Center for Public Safety Excellence Reflects on 15th Anniversary

Randy Bruegman, president of the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), recently penned the following editorial reflecting on the upcoming 15th anniversary of the center’s inception and discussing its effects on firefighting and public safety.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of the Center for Public Safety Excellence, it is important to reflect on our achievements and recognize the influence that came from a single idea—when Chief Ron Coleman and a small group of fire chiefs had the vision for the development of a self-assessment process for the fire service in the mid-1980s. I don’t believe anyone back then would have imagined the number of significant industry-wide impacts that have resulted from that one idea.

Like the impeller of a pump, as the RPMs are increased, the velocity of the water leaving the center of the impeller is propelled with greater velocity and with farther reach. Such has been the case with the development of CPSE. The velocity that this one idea for a self-assessment process has created has fostered numerous other ideas. We have seen the maturation of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, which has produced its 8th edition of the Fire & Emergency Service Self-Assessment Manual and the 5th edition of Standards of Cover Manual. Today several hundred departments worldwide are engaged in the self-assessment process at some level, and this process has truly changed the terminology used in the industry—from standards of cover to business analytics and performance measurement. Self-assessment has definitely changed the fire service thought process and will continue to do so into the future.

While the vision may have been to create a more comprehensive way to evaluate fire agencies, the spinoffs that resulted from that one vision have been phenomenal. With the development of a self-assessment process that led to the creation of the CFAI, we have seen a genesis of a fire service thought process that is focused on continuous quality improvement and performance measurement, and a focus on the development of the talent that will be needed by our profession to be successful in the future.

When the CFAI was formed in 1996 and subsequently grew into the corporate structure of CPSE, it was already well underway to expanding its original mission of fire service accreditation to include the development of future fire service leaders and influencing the path that our industry would take in the next century. In just the last ten years, the creation of the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Designation, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Designation, Fire Officer (FO) Designation, and, most recently, Fire Marshal (FM) Designation, have clearly shown that CPSE is indeed vested in developing the talent needed for the future.

CPSE has also taken the lead on several joint ventures, expanding its influence in the fire service. Through the creation CFAI-Risk, a subsidiary of CPSE, several grants have been received for the ongoing firefighter safety and deployment project. For the first time, this important research brings together science and field experimentation to evaluate firefighting operations. This research has also found the need for the fire service to reengineer the collection and application of quality data to be used to make good analytic decisions; as a result, additional research is planned in this area. CFAI-Risk was recently awarded an additional grant to conduct experiments for high-rise scenarios and to evaluate the use of elevators in firefighting operations in these types of facilities. It’s this type of research that ultimately will be used in future standard-making processes, in updates of standards, and use at the local level in developing policy and procedures. It also provides a realistic platform for a local jurisdiction to evaluate the resources needed and determine what is the most effective means to control the risk in a community.

CPSE also created significant partnerships within our industry. Over the past two years we have created a relationship with the International Code Council (ICC) and the International Accreditation Service (IAS) to develop an accreditation process for the fire marshal’s office. We understand that prevention is a critical element in our ability to control our risk into the future. To do so, we need to ensure that we have quality processes and operations in place, as well as credentialed officers in positions of authority at the local level. The relationship with the Department of Defense (DoD) Emergency Services remains strong, with several DoD facilities having achieved agency accreditation and many more in the pipeline. The relationship with the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI) has led to a CPSE seat on the advisory committee and supporting their efforts in sharing the message of the fire service on Capitol Hill.

Most recently, we forged a relationship with the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for CPSE and its commissions and technical advisory program. CPSE is now one of four nodes on the Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, providing an opportunity for members of the CPSE family to purchase a personalized brick for themselves, their department, or someone who made a difference in their career. It is my hope that we’ll see several hundred bricks purchased for the CPSE node, collectively showing our support for the great work the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is doing.

Last, but certainly not least, is the emergence in the past few years of our Conference for Excellence. The planning is already underway for 2012, and each year’s conference has gotten better—more focused on providing real-world leadership training, which is so essential for navigating in these challenging times.

So what started 25 years ago as the vision of creating a self-assessment model has grown into a major influence in our industry today. I think it’s a great example of how one idea can spur so many great opportunities and be the genesis for industry-wide change.

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