The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 21, 2012

EFD improves safety rating

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid Fire Department’s ISO Public Protection Classification rating has decreased from a Class Four to a Class Three — an improvement — following a survey by the national company.

The scale is one to 10, with a a lower number rating resulting in an overall higher score. Grading is based on three criteria: receiving and handling of calls, the fire department and water supply.

In November 2000, EFD had a Class Four rating from a score of 61.89 percent. This October, the department’s score was 74.64 percent, making it a Class Three.

Chief Joe Jackson said he was pleased with the department’s rating and credited previous Chief Phil Clover and the public safety sales tax for enabling the improvement.

“This is a benchmark that is good,” he said. “Nothing was really surprising here, because we know we’ve made a lot of improvement with our communications center. We worked a lot on our fire department, training and paperwork.”

In 2000, the department’s score in receiving and handling fire alarms was 4.84 percent of a possible 10 percent, and water supply was 24.25 percent of a possible 40 percent.

Jackson said the Enid/Garfield County 911 Center has solved many of the problems from the 2000 survey. He said water supply was the most difficult category in which to make improvements, but some headway has been made to increase the score.

Fire Marshal Ken Helms said the department has become more involved with the city of Enid in areas involving the replacement of water lines and ensuring the lines are tied into the hydrant system.

“Lines are fed from multiple directions,” Helms said, “looped in a grid system to support water supply.”

“We’ve become more involved in the meetings, and stressed if you put in a line, make sure it’s tied in,” Jackson said. “It’s getting some improvement.”

This year’s scores give EFD an 8.5 percent for receiving and handling fire alarms, which earns a rank of Class Two. The department also garnered a second Class Two rating with a 40.13 percent for the fire department. The water supply score of 28.04 earned a Class Three rating.

Jackson said some of the scores were lowered because they didn’t meet ISO standards, despite meeting other industry standards, such as National Fire Protection Association standards.

For example, the department was given a lower score for having three firefighters per truck, rather than four. Jackson said the department also lost points for not having an extra fire station closer to some housing additions.

“I’m not going for the points,” he said. “I’m going for what’s needed in the community.”

Jackson said those deductions were for things that often cost more than the benefit they provide to the community and public safety.

“We’re really pleased we’re showing improvement, and these numbers reflect that improvement,” Helms said. “We became more efficient and improved.”

“I put a lot of this credit on Phil Clover, because from the time he got the last rating, I know there were several times the equipment and training activities we were doing were related to reducing our ISO,” Jackson said. “If you improve it, you’re improving your department. No doubt.”

He also said many of the improvements could not have been made without the public safety sales tax passed by Enid voters.

Across the country, including Oklahoma, the majority of fire departments have a Class Nine rating. With its newest ratings, Enid joins some 1,998 departments across the country — and 37 in the state — with a Class Three rating.

The ratings have several purposes. They can be used by fire departments as a benchmark and be considered in planning, budgeting and fire-protection improvements.

The numbers also are used in the underwriting process for insurance companies. Cities with lower numbers often have lower rates for residential, commercial and industrial customers. However, Enid’s rating already was low, so the newer rating likely won’t have an impact on insurance costs.