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NEWS | June 28, 2024

JBSA fire department strives to achieve accreditation

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio’s fire chief, Michael Guzman, is always looking for ways to improve capabilities and services on San Antonio’s military installations, and one way to do that is through accreditation.

“We made a decision, as a department, to not be average, to have a higher standard, and in turn, what that creates is, our community gets better emergency services delivery,” Guzman said. “This is a very compliance-driven organization, and, while we are a topnotch organization, accreditation is a third-party validation that will ensure we are doing our very best.”

Fire department accreditation is a long process, which is being accomplished through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), an organization that provides agencies with an accreditation model, various accreditation publications and training, and experienced peer assessors to assist with the process.

“Becoming accredited helps us continue to improve professionally, while also gaining recognition for our achievements and excellence,” the chief said. “We are always looking at everything we do to determine how we can do things better, improve programs, and eliminate things that are not necessary.

"Accreditation is a voluntary process and not a requirement," he added. "We chose to be an above-average department."

Continuous improvement also allows the JBSA community to receive better service, Guzman said.

“We have to remember that the members of our fire department, nearly 220 firefighters, our families, wives, husbands, parents, and children, come to JBSA installations as well," he said. "We want to be sure they too are getting first-class customer service.”

In addition to internal assessments, Guzman said various JBSA members from all three operating locations were surveyed to determine what they would like to see from the departments.

“We wanted to find out if we are meeting the needs of the community,” he said. “In going through the surveys, we found that community members wanted several things we do not currently offer. For example, surveys showed people wanted assistance with car seat installations. Because it is important to our community, we are now starting the initiative to provide this service.”

Community partners have also played a part in the accreditation process.

“We have 17 mutual aid partners in the local area who we work and conduct joint training with on a regular basis, and we have utilized those partners to get their advice on the accreditation process,” Guzman said. “For example, the San Antonio Fire Department is a CFAI accredited agency, so they are kind of the big brother, and we are the little brother, as they provide us with guidance along the journey.”

Partnerships within the community are extremely important to JBSA’s fire department, Guzman said.

“It is healthy to get outside the gate and not just be internal, but to learn and see what they are doing externally to improve their departments,” he said.

While they still have a way to go to receive full accreditation, Guzman said they are making good progress.

“We are moving at a record pace according to the CFAI technical advisors,” he said. “We have come a long way and made a lot of strides with our 10-member accreditation team, and with Fire Captain Austin Walker as our high-speed accreditation manager, his valuable experiences at previous installations will ensure success."

Guzman said if they continue at their current speed, they will participate in the next step toward accreditation in February 2025, candidate agency commission hearings at the Center for Public Safety Excellence Conference.

"We are optimistic that we will walk away an accredited agency,” he said.

After accreditation is achieved, the department is required to provide an annual report and program appraisals, with five years before reaccreditation is required.