Preparing for an upcoming ISO audit can be stressful and time-consuming. But many fire departments have continued success with their ISO audits, without the unnecessary stress. So, what’s the secret? We recently spoke with one of our customers, Fire Chief Reginald Freeman at Hartford Fire Department (ISO Class 1), to get some insight on the topic. His department was the first in New England to earn the Class 1 designation for ISO and the first department in Connecticut to earn international accreditation, making it the only department to be both Class 1 and accredited in New England. Keep reading to find out how they were able to achieve this.
ER: Can you give us some insight into how your department was able to achieve the ISO Class 1 designation and earn international accreditation?
Chief Freeman: Long story short, commitment to duty, continuous pursuance of excellence, and professionalism. Like other fire departments, we have always been great at emergency response; however, over the years, we have made a concerted effort to be well-rounded in every aspect of being a professional organization. That includes being proactive administratively as well as how we have addressed emergency situations/calls.
ER: What are some tips you can offer on how fire departments can improve and maintain a high ISO score as well as obtain international accreditation?
Chief Freeman: For both the ISO rating and accreditation, I would share the following:
- Communicate, communicate, & communicate
You must communicate the vision, the why, and the what and allow the team to help determine the how. Once you do the first three, and there is a clear understanding by the team (department) as to what is being proposed and why, there is a clear understanding of the initiative and progress can be pursued.
- Gain buy-in through empowerment
Allow representation from every level of the organization including sub-groups to help determine “What right looks like.”
- Be goal oriented & results driven
You must have a clear understanding of the expectations that you are being measured against. Go through every imperative by yourself and give yourself an unofficial score. In most instances, you either have the data and have met the goal or you don’t and won’t without action. Then, with the team, formulate a “get well” plan that is complacency-proof. This includes identifying someone responsible for executing the task/initiative, giving them a timeline for completion (incorporate follow-up dates intermittently), and lastly, establish continuous monitoring to ensure performance/expectations do not erode.
ER: Does clean data and data management from your Records Management System (RMS) play a role in achieving a class 1 designation & accreditation?
Chief Freeman: Without a doubt! Good data in, good data out. Bad data in, bad data out. It’s that simple. Data must be accurate, reliable, and easy to query. Data sets should have the capability to be charted, graphed, or used quantitatively or transcribed qualitatively. When inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable data is compiled, not only does that impact your ability to achieve the highest ISO score possible or accreditation, it also compromises your ability to justify new resources, justify staffing, or request additional funding during budget preparations.
ER: How do you make others in your community or your local government aware of your department’s achievements and the importance of ISO in saving tax payers money?
Chief Freeman: I mention it every chance I get. Just in case they didn’t hear me the first time. For example, as a Class 1 department, our community enjoys the lowest possible insurance premiums. If we were to drop to a Class 2 rating, our insurance premiums for our citizens would increase by 19%. Citizens put elected officials in office. Most elected officials want to be re-elected. So, when we’re in budget discussions, it’s not just me saying, “you can’t cut our budget because of…”; I also have the community/citizens behind me saying the same exact thing because they want the same level of service that they are used to and they certainly don’t want to pay more for their insurance premiums than what they are already paying if staff reductions or station closures are on the table.
Furthermore, we publish our monthly FIRESTAT presentation on our city website, and we are very active on social media highlighting all of the great work that our members do on a daily basis. We also publish our annual report on the city’s website as well.
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Chief Freeman will be a keynote speaker at Emergency Reporting’s upcoming ADAPT 2020 Virtual Summit, sponsored by Microsoft. This three-day event, held on Nov. 17-19, brings together the finest from the fire and emergency services industry along with thought leaders from other disciplines. Over 20 speakers across 50 sessions will share their expertise with attendees. To learn more and register, visit https://www.eventsquid.com/event.cfm?preview&event_id=10676.
About Hartford Fire Department
According to its website, the Hartford Fire Department is staffed by 361 career personnel at 12 stations throughout the city of Hartford, Conn., which has a population of approximately 124,000 within 18.4 square miles. Hartford FD is “a highly trained, culturally diverse, IS
O Class 1 agency dedicated to preventing and minimizing the loss of life and property, for the protection of the residents, business community, visitors of the City of Hartford, and its regions.”
About Chief Freeman
Reginald D. Freeman has been the Chief/Emergency Management Director for the City of Hartford since 2016. His career started in Mississippi as a Firefighter/EMT in 2000, and from there, he went to Iraq as a civilian fire chief serving those who protected us on U.S. military installations from November 2004 through November of 2008. After Iraq, he was Lockheed Martin’s Fire Chief in Atlanta and then Ft. Worth, TX and also served as Assistant Chief of Support Services for the Hartford Fire Department. He has a Bachelor’s in Leadership, a Master’s in Executive Fire Service Leadership, and is a Harvard Fellow. He is also a Fellow of the Institution of Fire Engineers USA Branch and a Chief Fire Officer Designee, and is honored to serve on the Board of Directors for NFPA. He is married to his wife of 17 years and is a proud father to two daughters, Harmony & Joy.
To see more information and resources on preparing for ISO audits and improving ISO ratings, visit ER’s ISO Resources page at https://emergencyreporting.com/iso-resources/.