2011-04-02 / News

Fire chief says ISO review pending

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker assured Buckeye Lake Village Council members Monday night that the ball is rolling to complete an Insurance Services Office, or ISO, review of the fire department, which, when complete, could save Buckeye Lake residents and business owners significant money on their fire insurance premiums.

Basically, the ISO rates fire departments on a scale of one to 10 as far as effectiveness, and fire insurance rates are based on that number. One is most effective and 10 is not effective at all. Buckeye Lake is currently rated nine, but that rating was set before the village had a public water system with fire hydrants.

Leindecker hopes that the availability of public water and other efforts will help lower the village’s ISO rating to six or seven. Depending upon each insurance carrier and how it does business, lowering the rating from nine to six could lower fire insurance costs by roughly 40 percent, but that’s extremely variable and there’s no guarantee the fire department will reach its goal.

Mike Waters, vice president of risk decision services at ISO, explained the rating process. “Using the ISO Fire Suppression Rating Scale (FSRS), ISO’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) program helps insurance companies measure and evaluate the major elements of a community’s fire suppression system,” he said. The PPC program evaluates and reinforces the importance of key areas of fire protection:

• Emergency communications account for 10 percent of the rating and include 911 telephone systems, adequacy of telephone lines, operator supervision and staffing, and the dispatching hardware and software systems.

• The fire department accounts for 50 percent of the rating and includes adequacy of equipment, sufficient staffing, evaluation of training, existence of automatic aid, and geographic distribution of fire companies.

• Water supply accounts for the remaining 40 percent of the rating and includes hydrant condition and maintenance, existence of alternative sources, and a careful evaluation of the amount of available water – in volume and pressure – compared with the amount needed to suppress fires.

Waters said the ISO evaluates this information and assigns an advisory number from one to 10. Class one generally represents exemplary fire protection and a class 10 indicates that the community’s fire protection program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria. PPC classes are assigned to communities based on the protection area of a fire department.

“Before we conduct a survey, we send a pre-survey packet containing several forms and other information,” said Waters. “We ask the fire department to complete the forms and review and update the other information before our visit. Doing that will make the process faster and more efficient.”

The pre-survey packet contains the following:

• Several forms with questions about the community’s fire suppression resources.

• A computer generated map (or maps) showing the boundaries or the community’s fireresponse area, the locations of its fire stations, and areas that have hydrants.

• A list of commercial buildings in the ISO’s Specific Property Information database with information about each building.

“We use the information on commercial building to help us determine the needed fire flows in various sections of the community, and to choose places where we’ll conduct hydrant flow tests,” said Waters. “We ask that this information be updated, especially with regard to the to buildings protected by automatic sprinkler systems.” He said the ISO must identify all buildings protected by sprinklers because they reduce the otherwise necessary fire-suppression resources. “If the community has records of the periodic testing of automatic sprinkler systems, it should have them available for the survey,” said Waters.

Waters said the length of time needed to complete a PPC grading depends upon the community’s size and the amount of structural fire suppression resources that need to be evaluated.

“Once we knew water was coming, we started preparing,” said Buckeye Lake firefighter Dave Ruton. “It’ll take a little while.” He said the ISO has up to 210 days to complete its review after the village tells the ISO it’s ready for a review (the village informed the ISO it was ready Tuesday). The ISO will prepare a report following the review so, realistically, said Ruton, the village may need to wait up to nine months before the results of the review and subsequent lowering of fire insurance rates will be known. “The residents are anxious,” he said.

Buckeye Lake Fire Prevention Officer (and Water Tech) Toby Miller said preparing for the ISO isn’t merely a matter of placing the proper equipment on a truck. “People don’t understand it takes time,” he said. Miller said the village will lose some scoring because it doesn’t employ four full-time firefighters, so the department is trying to make up the difference wherever it can. “We took the time to make sure everything else was up to speed,” he said.

In other village news:

• Council member Kaye Hartman said members of the Partners for Reengineering our Prosperity group, or PROP, contacted National Trail Raceway Sales manager Mike Fornataro about tying the village into the raceway’s annual Mopar event and offering activities within Buckeye Lake to Mopar fans.

Although PROP had yet to meet with Fornataro officially (the meeting was Wednesday evening after Beacon press time), PROP Organizational Steering Committee member J-me Braig had several ideas to propose. “We’re trying to bring some of those 100,000 people over here,” she said. “There are a lot of options.”

One option is sponsoring a more or less private party for race fans on one of Buckeye Lake’s islands with live music, hors d’oeuvres, and refreshments. The Buckeye Lake Historical Society’s Queen of the Lake II could provide transportation to and from the island. Another option is a similar party at the North Shore Boat Ramp, from which boat rides, possibly a bog tour, or a historical walk on the North Bank with several “host houses” offering food and refreshments along the way, could be offered in addition.

Braig wondered if the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club would be willing to host an event with music and boat rides, but she hadn’t contacted the yacht club yet. Other ideas include a scavenger hunt between businesses or even speedboat rides if possible, but Braig was clear the PROP had yet to meet and formally discuss options. “I’m not sure what they’re looking for,” she said.

Fornataro said he’d only scheduled the meeting and declined to comment about how the village and racetrack could work together until after the meeting.

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