Fort McCoy Fire Department works toward international accreditation
Adam Ballard (right), deputy fire chief, and David Biondi, fire chief for Fort McCoy, brief (left to right) Ronnie Raper, Brian Besson, and Darrin Hill of an international accreditation team about the Fort McCoy Fire Department operations.

FORT McCOY, Wis. -- The Fort McCoy Fire Department has completed nearly all requirements necessary to become one of the very few Army Fire Departments to earn international fire department accreditation.

A Peer Assessment Team representing the Commission of Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) conducted an on-site visit at the installation from June 4-8. Fire Department Chief David Biondi said the team members verified and validated the department's self-assessment manual and is recommending the Fort McCoy Fire Department for accredited status to the CFAI commission, which will meet in Denver in early August.

"We're pursuing accreditation to be among the best-of-the-best fire departments in the Department of Defense and in the Army," Biondi said. "We want to be sure we are providing the best service to our customers. It's a fantastic learning tool to achieve excellence in our business practices."

Deputy Fire Chief Adam Ballard, the department's accreditation manager, said the fire department volunteered to seek accreditation. Ballard and Biondi likened the process to other industries that seek accreditation, such as hospitals, schools and airports. People are more likely to feel comfortable and have confidence in organizations that are accredited knowing that they are in line with industry best practices, they said.

"The accreditation process is all about dedication to continuous improvement, conforming to fire department best practices and thriving for excellence," Ballard said. "The process also enables us to offer better emergency services to the Fort McCoy community and mutual-aid partners."

Biondi said the department began the accreditation process two-and-one-half years ago.

"It was a hard task to get everything in order," he said. "We decided even if we ultimately didn't get accredited it still would make us a better department, able to provide better services to our customers. We learned a lot from the process, and this puts us on the path to excellence."

The process included the completion of a detailed Standards of Cover/Risk Assessment, Strategic Plan and comprehensive self-assessment manual that spanned 10 categories, such as governance/administration, financial resources, external relations and other fire department programs, he said.

After submitting the self-assessment manual and other required documents, the department entered the candidate phase with the CFAI team visit to Fort McCoy to verify and validate the information in the documents. Biondi said interviews were conducted with department staff and with representatives of on-post organizations that interact with the department.

Other Army installations to gain accreditation, to date, are Rock Island, Ill., Fort Lee, Va., and Fort Drum, N.Y.

The city of La Crosse also has begun the self-assessment phase of the process, Biondi said. Fort McCoy will share the knowledge it has gained through the process with all of its neighbors, such as the Sparta and Tomah fire departments, with which it has mutual-aid agreements in place.

Biondi added the use of the fire department's skills, knowledge and technology to support the surrounding communities is in keeping with the Army Community Covenant.

If the Peer Assessment Team recommendation is upheld by the commission in early August, the installation will have to submit annual compliancy reports and go through the reaccreditation process in five years, Biondi said.

In the meantime, the department will continue to seek out opportunities to improve its methods and customer service.

Page last updated Thu June 21st, 2012 at 00:00