MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

May 5, 2013

Wagoner’s firefighting record could pay off for residents

Wagoner residents could reap benefits from the city’s improved fire suppression rating.

The public protection classification, a numeric 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 being the best and 10 the worst.

Wagoner Fire Chief Kelly Grooms said he received notice recently about the city’s improved rating, which dropped from an ISO rating of 6 to 4. The new rating, which Grooms described as the result of a team effort involving his department, public works employees and the city’s elected leaders, will take effect Aug. 1.

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

Mayor James Jennings said calculations provided by a local insurance agent show a homeowner could save about 16.5 percent as a result of the lower rating. The example offered by Jennings involved a policy for which the annual premium totaled about $1,440 with the ISO 6 rating and just more than $1,200 with the ISO 4 rating.

“This means a lot potentially for some of our residents,” Jennings said. “People need to check with their insurance carriers to see if there could be some savings on their insurance policies for homeowners.”

ISO ratings, according to the Insurance Service Office, are set by evaluating the following three factors:

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

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

• Forty 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.

Jennings credited the recent replacement of several main water lines throughout the city for much of the improved ISO rating. That work — partially funded with stimulus funding authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — increased available water supplies and hydrant pressure.

Utilities Director Dwayne Elam said improvements to the city’s water infrastructure “reduced a lot of our waste ... and allowed us to increase pressure where flows were restricted” in the older lines.

“If we have a fire, they (firefighters) need that water to do what they do,” Elam said. “We need it on our side to make sure those hydrants are working and being maintained, and we are working on that together.”

Grooms credited teamwork for the improved rating. He said the two-point improvement is the result of several people “willing to do the work” it takes to get there.

“We are here to make our city a better place,” Grooms said, acknowledging the work of his firefighters, public works employees and the support of Wagoner’s elected officials. “This right here shows we are making progress in that direction.”

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.

Jennings said the city of Wagoner’s improved rating is comparable with other suburban cities in the area.

“A lot of times the residents don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish,” Jennings said. “Not only are we giving them better quality and better pressure, we are spending their tax dollars and giving it back to them in some measure as savings on their homeowners’ policies.”

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

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