By Doug Cline
Vice President of ISFSI

An ill-maintained vehicle is an accident waiting to happen, right? We all know it takes more than just satisfactory driving skills to keep drivers from having accidents on our roadways. For drivers to be safe, vehicles need to be in excellent working condition. The tires need tread, the engine needs oil and the brakes need pads for everything to run smoothly.

It makes sense, then, that if you want your organization to run like a well-oiled automobile, it needs to be treated like one. And now may be the time to look under your organization’s hood to make sure there is no damage to your hoses and belts or in this case, personnel, policies, equipment, operating guidelines, etc.

If it’s your first time to check under your organization’s hood, you’ll probably be unfamiliar with all the numerous parts inside your organization. But if you make it a frequent practice to check on how everything is working, you’ll be able to instantly identify all the different issues and problems. It’s a good idea to procure a model and use it to evaluate any loose connections that might have occurred in your organization.

One common model that is recognized throughout the fire service is the Center for Public Safety Excellences Commission on Fire Accreditation International. Even if you are not looking to become an accredited organization, the self-assessment approach has proven solid.

There are numerous practical benefits your agency will see in utilizing a self-assessment program. The hardest component is to be honest in your assessment. If done properly, the self-conducted performance evaluation will result in increased efficiency for your organization, provided the findings are applied to the planning and implementation of activities.

Here are some of the benefits to conducting a self-assessment for fire departments:

>> Quality improvement through a continuous self-assessment process

>> Providing a detailed evaluation of the services it provides to the community

>> Identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the organization

>> A methodology for building on strong points and addressing deficiencies

>> Providing for department growth for programs, services and member capabilities

>> Fostering pride in an organization, from department members, community leaders and citizens

Through self-assessment, a systematic evaluation can be completed to determine what is currently happening in the organization. From there, you can determine whether or not the organization is meeting its goals, commensurate with its responsibilities.

The assessment process is astounding in the clarity it brings an organizations leaders and members not only regarding how the organization currently works, but how the various parts are interrelated and its overall state of health. The most important thing to come out of a self-assessment for fire departments, however, is discovering what needs to be done to make improvements. With this information in hand, you will be able to target and prioritize opportunities for change.

About the Author
Douglas Cline, a 32-year veteran and student of the Fire Service, serves as assistant chief of operations with Horry County Fire Recue (S.C.). Cline, a former fire chief, is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Chief Cline is the President of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs (SEAFC), a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire and Rescue Instructors and the1st Vice President International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Cline serves on the FEMA grant criteria development committee, Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI) National Advisory Committee and peer reviewer for the Fire Act Grants.