The Bradenton Fire Department is now an internationally accredited agency - one of only 96 in the world.
After a two-year march to make sure it met the requirements of a rigorous self-assessment test, the agency received a nod from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International at its annual meeting in New Orleans on Aug. 11.
The self-assessment consists of 10 major categories, which are broken down into 45 criteria and more than 230 performance indicators, according to Bonny Downing, program coordinator of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. Of the performance indicators, 107 are core competencies, which include analysis of planning zones and meeting strategic master plans.
Now that Bradenton Fire received the distinction, the department must work to keep it by holding itself to higher standards. Not meeting those standards could risk losing the coveted credentials.
"The cornerstone of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International is the voluntary role of self-assessment," Downing told the Herald. "This self-conducted performance evaluation will result in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of fire service agencies, when the findings from performing the self-assessment are applied to planning and implementation activities."
The city fire department, which is now the only accredited fire agency in Manatee County, follows the footsteps of the Bradenton Police Department, which received its accreditation in June 2003.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies since 1990, and has been re-accredited by the agency three times in 14 years - a standard process. If approved in October, the Palmetto Police Department would become the area's fourth accredited public safety agency.
Bradenton Fire was one of 13 fire agencies to receive its accreditation, and its chief, Mark L. Souders, was also awarded the chief fire officer designation by the commission.
Downing said tight budgets make it difficult for many fire agencies to bring their services up high enough to meet the commission's demanding standards.
Bradenton Fire Division Chief David Dobrzykowski said the agency's hard work paid off.
"I think everybody is happy and proud to have achieved a goal we set out for about two years ago," he said. "It's an intensive self-evaluation of the overall service delivery of the department, and it was an overall team effort by the department."