by Rick Langenberg:
The Cripple Creek Fire Department is striving for the big-time in a push for national and world-wide recognition.
Recently, the 22-member agency obtained a “Registered Agency” status by the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), a non-profit group dedicated to helping emergency and fire agencies improve their services. This is the first step of a process that would put the Creek Fire Department in an elite league of 200 top agencies in the world and about 13 in Colorado, with hardly any as small as that of the gaming community. The agency currently serves approximately 1,100 residents and a wide influx of tourists and gamblers.
A number of Colorado agencies have jointed Cripple Creek in making a similar bid, including the Peterson Air Force Base and Emergency Services and fire departments serving Boulder, Canon City, Denver and a variety of communities outside the Denver metropolitan area.
Emergency service agencies in the region that have made it to the top of the list include those serving the cities of Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Breckenridge.“It is huge challenge,” admitted Cripple Creek Fire Chief Randy Baldwin, who has been involved in the CPSE accreditation and evaluation process himself and has reviewed the operations of some of the nation’s top agencies. Baldwin has held the reins of the Creek Fire Department for seven years and sports an impressive resume.
Ultimately, Baldwin sees the effort as a way to provide a better delivery of services, improve its performance level and to increase its stature in the community. An important part of the process involves working with the community with a group of stakeholders, representing key businesses and organizations, such as the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company, local casinos, the city and county governments and civic organization. A public meeting to better explain the procedures will be announced shortly, according to Baldwin. “Community input is really important,” said Baldwin, who heavily lauded the stakeholder team the agency has assembled as part of the accreditation bid. A kick-off meeting was held in November.
Agency leaders hope the “community will become the driving force behind their fire department.” The process isn’t easy and could take five years to complete due to the fact that the Creek Fire Department is small and has a limited budget. With the agency’s lineup of 22 members, only 13 are full-time employees. Unlike larger agencies, the Creek Fire Department can’t dedicate personnel to merely dealing with this type of accreditation bid, explained Baldwin. But officials say they may be able to facilitate the effort within several years. Seven members of the Creek Fire Department will help oversee the agency’s application, according to a city press release.
Fire experts will evaluate the department on 253 performance indicators and do a detailed analysis. Eventually, the agency must develop a strategic plan.The process culminates with an on-site review with an assessment team submitting recommendations to the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
The final accreditation would give the Cripple Creek agency more than a pat on the back, according to officials. It provides the agency with a long-term plan and the opportunity to evaluate itself “with a microscope.” According to the Center for Public Safety website, the accreditation process “provides a well-defined, internationally recognized benchmark system to measure the quality of fire and emergency services.” CPSE officials say that offers important criteria that is useful in times of more scrutiny regarding local government budgets.