National Fire Services Office



Seeking accreditation?

Our staff is very effective at writing Standards of Cover documents! 

Why would a fire department want to conduct an evaluation of its fire service program? According to the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) there are four major reasons:

1. To help a fire department that is trying to cope with change;
2. To provide for periodic organizational evaluation to ensure effectiveness;
3. To provide information when there is a change in leadership whether it is the fire chief, city or county manager or key elected officials; and
4. To raise the level of professionalism within the organization, and ultimately, within the profession.

CFAI further describes the benefits of an accreditation program as including:

· The promotion of excellence within the fire and emergency services;
· Encouraging quality improvement through a continuous self-assessment process;
· Providing assurance to peers and the public that the organization has defined missions and objectives that are appropriate for the jurisdictions it serves;
· Providing a detailed evaluation of a department and the services it provides to the community;
· Identifying areas of strength and weakness within a department;
· Developing a method or system to address deficiencies and build on organizational success;
· Professional growth for a department as well as its personnel involved in the self-assessment process;
· Creating a forum for communicating organizational priorities;
· Achieving international recognition for a department by peers and the public;
· Creating a mechanism for developing concurrent documents, including strategic and program action plans; and
· Fostering pride in the organization from department members, community leaders, and citizens.

Fire department accreditation is a growing trend across America. Accreditation is a way to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of a fire department by determining specific community risks and needs, accurately evaluating the department’s performance, and providing a methodology for continuous improvement. Measuring professionalism and service delivery capabilities of fire and emergency services is a new concept for most communities.

Every day fire chiefs and elected officials are faced with making decisions about fire protection and emergency medical services for their communities. Because of the current economic times there is a great deal of pressure to do more things with less money, so most policy makers are hard pressed to justify increasing expenditures unless they can be attributed directly to improved or expanded service delivery. A well written Standards of Cover is an accepted and popular method of evaluating current fire service performance. This comprehensive process allows citizens, elected and appointed officials, and fire service personnel to make informed decisions regarding the overall health of their fire department.

The following categories are used to evaluate current performance levels:

· Governance and administration;
· Assessment and planning;
· Goals and objectives;
· Financial resources;
· Programs;
· Physical resources;
· Human resources;
· Training and competency;
· Essential resources; and
· External systems relationships.

Within each category are criteria that measure a service or practice so that a recommendation can be made. Within each criterion are indicators that help to define desired performance objectives.

Inevitably the question may arise about whether accreditation will help lower the community ISO rating. Data collected by ISO seems to indicate that it will. It was determined that there is a definite correlation between the ISO community assessment and the self assessment. ISO conducted research to determine if the self assessment helped improve the ISO rating. Since becoming accredited, 27 fire departments that were audited by ISO resulted in the following:

No regressions

19 improvements (70 percent)

Eight retained their classification (30 percent)


The data suggests that if you want to improve your ISO classification to a class 5 or better, accreditation is a good opportunity to do so.