By Senior Airman Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Little Rock Air Force Base Fire Department is now one of three fire departments accredited in Arkansas and the 20th in the Air Force.
The accreditation process is no easy task. It takes years and the participation of every individual on the department.
Don Smart, Little Rock Air Force Base Fire Department Fire Chief was apprehensive at first. After digging into the process he realized the benefits and the knowledge they would gain as a department.
“I was interested in improvement and growth; I asked myself how I can make this department better,” said Smart. “I want to make the department a valuable asset to the community that we serve, and accreditation will instill more confidence in our customers.”
Accreditation is a multifaceted and complex process. It consists of a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation from a peer assessment team. The team will then submit a final report to the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The commission then decides whether to grant, deny or defer accreditation.
“It took us about two years to prepare for the process and get to the point where we were ready to meet the commission,” said Smart.
Although the process was lengthy and time consuming the firemen kept their cool and easily maintained normal operations.
“Accreditation allows us to give validity and credibility to those things we are saying we do well, while also highlighting areas we need to improve,” said James Farrell, Little Rock AFB Fire Dept. training manager. “In the end, becoming accredited is all about improving what we do.”
The Little Rock AFB’s Fire Dept. has been granted accreditation but it does not mean they are done with the process.
“Accreditation is a change in the processes you do, it is a mindset change, it’s how you manage the department and the processes and programs we put to place have to be able to continue from now on,” said Smart. “In 5 years we will have to meet the commission again and they are going to want to see how we’ve changed and improved and to see that we are dedicated to improvement and growth within the department and bettering our services to our community.”
The Little Rock AFB’s Fire Dept. also has agreements with local cities including, Jacksonville, North Little Rock, and Little Rock, to provide mutual aid assistance and receive it as well.
“Having accreditation will help them have confidence in what we do and how we do our jobs,” Smart said. “I believe that will improve those relationships with our local communities.”