LAFD gets input for accreditation

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By Bennett Horne

The Los Alamos Fire Department is the only fire department in the state of New Mexico that holds an accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation. And it is currently taking steps to ensure it retains that status.

Maintaining an accredited classification is an ongoing process for the fire department, which will go before the commission for a fifth consecutive time in 2020.

Norma Valdez is the accreditation manager for the department, which has held that status for the last 20 years. She and the department hosted two community stakeholder meetings on Aug. 13 at Fuller Lodge as part of the preparation process for the next appearance before the commission.

“The accreditation is part of our commitment to continuous improvement,” Valdez said. “In that vein, these meetings are one of the most critical parts of the accreditation process because we’re soliciting feedback from our customers. Once we understand what their expectations are we’re able to develop a strategic plan to address those expectations.”

About 60 people attended each of the two meetings, which were led by Matt Keller and Brian Dean from the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

Keller explained to the attendees how his center is helping the department formulate its strategic plan. He then walked them through the customer input portion of the meeting where each was provided a form on which to write comments or concerns regarding the department as well as positive comments, general remarks and what they expect from their local fire department.

Keller then led the community representatives through a prioritization exercise, which prepared them for the final phase of the meeting in which they were to individually prioritize the various programs and functions of the fire department.
Even though some people might think their comments from a meeting like this might never be considered, Valdez was adamant to the contrary.

“We’re not going to ask the question unless we’re going to pay attention to the answer,” she said. “It’s critical that we pay attention to our customers.”

Keller and Dean collected the comments at the end of each meeting and were to process them and present them in meetings with department officials later that week.

“Over the next three days we’ll have internal stakeholders meetings,” said Valdez, “and all the information the facilitators will have compiled for us we’ll use as a baseline to develop our strategic goals and objectives, come up with a timeline, identify financial resources that need to be attached to the goals and then start to work.”

The fire department’s accreditation, coupled with the police department’s achievement of that status earlier this year, means that Los Alamos County is now the only community in New Mexico in which both of its public safety departments are fully accredited.