Westmere Fire Department ISO Rating: Class 3
What is ISO?
I.S.O. or Insurance Service Office is an insurance industry organization. It was started in 1971 as an insurance rating bureau focusing on risk analytics and insights. It has grown significantly since then.
In the fire service, you will often hear the term “ISO Rating” which refers to the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. ISO assigns a Public Protection Classification to fire departments in the United States based on their review of many factors such as equipment, manpower, response times, water supply, etc.
Some insurance companies use these ratings to calculate fire insurance premiums. This is most common for commercial properties where coverage can be in the millions of dollars. Companies that write homeowners insurance may or may not use these ratings. Some only ask how far it is to the nearest fire hydrant.
The Rating System
The Fire Suppression Ratings range from 1 to 10 where 1 is the highest rating and 10 means there is no fire protection available.
The FSRS considers three main areas of a community’s fire suppression system: emergency communications-10 points, fire department (including operational considerations) – 50 points, and water supply – 40 points. In addition, it includes a Community Risk Reduction section that recognizes community efforts to reduce losses through fire prevention, public fire safety education, and fire investigation for a total of 5.5 possible points.
The I.S.O. uses a point system to calculate the ratings. The system has a maximum of 105.5 points. Of this, the fire department has control over 50 points. The remainder of the points are dependent on the Town of Guilderland which supplies Emergency Communications and the Water System.
I.S.O checks that the fire department tests its pumps regularly and inventories each engine and ladder company’s equipment according to NFPA 1901. We also review the fire company records to determine factors such as:
- type and extent of training provided to fire company personnel
- number of people who participate in training
- firefighter response to emergencies
- maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment
Westmere Fire Department Rating Explained
The Westmere Fire Department operates three engines (pumpers), one ladder truck and one rescue truck. This provides us with the maximum points allowed for fire apparatus. All apparatus and equipment are maintained and tested in accordance with standards issued by the National Fire Protection Association. As you may expect, with the amount of equipment involved, there is quite a bit of record keeping. We use an annual “tickler file” to track the testing that is needed each year. We contract out testing of the pumps, ground ladders, hose and the aerial portion of our ladder truck.
Each engine and the ladder truck are equipped in accordance with NFPA standards which gives us the maximum points available under the I.S.O. system. The rescue truck is considered an “service vehicle” by I.S.O. and, for their rating purposes, is a backup for the ladder truck.
It is interesting to note that, because their primary focus is the protection of property, the life saving features of the rescue truck (and other apparatus) do not have much influence, if any, on their rating system. Much of our rescue equipment such as the Jaws of Life has no effect on the I.S.O. rating. All of our vehicles are equipped with automated external defibrillators which has no effect on our rating.
We are proud that the Westmere Fire Department has an I.S.O. rating of 3. No other fire department in the Town of Guilderland has a higher rating. In fact, several of the career fire departments in Albany County are rated a 3.
Fire departments with an I.S.O. rating of 1 are few and far between. There is no I.S.O. rating assigned to the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY). They are regarded as the best in the nation.
Water supply is a key factor in the I.S.O. rating. It carries a maximum of 40 points of the possible 105.5. The entire Westmere Fire District is covered by fire hydrants connected to the Town of Guilderland water system. The town is responsible for the maintenance and testing of the fire hydrants. As the town has grown, the water department has established interconnects with the City of Albany and Town of Bethlehem water systems and is currently working with the Town of Rotterdam on an interconnect. Whenever there is a fire in the town, the water department is notified. They have the ability to adjust various valves in the system to provide more water to a certain area when needed. In areas where there is no water system, fire departments are rated a 9 or an 8 if they can prove that they can operate a tanker shuttle operation. There are no such areas on the Westmere Fire District.
Emergency Communications are also provided by the Town of Guilderland with backup from Albany County, Town of Colonie, City of Albany and Town of Bethlehem. A maximum of 10 points of the overall score is based on the receipt and dispatch of fire alarms. The Town is part of the County of Albany 9-1-1 system and the APCO P25 interoperable radio system. The town has its own Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) which receives emergency (9-1-1) calls and dispatches police, fire and EMS.
Lastly, there are 5.5 points available for fire prevention, fire safety education and fire investigation. The Westmere Fire Department has an active fire prevention and education program. We visit the area schools such as Westmere Elementary School and we have an annual Fire Prevention Open House. Crews are available for Fire Prevention presentations throughout the year at no cost to the requesting entity.
Fire Investigations are handled by the Town of Guilderland Fire Investigation Team which consists of several Level II (highest level) fire investigators. Many of them are both police officers and firefighters. Assistance is also available from NYS Fire.
More information can be found on the internet at https://www.isomitigation.com or by using your favorite search engine.