BUCKHANNON — The City of Buckhannon has taken the first step toward pursuing accreditation for the city fire department through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
No other fire department in the state has achieved accreditation through the prestigious organization, more information about which is located at the www.cpse.org, or the Center for Public Safety Excellence, mayor David McCauley said at council’s regular meeting last Tuesday.
At the Tuesday meeting, fire chief Jim Townsend said that although the fire committee is now comprised of just council members, he would like to include himself and several other members of the fire department to glean input on the possibility of the fire department working to attain accreditation through the highly competitive process outline by CFAI.
McCauley instructed Townsend to return to council at its meeting in September with possible members of a steering committee.
“Then, we can say, ‘Well, that’s your steering committee,’” McCauley said. “We’re setting the bar high with these accreditation efforts and the fact that there are only three cities pursuing accreditation in all of West Virginia for the police department and no one — not a single one — in West Virginia is pursuing it from the fire perspective.
“That’s going to say something about this effort if we’re going to be serious about it,” the mayor added. “We’re setting the bar for all the communities around us, that’s for sure.”
Townsend outlined the costs of accreditation for council’s benefit, saying that just registering for an opportunity to apply for accreditation through CFAI is $570.
“That gets us into the network, a newsletter and probably the most important thing is, we actually get the self-assessment manual and community risk assessment and standards of cover, and those are the kind of issues that are implicated in ISO, so there’s kind of an interweaving there.”
Townsend reported that to officially apply for accreditation, the city would need to fork out $4,850, which would grant the fire department 18 months to complete its application for accreditation. Many departments do require 12-month extensions, which would then cost another $2,500.
“It’s very extensive, and a lot of departments do end up extending, but our goal would be not to, but it can happen,” the fire chief said.
Additionally, during the “candidate phase” – which is when the on-site peer assessment is conducted – fire departments are advised to budget $6,000, Townsend added. That’s in addition to paying out $1,000 a year to maintain accreditation, he said.
McCauley replied, “We’re not talking about tens of thousands of dollars. We’re talking about $10,000 to $12,000 a year and then $1,000 a year to maintain this full professional accreditation if we’re fortunate enough and diligent enough to attain it.”
Townsend observed that “there’s no guarantee” that the BFD would achieve accreditation, even if it pays the $4,800.
“It doesn’t give you the accreditation,” he said. “You have the opportunity to be evaluated.”
Councilman CJ Rylands asked Townsend if he believed applying for accreditation would benefit the BFD and the community.
Townsend said reactions among the staff have been “mixed,” with some firefighters thinking it might be wise to analyze other departments out of state that are roughly the same size as the BFD and then making a decision on the matter at the next budgeting session in 2018.
McCauley suggested council proceed with at least paying the $570 to receive the self-assessment manual since the item was on the agenda for possible action at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Why don’t we hit the ground running with this, appropriate the $570, get the self-assessment manual, start the process … and go forth with it,” the mayor said.
City recorder Susan Aloi asked Townsend if his staffs’ concerns were related to time and monetary resources.
Townsend replied, “It’s actually if there’s (CFAI’s) recommendations to spend gobs of money, and we don’t get accreditation unless we do it. There’s no guarantee of accreditation.”
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh asked Townsend if he thought it was a good idea.
“Chief, I’m just going to say this from Mary … Do you want this? Do you think it’s good for our fire department? For our community?”
Townsend replied, “I think it’s good for both — there’s just some concerns about revenue. It’s a good road to success.”
McCauley said concerns about having to spend “gobs” of money — for instance, to upgrade fire trucks — could be addressed further down the road.
“We’re kind of jumping three steps ahead in anticipation that we need more revenue,” McCauley said. “I’m not prepared to say that yet. Part of the self-assessment exercise will help flesh that out as to whether we need to do that.”
Albaugh made a motion to expend the initial $570, which was seconded by councilwoman Pam Cuppari before passing unanimously.
According to www.cpse.org, “accreditation is a comprehensive self-assessment and quality improvement model that enables organizations to examine past, current and future service levels and internal performance and compare them to current research and industry best practices.”
In other business, Aloi administered the official oath for probationary firefighters John Brugnoli, a graduate of Richwood High School, and Tanner Smith, a graduate of Meadville High School in Meadville, Pa.