By Jeff Martin -
Posted Jun 05, 2008 @ 10:30 AM
Blue Springs, MO — The Central Jackson County Fire Protection District has reached operational milestones before, but accreditation could very well be the mountaintop that personnel has been climbing for years.
Fire officials at CJC haven’t been accredited yet, but they expect formal recognition from the Center for Public Safety Excellence in August, the organization that administers the process.
“The whole process is about taking an in-depth look at the organization and trying to make it better, more efficient,” Todd Farley, assistant chief, said. “CJC is already at the top of its game, but there are always ways to improve.”
Once recognized, CJC will be one of two fire departments in the Kansas City metro area to be accredited. The other, the Lenexa Fire Department, was accredited a few years ago. Two other fire departments in the St. Louis area also are accredited.
What’s impressive is that CJC will become one of only 160 fire departments nationwide to be accredited.
So what is accreditation?
It’s a means by which the CFAI “measures the effectiveness and efficiency of a department by determining community risks and fire safety needs, accurately evaluating the organization’s performance, and providing a method for continuous improvement,” according to the organization’s Web site.
The method is critical for departments that serve growing areas. Both Blue Springs and Grain Valley have demonstrated during the last 20 years that they are growing at significant rates, so much so that CJC is looking to expand its current number of fire stations from five to six, with a new station expected to be built in Grain Valley in the future.
While many of the areas for improvement were routine, one area remains a top priority: staff levels and the amount of staff who are on site during a call within the initial minutes of the emergency.
“We’re a bit behind in that area,” Chief Steve Westermann said. “It’s always been a focus of ours and will remain so. But overall, the accreditation shows our successes, of which we have many.”
Many of the anticipated recommendations from CFAI are not criticisms or blatant deficiencies; in CJC’s case, the department had already been working on targeted issues for some time.
“They’re recommendations, reminders to the department to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Farley said.
One area that the department continues to improve upon is the Officer’s Development Training program, which teaches personnel how to assume duties and responsibilities of other personnel. That program started earlier this year.
Also, CJC continues to search for land in the Blue Springs area that will accommodate a new training facility, another suggestion in the forthcoming report.
Firefighter Jason Bonney was taken off rotation about three years ago to work as accreditation manager, and his work involved forming a strategic plan, detailing risk analysis of the community, charting standards of coverage that define how and in what time frame the fire department responds to emergencies, and a self-assessment manual which included information on all 254 indicators.
And yet for all of CJC’s accomplishments (for instance, CJC is one of few departments that offer training in critical care for EMT personnel), there is still a wide range of residents who don’t even know who their fire department is.
It’s a possible indication that CJC needs to get the word out.
During a recent citizen’s survey, a large percentage said they thought the Blue Springs and Grain Valley fire departments served them.
“There is that big misconception and lack of understanding,” Farley said. “There’s no such thing as a Blue Springs or Grain Valley department. It’s the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District.”