City of Plattsburgh Releases Report on Fire Safety
The City of Plattsburgh today released the results of a report generated by the Insurance Services Office, the nation's leading agency in fire department safety ratings. These ratings are used by insurers to rate the quality of municipal fire departments for the determination of fire insurance rates. In the results released today, the City of Plattsburgh was given a Class 2 rating, an improvement from the Class 3 rating from a decade earlier.
The superior ISO rating attained by the City translates into insurance savings for its residents and businesses. The rating is based on a number of categories. These include the quality of the equipment, training, location, and staffing of the city's two fire halls, the location of structures relative to the supplies of water, the efficiency of the dispatch and communications system, and the quality of the water supply. The ISO conducts analyses for over 46,000 fire protection areas across the United States. A grade of 1 through 10 is given to each district, with 1 the highest class, and 10 the lowest rating.
The Class 2 rating, the highest in our region, is exceeded by only six fire departments in New York State of 2273 rated departments across the State. The City of Plattsburgh scored highest in the quality of its equipment, staffing, and training. It also scored very highly in its communications system. Its protocols to ensure a reliable and abundant water supply, and its inspection of hydrants and flow testing rounded off the superior score.
Mayor Colin Read noted, "I could not be more proud of the investment the city has made in its equipment and staffing. The City has maintained a minimum daily staffing level of six firefighters for the last decade, and their training and experience has paid dividends. I have been exploring with the Fire Chief to improve the daily staffing levels while also reducing the cost to taxpayers. Because of steps taken since the most recent study, I believe the City can attain the highest attainable rating in the next ISO analysis. In doing so, we can garner both tax savings and insurance savings for our residents and further enhance fire safety. However, these measures require cooperation from the firefighters' union."
"To reach the highest possible rating, I have worked with Fire Chief Lawliss to develop a strategy that would allow a greater number of firefighters to be present on each shift, and draw upon a pool of off-duty firefighters who are located closer to the city. Currently, two thirds of the firefighters live outside the City, which can potentially increase the city's response time for a major fire," Read noted.
To attain the highest rating, the City has assisted in working with the County to generate modest improvement in emergency reporting and dispatching technologies. Modernization is now in place or being readied since the last report to the ISO, including 9-1-1 over the Internet, and a Geographical Information System that integrates vehicle locations.
In addition, new protocols have been put in place and are being enhanced to further improve the water supply system, fire flow testing, and inspection regimes.
Finally, Fire Chief Lawliss has been working on enhancing safety and competency training since the data was generated in 2017. When combined with proposals to increase the minimum number of personnel on duty in a
given day, while the city simultaneously decreases costs to the taxpayer, the city is confident it can join the top 0.3% of all fire departments and attain the highest possible rating. In doing so, the City of Plattsburgh will further cement its status as the highest rated fire department in the region.
Such improvements in department efficiency has yielded tangible benefits for city taxpayers. A recent article from the Richmond Gazette reported savings from the Berea, Kentucky fire chief following the improvement in their ISO rating (https://www.richmondregister.com/news/berea/berea-fire-department-helps-city-taxpayers-cut-costs/article_88e64acf-3f43-5e90-8023-5900c0f92a62.html):
"Asked how the new ratings have affected homeowners, (Fire Chief) Sandlin said he's heard from a few people, with some saving $100 or others $250 due to better coverage by the fire department."
Similarly, the Lansing State Journal compared insurance costs and fire ratings surrounding their city in Michigan and discovered (https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2019/03/07/fire-department-safety-response-home-business-insurance-savings/2549752002/):
"...The Lansing Fire Department has a Class 2 rating. And in Lansing, a home insurance policy that could rebuild a $200,000 home and cover $100,000 in liability with a $1,000 deductible will run you an average of $849, according to an Insurance.com analysis of rates from eight area insurance companies. In Bellevue, where the fire department has a Class 6 rating, that same coverage could cost you $1,086 on average. And in Roxand Township, near Grand Ledge, where there's a Class 8B rating in place, it will cost $1,157 on average."
Some members of the city benefit somewhat from the fire insurance premiums paid. There is a state mandate, called the Foreign Fire Tax, that requires 2% of all premiums paid by city residents and businesses to insurance companies outside of New York State to be returned to a special fund. However, while City taxpayers pay for the investment in fire safety, the fund goes directly to the firefighters association. City officials have no control on how those funds are disbursed. The city routinely publishes a list of items purchased by firefighters from that fund. (https://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/faqs/faqs_ft_fft.htm).