The Maryville Fire Department passed a milestone Aug. 17, as officers learned the 36-member department earned its third Center for Public Safety Excellence accreditation.
“This is our second reaccreditation,” Fire Chief Tony Crisp said. “We were accredited for the first time in 2008, and were reaccredited again five years later.”
“There are 266 accredited agencies internationally,” Deputy Fire Chief Mike Caylor said. “We were originally the 122nd to be accredited. There are only six in Tennessee, including Alcoa. Only 11% of the entire population of 48 states are protected by an internationally accredited fire department. I think it bodes well that you have two of them in one county.”
The process is long and exhaustive, Caylor explained.
“When we first said we wanted to be an accredited agency, people asked us why we would want to do that and open up our closet,” Caylor said. “It changed the way that we do business all across the board and has made us a better department. We are being compared to departments in million-plus populations. They do things differently in New York but the mission is always the same.”
A team of Canadian and American assessors visited in March to examine three components in great depth.
“The first is a self-assessment, or a list of over 200 performance indicators or bullet statements,” Caylor said. “You have to answer how you handle a particular bullet point, how it works for you and how you can improve it. The second area they look is your five-year strategic plan, to see where we see ourselves as a department and what we need to do to better react to the community.”
The team also looked at the department’s relationships with municipal officials and the Alcoa Fire Department, with which which it shares a reciprocal agreement.
“It’s not just about the fire department as a single department, it’s about the all the support,” Caylor said. “It starts with governance and administration; assessment and planning; goals and objectives; financial, physical, human and essential resources; training and competency and external systems relationships.
The team also looked at the department’s community risk reduction; public education; fire investigation; domestic preparedness; fire suppression; technical rescue; hazardous materials and wildland firefighting programs.
“The only two that they examine that we don’t have to respond to are aviation rescue and firefighting, since we don’t have an airport in our area, and marine and shipboard rescue and firefighting,” Caylor said.
The team also examined the city’s Standard of Cover, or how Maryville is subdivided into 20 planning zones that are geographically defined by the types of structures and environmental features contained within them.
That meant not only describing the type and size of structures but every road, bridge, traffic light and other infrastructure that impacts responses.
Caylor said calls in the Five Points area, which is comprised of older structures, requires a different approach than newer developments.
“The houses were built out of solid wood,” Caylor said. “They don’t build them like that anymore. Now they are built out of composite wood and lightweight material. Cheaper and lighter material doesn’t necessarily react the same in a fire as solid timbers did in the 1930s and 1940s. You also have to look at the age of the structures. There are different types of firefighting tactics you would use for older homes than for newer structures.
“The industrial park itself is a planning zone, because the way we approach an incident there would be different than the way we approach a house in a subdivision,” Caylor said. “The resources and the amount of personnel are different, and the equipment we take might even be different.”
Areas like the busy U.S. Highway 411 South corridor present different challenges, Caylor explained, because several residential and business zones are located in short proximity to each other.
“They also want to know how many calls you have over the last five years in each zone, and what type of calls were they,” Caylor said “What kind of dollar loss did you have, and the weather conditions you had. We also have to describe what resources we send out on a particular kind of response. It would be different for DENSO compared to a residential call.”