MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 30, 2013

City ranks high in response to fires

Officials pleased by its Class 2 rating, one of only five in state

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Muskogee’s fire suppression rating ranks as one of the best among the more than 1,600 fire protection districts in the state.

Fire Chief Derek Tatum said the city is one of only five in the state — and 592 in the nation — that have achieved a Class 2 rating. Only one fire protection district in Oklahoma has achieved the superior rating of Class 1, he said.

The public protection classification, a grade issued by the Insurance Service Office, ranks the effectiveness of a municipality or a fire protection district’s fire response efforts. The ISO rating is based upon a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 the best and 10 the worst.

Tatum presented the results of the ISO’s review, which is performed about every 10 years, during the recent City Council meeting. The ratings review began late last summer, and the agency’s report was published in May.

“This is a big deal and fantastic news for the city of Muskogee and those who live and do business here,” Tatum said. “The ... rating is the result of years of planning and operations of the city’s many people and departments all working together for an ISO rating for its citizens.”

In addition to the enhanced level of fire protection, most homeowners and business owners within districts with lower ISO ratings enjoy premium reductions for insurance policies. Although some insurers quit using the ISO rating as a factor to establish premiums, many others still consider the grade when issuing a policy.

ISO ratings, according to the agency, are based on these factors:

• 10 percent of the rating is based upon a district’s fire alarms, communications and dispatching systems.

• 50 percent is based upon a fire department’s staffing, training, equipment and  geographic distribution of stations.

• 40 percent of the grade is based upon the district’s water supply system, which includes the condition and maintenance of fire hydrants, and the volume and pressure of available water compared with the amount needed for fire suppression.

The city scored 9.75 out of 10 for its ability to receive and handle fire alarms. Tatum credited years of planning and hard work that preceded the establishment of the countywide E-911 call center. Tatum is the chairman of the Muskogee City-County Enhanced 911 Trust Authority.

ISO evaluators gave the city 39.05 out of a possible 50 points for its fire department, and 33.39 out of 40 possible points for its water supply. Tatum credited regular maintenance of fire hydrants, good record-keeping and firefighter training, and Muskogee’s recent water plant expansion project for the high scores in those  categories.

Tatum said the city was a Class 4 fire protection district for several years before it achieved the Class 2 rating in 2003. He said the improved rating came after new stations had been built and record-keeping was improved, among many other factors.

A publication released by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak states there are more than 1,600 fire protection districts across the state. Of those, 52 percent have poor ISO ratings of 9 or 10.

An ISO spokeswoman said fire suppression ratings for individual fire protection districts are unavailable to the public. Kelly Collins of the Oklahoma Insurance Department provided a graph that shows that most of the fire protection districts in the state that are ranked better than Classes 9 and 10 are within the Class 4 through Class 8 range.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.