Manual documents. This stage is valid for 18 months (2 years for volunteer agencies) and can be extended 12 months, but only three times.

Step 4: Candidacy

Once you declare candidacy, a peer team will conduct onsite visits, validate your documents, and develop an accreditation report. That report will be presented during a public hearing where a vote will take place to grant your accreditation status.

Step 5: Remaining Accredited

Accreditation is valid for 5 years, at which time you will need to repeat step 4, along with submitting an annual compliance report and fee (based on population size of served area).

Want to learn more about accreditation? How about straight from one of the few Canadian Fire Chiefs who has actually done it? Check out the latest episode of Conquering Chaos and Mayhem!

This week’s pod welcomes North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service Chief, Brian Hutchinson, who has a fairly unique accomplishment under his belt: he leads one of the few accredited fire services in Canada! “As a fire service agency, if you think that status quo is going to work in this day and age, you are sadly mistaken!”