Former Police and Fire Chief explains ISO ratings

To the Editor:

I wanted to take the opportunity to explain to the citizens of Fayette about the current ISO ratings. ISO ratings range from 1-10 with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. As a member of the fire department, I have been through every ISO inspection for the City of Fayette and Howard County Fire District for the last 40 years. There are a lot of percentages and numbers that sound and are confusing. The grading is broken down as follows: 

10%   – Dispatch Center

50%   – Fire Department

40%   – Water System

100% – Total Score

There has been mention several times that the Howard County Dispatch received zeroes on some of their scores. I want to point out that the only zero on 911 equipment was because 911 does not have an automatic vehicle locator in the system. All other equipment received full credit. The other two zeroes were on call receipts and processing. This was due to the ISO inspector not getting the proper documentation when he left town. We have that paper work and it has been forwarded to him. When you are shuffling that much paper around, it is easy to miss something. Even with three zeroes, the Howard County Dispatch still scored 10% higher than they did five years ago; and after correcting two of three zeroes, it will be an even better score.

Everyone needs to remember that the standards we are graded on are the exact same standards as they are in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia or Boonville. Some of these standards are never going to be met because of the size of our departments. The standard for our dispatch center is 78 pages long and requires more dispatchers working at certain times and goes all the way down to the kind of flooring that is in the dispatch office. The same also applies to fire fighter training. Those standards require new firemen to receive 300 hours of training in the first year, which is seven and a half weeks. No one can conceivably work their regular job and travel to other towns to receive all that training. For full ISO credit existing fire fighters must get 16 hours per month of structure fire training. We train every month, but we are not able to do all that, plus all the other training we are expected to do, such as CPR, driver training, water rescue, auto extrication, etc. We are all volunteers.

Despite all of the requirements, the firemen and former city officials were able to get our ISO rating down to a 5 many years ago, which has kept insurance premiums at a lower level for the citizens of Fayette. 

I know much has been made about the ladder truck, and it is important to get one, whether it be a new one or good used one. When the ISO inspector is in town, he looks at what is happening that day. On that specific day, we had no ladder truck and one water tower out of service with no water in it, and fire hydrants that had not been flushed for three years. All of these things have to come together. A ladder truck that pumps 2000 gal/minute is of no use if the tower has no water or the hydrants do not work correctly. In the same sense, a tower full of water and serviced hydrants are of no use if you do not have a fire truck to spray that water.

If you remember four years ago, I told the Mayor and City Council the ISO rating would go to a 7 if the ladder truck issue was not taken care of properly. The ladder truck and water tower are long time problems, and I do recognize that some people are trying to correct them.

Something else changed four years ago, and that is the city officials started micromanaging the fire department. It is a shame that we have come to a point where the city paid their attorney to send a letter within 60 days to ISO about how we are going to correct these problems. They also paid $100 per hour for 10 hours to a fire fighter from another town to advise us on what to do to correct these problems. I am sure fresh eyes to look at things doesn’t hurt, but we have had four years to correct this on our own. Maybe this poor ISO report is a good thing because it forces these issues to be addressed.

On another note, the ratings for rural areas are different because we don’t have fire hydrants. The scores for water supply are based on the number of gallons per minute our tankers can haul to a fire within five miles of a fire station. I am happy to report that the Howard County Fire Protection District stayed at its current rating of a Class 7, which is good with no fire hydrants. The City of New Franklin stayed at a Class 6 with the Howard County Fire District providing their fire protection. The City of Fayette is the only one in the county to get a worse rating. It is an interesting note that all fire departments in the county are dispatched by the same dispatch center concerning the above, mentioned ratings.

I know this is a lot of information to take in, but I hope it helps explain the current situation in which we find ourselves. Hopefully, all those involved can come together and fix these issues in the next year, so we can keep our ISO rating at a 5 for the citizens of the Fayette community.

Sincerely,

Bryan Kunze, Fireman

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