Behind the Badge - By Fire Chief Justin James
Over the last year, the Council Bluffs Fire Department, Council Bluffs Water Works, and the Pottawattamie County 911 Communications Center underwent the ISO PPC evaluation process. I'm happy to report that Council Bluffs received a Class 1 rating that goes into effect July 1 of this year. Let me tell you what that means.
The Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) evaluates our fire-protection efforts about every ten years. ISO evaluates three things to classify how the overall fire protection system works - water supply, 911 communications, and the fire department's capabilities as a whole. ISO uses the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule to determine the rating and then assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPC) from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that fire suppression doesn't meet ISO's minimum criteria.
The ISO evaluation process provides an objective third-party view using a country-wide standard that helps us as a fire department prioritize future improvements needed to safeguard our citizens from a fire loss. The classification also can be used to lower fire insurance premiums for the entire community as the PPC plays an important part in the decisions insurers make regarding the availability and price of property insurance.
Receiving a Class 1 is a huge accomplishment and demonstrates our community’s dedication to public safety. Not only was the Fire Department evaluated, but so was Council Bluffs Water Works and the 911 Communications Center.
ISO evaluated City Water Works' ability to supply water for fire-protection needs and their ongoing water system maintenance. Water Works employees regularly flow-test hydrants, exercise hydrants, and paint hydrants. This regular maintenance ensures each hydrant has sufficient flow for fire apparatus demands and functions properly when needed.
In partnership with Water Works, we have GPS located all of the public and privately owned hydrants within Council Bluffs, and doing so has improved our ability to track and maintain the system as a whole. We store the GPS hydrant information on our Mobile Data Terminals (MDT's) so fire crews can see the location and flow of a particular hydrant on the way to an emergency. The hydrant data on the MDT's allows our crews to make quick and critical decisions to connect to a nearby hydrant that will flow enough water to put out the fire.
The ISO evaluation has a 40 point maximum for water supply, and the Council Bluffs Water Works obtained 38.49 points. Thanks to Water Works' dedication, we always have the water resources necessary in a time of need.
ISO evaluated the Pottawattamie County 911 Communications Center on its abilities to receive and transmit an emergency call. ISO assesses the level of 911 calls received, the information gathered, and the 911 Center's ability to promptly transmit that information to the fire department. It looks at the type of equipment used, the ability to backup equipment, and how quickly they relay information to the fire department.
Over the last ten years, there have been many improvements to our overall system. Our 911 Center partnered with neighboring communities across state lines to have a centralized backup center fully capable of everything our primary center can do.
The ISO evaluation has a 10 point maximum for the 911 centers, and Pottawattamie County 911 Communications Center obtained 9.51 points during our evaluation process. Thanks to our 911 Center's commitment to excellence and training, they received an excellent score as well.
ISO also evaluated the Council Bluffs Fire Department. They looked at everything from equipment in service, number of personnel on duty, training records, response times, mitigation efforts, public education, etc. The evaluation is a comprehensive snapshot of the department as a whole.
Captain Rich Rodewald, a National Fire Academy's Executive Officer Program graduate, guided us through the process. Captain Rodewald studied the changes needed to receive an ISO Class 1 and produced a research document that allowed us to blueprint the changes necessary for success in the evaluation. Those changes and Captain Rodewald's dedication made the difference as we went through the assessment.
The ISO evaluation has a 50 point maximum for fire departments, and we obtained 43.82 points plus 4.77 extra credit points. Out of 100 possible points, our total score for Council Bluffs was 94.87. To receive an ISO Class 1 rating, you must receive at least 90 points.
Through countless hours of work by three separate government agencies working together, we met our goal of ISO Class 1! This effort will ensure our citizens and businesses have competitive insurance rates for years to come and hopefully spur further economic development within our community. I want to thank all of the personnel from the three agencies involved in seeing this through, and a special thanks to Doug Drummey, Bob Andersen, and Captain Rodewald for their hard work helping with this achievement.
Fire Chief Justin James