Category: CPSE Exchange

CPSE Exchange Session 2020-4

CPSE hosts a weekly forum among agencies in the CFAI accreditation process and officers that hold a CPC designation bringing together the most progressive fire and emergency service departments and officers in the world. During CPSE Exchange, attendees learn from each other.
The event is a facilitated, attendee-driven, information sharing session. Here is a summary of the forum held on June 17, 2020.
How is your agency tracking confirmed/potential COVID-19 exposures?
All of the participants indicated they were pursuing similar paths concerning tracking the number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations versus the number of patients reporting one or more symptoms of the virus. As an example, Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue reported they have been successful in gathering information from the State of Maryland Health Department and then cross-checking that against their records management system. They have been able to identify those incidents in which the field responders had a potential exposure and the responders are then notified via email of their potential exposure. To date, the department has transported more than 1,400 Covid-19 positive patients.
The Everett (WA) Fire Department has been tracking similarly and has internally used the word “contact” for those incidents in which the field responders treat/transport a COVID-19 positive patient and are wearing the appropriate PPE, and the word “exposure” as those incidents in which the field responders have patient contact but are not wearing any or the incorrect (as defined by the department SOG) level of PPE. Any employee with an exposure is quarantined at home and is checked on each day by a member of the department staff via telephone call.
The Edmonton (AB) Fire Rescue Services provides only BLS-level service as the ALS transport service is provided by the province. The organization, however, tracks all categories and classifications of responses on a daily and monthly basis. Currently they are examining the rate of increase in service requests vs past performance that is, in effect, triggered by the increase in the number of people working from home.
The Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire Department has reported a decrease in the number of EMS service requests, but an increase in the number of critical care responses such as cardiac or respiratory arrests. The staff believes this is a result of residents being reluctant to enter a hospital due to the concern of a potential exposure to Coviod-19. Thus, they are waiting until the medical condition has worsened to the point it can no longer be tolerated by the patient and requires more aggressive treatment modalities.
How is your agency measuring the impact of COVID-19 on your community?
The Everett (WA) Fire Department is examining the financial impact concerning the rate and amount of spending on equipment for Covid-19. They too are tracking the rate of exposure/symptoms among their employees as well as for the presence of antibodies based on a previous exposure.
How is your agency measuring the impact of COVID-19 on your Agency?
Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue has worked closely with their Health Department tracking:

Hospital utilization, ER admissions versus ICU bed availability
Exposure rates between the state and county levels, vs number of transported patients
The number of hours employees are off duty due to exposure or infection but there have not been many exposures to date.

Like Montgomery, the Everett (WA) Fire Department is tracking the rate of infections versus death. Additionally, the department is examining the positivity-rate based on the testing to separate the rate of infections vs the rate of identified infections. 
The Houston (TX) Fire Department reported that it has been tracking the use of PPE (masks and gowns) to ensure they maintain sufficient supplies.
How is your agency measuring the effectiveness of your COVID-19 related policies and procedures?
None of the agencies are currently engaged in such an effort. One commented that it is difficult to reliably measure something that does not occur.
What policies had to be established, did they work?
New Hanover (NC) County Fire Rescue reported they monitor how often the screening done in the 911 center identifies a Covid-19 patient versus what responders have found upon their arrival.
How is your agency planning on using the data and information collected during COVID-19?
The Houston (TX) Fire Department staff are in the planning development stage for a survey regarding the effectiveness of their recently implemented policies and field operations. They want to determine if the resources that were provided were sufficient to meet the challenge. The goal is to use the information to update and/or develop action plans for future pandemics.
The Everett (WA) Fire Department plans to share their aggregated data with the community to ensure there is open communication with the taxpayers. Given the likelihood of significant budget impacts across the public sector, helping the community to understand not only the impact on their lives and private business but also upon the essential services provided by their local government. 

Professional Development and Credentialing Within the Fire Service

Chief Josh Waldo, CFO, CTO, FM

by Chief Josh Waldo, CFO, CTO, FM
Quality training programs are one of the highest priorities in any fire department, as organizations look to ensure that members are prepared for the daily challenges and demands of the job.
Departments use a variety of different training programs, ranging from in-service training exercises to 400-hour academies, to maintain member proficiency. Many of these same departments also push for their employees to obtain certifications via agencies, such as Pro Board and the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), to provide training validation, but this still leaves multiple opportunities for growth and development on the table.
One common question asked by fire service members is, what do I need to do to progress in my organization? Many people point to certifications and experience, but do those elements accurately prepare members for the next step in their career? Do members of your organization have a clear road map to follow for their professional development? If so, does the current road map encourage and challenge members to continue to work toward being a true fire service professional? Having a clearly developed professional development plan helps members track their personal growth with clear expectations that they can follow throughout their career.
Why Seek Credentials?
If your organization is in the process of developing a professional development plan or wants to improve on an existing plan, adding professional credentialing is a must. Credentialing recognizes individuals who fulfill prescribed standards of performance, ethics and conduct, and who demonstrate a high level of competence, as witnessed by their peers, through documentation of professional, educational, technical and community service achievements. Different from completing a training course or passing a certification exam, credentialing evaluates a member’s overall body of work as a professional. For fire service professionals, the most recognized and respected credentialing body is the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) which provides internationally recognized, third-party verification of professional competence in fire and emergency services. Unlike IFSAC and Pro Board certifications, where acceptance varies from state to state and one organization to another, CPSE Professional Credentialing is recognized by both the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) as the gold standard for fire service professionals.
The ICMA states that “professional designations were developed to help advance professionalism via an extensive application process in which candidates demonstrate competency in various areas by detailing their training, education, experience, technical competencies, professional contributions, associations, memberships, and community involvement in a portfolio or application.”
The CPSE CPC offers five different professional designations for fire service professionals:

Chief Fire Officer (CFO)
Chief Training Officer (CTO)
Chief EMS Officer (CEMSO)
Fire Marshal (FM)
Fire Officer (FO)

Each of the professional designations requires the completion of a candidate portfolio that is submitted to the CPSE where it is then forwarded on to peers for review. The peer reviewers evaluate the candidate portfolio, conduct interviews with candidates and forward recommendations to the 11-member CPC Commission, which makes the final award determinations. Different from most other training or certifications in the fire service, CPSE professional designations have a three-year renewal process, thus requiring designees to continue to work on their professional development in multiple areas.
A Starting Point
A firefighter who’s looking to grow and develop in their organization could start their path by applying for the fire officer (FO) designation. The FO designation is open to all company-level officers, junior officers and above who have supervisory responsibilities, and to those who have served in an intermittent acting status for a minimum of 12 months. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements in order to apply for any designation, but for the FO designation, items such as secondary education degrees, academic certificates and the IFSAC/PRO Board certifications help candidates meet minimum requirements. The designation process also requires that applicants be active in professional organizations, such as the IAFC, NFPA, ICC or ISFSI, just to name a few.
Community involvement is assessed in the application process and can include items like school PTAs, sports programs, volunteer organizations and other functions or activities that get candidates involved in their community. These pieces of an applicant’s portfolio, along with the addition of training, certification and experience, present a more well-rounded individual than someone who completed a single training exercise or obtained a single certification. Incorporating the credentialing process into not only the organizational professional development plan but also the promotional process will help strengthen these processes and the organization.
Other Options for Growth
Although the FO designation is the starting point, there’s more room for growth in the CPC model, as people progress in their career, depending on the path they choose. Whether a member decides to pursue passions in prevention, training, EMS or other chief-level positions, the CPC process offers designations that can guide members through each area of interest. Each designation has some specific requirements, but the overall process remains the same and again requires the three-year renewal to evaluate continued growth.
Dealing with Disequilibrium
Incorporating the CPSE CPC process into your professional development or promotional processes may create some disequilibrium among some of your organizational members, because it is a change, and the process may be unfamiliar to them. From past experience, when I added the CPSE CPC process to my previous department’s professional development plan, I experienced some push-back from members who were concerned about a professional designation carrying more weight in promotions than other areas, such as training and experience. Adding the CPSE CPC process requires education that explains that professional designations are issued based on training and experience, along with many other aspects.
Return on Investment
After completing the education segment with members and getting the process going, the return on investment can be tremendous. In my experience with implementing the CPSE CPC process, I saw many members become re-engaged in their professional development plan; as a result, the number of certified Fire Officer I members increased from 16 to 34, and the number of certified Fire Officer II members increased from zero to 12, all within an 18-month period. This re-engagement was primarily sparked by members who began working on obtaining their professional designation.
Re-energizing people and giving them something to work toward helped the department add 15 professional designations among 13 people in three years, with several more in the works. Growth and development are an all-time high in my organization – and it all started when my department added the CPC process to the plan.
Fire service members, by their competitive nature, want to be successful and considered professionals in their field; providing them with the proper guidance and direction is sometimes all they are missing. The CPSE CPC process gives members a goal to work toward, and the return on investment for your organization easily justifies investing the time and resources to complete the process.
Additional Benefits
The process of adding professional credentialing to your professional development and promotional plans will have an immediate impact on organizational members and their future growth. Additional benefits of this implementation include members serving as mentors to other department members who are seeking professional designations, and the overall increase in professionalism throughout your organization results in better succession planning options.
Rise to Meet Expectations
As the expectations and demands for the fire service profession continue to evolve, the expectations of future leaders must adapt to meet those new challenges. The days of Fire Officer I certifications being the standard for leaders are fading fast; communities today expect professional leaders for their organizations. The CPSE CPC has developed the process that provides direction and validation for current and future leaders of the fire service. The next step for your organization to excel is to adopt the CPSE CPC process into your organization.

Josh Waldo, CFO, CTO, FM, is a 15-year student of the fire service, currently serving as the fire chief in Bozeman, Montana.  Waldo is a triple designee via the CPSE CPC and is a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. Waldo holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and has presented programs at national conferences such as CPSE Excellence Events, Firehouse Expo, Fire-Rescue International and the ISFSI.

CPSE Learning Opportunities

On Demand Webinars

Resource Documents

Upcoming Webinars

QITA Workshops

At the Center for Public Safety Excellence® (CPSE®) we are excited to bring you the latest learning opportunities to advance your department and career.
Over the past couple of months CPSE has been busy building out resources in the CPSE University. We encourage you to take the time to access these free resources.

On-Demand Accreditation Webinars
Creating a Strategic Plan NEW – A webinar explaining the creation of a community-driven strategic plan.
Writing the Four-Part Answer – A webinar explaining development of the four-part answer for the self-assessment manual.
Performance Statements – A webinar explaining development of performance statements.

Click here to view

Resource Documents
Annual Appraisals – A handout to assist with developing annual appraisals.
Critical Tasking – A handout to aid in conducting critical tasking for all emergency response types.
Fire Department Strategic Plans and Community Master Plans: Are They The Same? NEW– A handout comparing and contrasting fire department strategic plans and community master plans.
Engaging Stakeholders – A handout explaining how to engage stakeholders in the CRA/SOC process.
Performance Statements – A handout outlining how to develop performance statements.
Writing the Four-Part Answer NEW – A handout explaining development of the four-part answer for the self-assessment manual.
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Upcoming Webinars
These live webinars are available at no cost and feature helpful advice from CPSE 2020 sponsors. Look for new sessions to be added in the coming weeks.
Becoming a Data-Driven Department – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Presented by Intterra June 24, 1400-1500 EDT Register
Leveraging NFORS Data During Accreditation and Beyond Presented by IPSDIJuly 8, 1100-1200 EDTRegister
Your Journey to Accreditation Made Simpler Presented by DeccanJuly 21, 1200-1300 EDT Register
DoD and Civilian Perspectives on Data Management for Accreditation Success Presented by Emergency ReportingAugust 5, 1300-1400 EDTRegister

Quality Improvement Through Accreditation (QITA)
Reduced Cost – For the remainder of 2020 a single registration is $625. Add a second registration from your department and receive a 25% discount off that registration.
August 31-September 2Breckenridge, ColoradoInstructor – Joe Powers Register
September 9-11Washington Township (Dayton), OhioInstructor – Tom O’Brien Register
September 22-24Temple, Texas Instructor – Joe PowersRegister
October 6-8Fairfax City, VirginiaInstructor – Steve OlsonRegister
October 13-15 – NEWPinehurst, NCInstructor: Tom O’BrienRegister
October 20-22Canton, GeorgiaInstructor – Ernst PiercyRegister
For questions or assistance contact info@cpse.org or 703-691-4620.

CPSE Exchange Session 2020-3

CPSE hosts a weekly forum among agencies in the CFAI accreditation process and officers that hold a CPC designation bringing together the most progressive fire and emergency service departments and officers in the world. During CPSE Exchange, attendees learn from each other.
The event is a facilitated attendee-driven info sharing session. Here is a summary of the forum held on June 10, 2020.
Has your agency implemented dispatch screening processes for COVID-19?
The Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue agency considered the guidance for screening callers provided by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch when assessing their current call handling procedures. The overarching goal was to provide current and specific information to responding field personnel as they assessed the need to wear PPE. At the outset of the pandemic, the department had a cache of PPE but, like many fire departments, it was encountering difficulty in restocking those supplies. The screening process was, in part, an effort to stretch out the existing cache of PPE until more could be purchased.
Initially, there were two screening questions, “Does anyone in the home have flu-like symptoms?” and “Has anyone in the home been diagnosed with Covid-19?”. The department is currently reviewing its initial approach to the pandemic and, in comparing the patient symptoms on arrival against their eventual diagnosis through the use of public health agency records, they have determined they missed about 50 percent of those patients with Covid-19 symptoms. In other words, the screening questions were not as effective in identifying potential Covid-19 patients as was hoped. Overall, the changes in call processing resulted in an increase of 40 seconds to the process.
The Houston (TX) Fire Department reported that it had modified its call processing process to include a question regarding recent travel by the patient.
How has COVID-19 affected HIPAA compliance in your agency?
The Houston Fire Department reported that compliance with HIPAA was not as much an issue as was the frequency of changes in the guidance issued by federal and state health agencies. This required frequent changes in the operating protocols and increased efforts to keep responders up to date with the changes. The agency’s medical director has uploaded the policies and protocols for Covid-19 response to the agency website at the following address: https://www.hfdmd.org/coronavirus-information/memorandums-documentation/
Montgomery County Fire & Rescue reported the pandemic impacted the ability of the EMS personnel to collect the signature of potentially infected patients. A larger issue for the organization, however, was the request by the collective bargaining unit (CBU) that it be informed when a unit member was exposed to a patient with a confirmed case of Covid-19. The agency eventually reached a resolution that provided the CBU with aggregated data of those cases in place of specific patient names, locations, or incident numbers.
What service delivery and clinical changes has your agency implemented due to COVID-19?
The Fairmount (CO) Fire Protection District reported the change in their culture of rapid service delivery has seen the most significant change. They explained that a response to a potential Covid-19 patient can take on the characteristics of a response to a hazardous materials incident in that units and employees respond in a measured and deliberate manner. They assess the situation, then the EMS responders form an “entry team” by wearing the appropriate level of PPE, they then  access the location, and finally they assess the patient. This has required a change in the mindset of the field personnel and has required monitoring to ensure they follow the new procedures.
A second clinical impact has been the need to decontaminate the medic units on a more frequent basis. This has required finding the appropriate equipment and procedures, training the employees in the process, and monitoring compliance. 
The Houston Fire Department reported it has changed its protocols to reduce, to the greatest degree possible, the frequency of contact with the patient by its responding employees.
Montgomery County Fire & Rescue reported that to keep the field responders up to date on changes to operating procedures and protocols the fire chief issued a general order requiring all employees to read the organization’s “Daily Briefing.” This was in reaction to the scope and frequency of the changes in their protocols and procedures. Follow this link to view an example: https://mcfrseidinfo.wordpress.com/
Like many fire departments that deliver EMS treat and transport services, Montgomery reported the daily request for EMS services has decreased since approximately the beginning of March 2020 and continues through today.
In the early stages of the pandemic in the United States, the department looked to the experience of the New York Fire Department (FDNY) to project the potential impact upon their existing resources. This may not have been as predictive of the eventual impact as they had hoped. During the peak rate of infections, the area hospitals were nearly overloaded. The department worked with those providers and the 9-1-1 Center was eventually given real-time access to the patient counts/bed availability. The supervisors in the Center used this information to direct transporting Montgomery County units to facilities that had the available patient capacity.
The staff is currently reviewing the steps that were taken since the inception of the pandemic to determine what worked and what did not work to provide effective services to the community.
Have any agencies implemented telemedicine type services in place of traditional EMS service?
The Houston Fire Department has had the ETHAN – Emergency Tele-Health and Navigation program in place for several years and reported that it has been invaluable over the last several months. Follow the link for more information: http://www.houstontx.gov/council/committees/pshs/20140821/ethan.pdf
What is your agency doing now to prepare for the strain on EMS services that may occur this Fall with the regular flu season coupling with a potential COVID-19 resurgence?
Montgomery County Fire & Rescue said the value of the relationships it has been able to establish with both public health agencies and local hospital staffs had a positive impact on its operations. They want to strengthen them in preparations for a second wave, should it occur. They also reported a clinical measure their field staff has reported from Covid-19 patient transports that might be a predictor for Covid-19 exposure and that is a pulse oximeter reading of less than 94 percent.
The Fairmount Fire Protection District observed that much of what they developed at the outset remains in place. The challenge for the organization is to keep them in place, in practice, and ensure the employees do not “let their guard down.

CPSE Exchange Session 2020-2

CPSE hosts a weekly online forum among agencies in the CFAI accreditation process and officers that hold a CPC designation, bringing together the most progressive fire and emergency service departments and officers in the world. During CPSE Exchange, attendees learn from each other.
The event is a facilitated attendee-driven info sharing session. Here is a summary of the forum held on June 3, 2020.
What specific budget direction has your agency received and how are you responding to it?
The Rockford (IL) Fire Department reported that its city government started assessing its financial situation approximately 30 days ago and it is projecting a budget deficit range of $12 – $18 million dollars for the current fiscal year. The mayor has established a task force consisting of management and labor representatives and charged it to review all city operations and identify operational efficiencies that might work to reduce the depth of the gap. In the longer term, planned capital expenditures have been deferred and the city council has been asked to consider what programs it is willing to pause, reduce, or eliminate.
The Snoqualmie (WA) Fire Department reported their community has been financially affected by two external forces, the Coronavirus and the loss of a planned, private sector-funded, development project that was projected to be a significant revenue source for the community. The city budget is approximately $40 million, and the individual departments have been tasked with finding $500,000 in expenditure reductions. Additionally, open positions will remain vacant until further notice and the department is considering the use of part-time positions as an alternative.
The Shawnee (KS) Fire Department has recently learned that it, as well as its fellow city departments, is facing budget cuts. They do not know the scope at this time, but three new fulltime positions slated to be filled later this year have been placed on hold with no date set for when they can be funded. Other immediate reductions have occurred in the budget accounts for overtime, clothing, and professional services.
The city of St. Albert (AB) Fire Services in Canada reported that their community has instituted across the board budgetary reductions of 2 percent.
Is your agency considering any alternative revenue strategies?
The City of Snoqualmie is considering a levy increase of 0.02 percent of 1 percent sales tax initiative to support its street repair fund. This would allow the shifting of budget dollars used for that fund back into the general fund that, in turn, supports a variety of city department operations. The fire department is reviewing its current fee structure for ambulance transports and is investigating the possibility of charging for such services as vehicle extrication and cleaning up the incident scene following a vehicle accident. Two other options the department described as “long shots” were the creation of an EMS Utility Fund, similar to an enterprise fund structure that is frequently used to operate water distribution systems and wastewater treatment operations, and the creation of a fire protection district for the area served by the fire department but outside the city borders.
Another agency participating in this Exchange suggested Snoqualmie investigate the fire authority structure rather than a fire district as there are different funding options available to an authority that may be beneficial.
St. Albert Fire Services reported they are currently reviewing all their fee structures to ensure they remain competitive to the surrounding “market” and effectively cover their operational costs directly attributable to a particular fee.
The Shawnee Fire Department reported that it has enacted a cost-recovery fee structure for false activation of commercial fire alarms. On average, the department annually responds to about 450 of these types of alarms.
What adjustments to service might your agency make to offset declining revenues?
Spokane Valley Fire Department had planned to conduct a recruit fire academy with 14 students, all of which would be hired by the department following the completion of the course. That is now deferred. Additionally, the department had planned to stand up a second Alternative Response Unit for low acuity EMS-related requests and staffed with two employees. That has been deferred as well.
The town of Cary (NC) Fire Department reported that all city departments are evaluating their current service delivery programs to identify budget reductions. At this point, nothing specific has been identified.
Is your agency submitting any grant applications?
The Shawnee Fire Department has partnered with the Shawnee Police Department to file a Department of Justice grant to fund the replacement of PPE for both agencies. The grant also includes a cabinet that uses ultraviolet light to decontaminate equipment and a 3D printer to manufacture certain components related to the use of PPE.
The Spokane Valley Fire Department reported they had partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and a private company for the company to purchase a trailer for the department rather than pay a fine to the EPA and are now applying for a separate grant to equip the unit. They are also applying to FEMA to cover overtime and equipment costs related to responding to Covid-19 related incidents.
The Pflugerville (TX) Fire Department reported they had obtained grant funding through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Medicare Providers for EMS transport, and have submitted under an application for FEMA AFG Supplemental funding, and are working on a funding application under the HHS Uninsured Patient Program. They plan on submitting a FEMA Public Assistance application at the end of COVID event response for umbrella funding to cover employee costs, PPE, non-congregate housing, and an alternate care site. They are hoping to recover up to 40 percent of their operating costs. They also reported that they have found it difficult to navigate the grant writing, tracking, and compliance aspects of the projects.
NOTE: Check with your finance department to learn if it or an employee of the department is a member of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). The department reports the weekly membership newsletter distributed by the GFOA has been valuable in summarizing grant availability. www.gfoa.org/
What budget impacts will your agency face in the next fiscal year?
The Snoqualmie Fire Department reported that budget discussions have started earlier than in past years with the initial meetings involving the departments explaining their services. The fire chief commented that due to the work the department has done to become accredited and continually improve, the Council has a good understanding of the department and its performance objectives. Overall, the city is considering a flat to negative budget in the coming fiscal years and is hoping to negotiate a zero increase in wages with the recognized bargaining units. Those employees that are under a performance-based compensation system are unlikely to see increases in the coming year.
The Shawnee Fire Department had planned to introduce an expansion of their EMS program to include advanced life support services, but reported the initiative is delayed for at least 12 months. Additionally, the introduction of a drone program and the replacement of a heavy rescue squad have been deferred for the time being. The operating budget has seen reductions in the vehicle maintenance/repairs line item and the addition of a third fire prevention inspector has been shelved for the foreseeable future.
The new budget of the New Hanover County (NC) Rescue is flat over the previous year. The greatest concern is sales tax revenue, which comprises approximately 40 percent of the operating budget. One full-time position in the training division has been eliminated, but certain capital expenditures such as funding for land acquisition for a fire station remain.

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