How are Your Organizational Competencies?

By:  Robert Avsec,  Executive Fire Officer

Much is made these days in Fire and EMS leadership and management circles about identifying and 150 Years of Excellencedeveloping the individual competencies of our members.  But what about the competencies for the organization as a whole?  What are some existing benchmarks that a Fire and EMS organization can use to evaluate their current state and determine what’s necessary to reach a desired state?

Gold coin Gold StandardOne of those benchmark measurements is the accreditation process from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, what many consider the “gold standard” for Fire and EMS organizations.  But what about those smaller career or combination department or volunteer organizations who might not have the resources to purse such formal evaluation processes?


See:  Worth the Effort.  Gaining international accreditation for a fire department requires some work, but the operational and administrative benefits are huge.

The following table is a “homegrown” template that I designed that I think can provide a useful tool for those organizations in their efforts to make positive improvements in their organizational competencies.


Click to enlarge the image

Let’s take a look at this table for a second, shall we?  Ask yourself, “What does it take for a Fire and BenchMarksEMS organization to be success in achieving its mission?”  For me, it’s made up of these four components:

  • The Individual.  Firefighters, Officers, and EMS Providers who have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be functioning and productive members of a team.
  • The Team.  Those groups of 3-5 individuals that make up functional work groups.  These may be standing groups, e.g., a fire company in a career or combination department, or ad hoc groups, such as when a group of volunteer firefighters assemble to respond upon receiving an alarm.  Included in team competencies is the ability to bring together the people, the apparatus, and the equipment to conduct tactical operations, e.g., advance a hose line for fire attack or carry out vertical ventilation.
  • Multi-company Operations.  The next level of organizational competency is its ability to bring several teams together and have those teams work together seamlessly to meet the objectives of an Incident Action Plan (IAP).
  • Organizational Operations.  The final level of organizational competency is the ability of the organization to be a functional participant in regional responses working alongside other Fire and EMS agencies and allied emergency management agencies.

lumber yardThis table reflects the organizational competencies for fire suppression operations, and with a little bit of work, any Fire and EMS organization could create individual tables for all the services that they provide, e.g., EMS, technical rescue, HazMat, etc.

See Related: How accreditation benefits your department and the fire service


Obviously, this concept is not meant to replace any formal process, i.e., accreditation or ISO inspections, but I think there’s a lot of utility for smaller departments.  And who knows, once they engage in this kind of introspection, bigger things might be “on the horizon”!

What’s your take on this?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,