Esky’s ISO rating jumps

ESCANABA – Escanaba’s ability to protect the public from fire has improved over the years despite a loss of firefighters, according to a national classification system that evaluates fire-protection services.

The ISO Public Protection Classification Program previously rated Escanaba’s fire protection at a class 6 in 1996. A recent evaluation, which goes into effect Feb. 1, improved the ISO rating to a class 4, explained Escanaba Public Safety Capt. Jamie Segorski.

According to the ISO website, the rate schedule is from 1 to 10 with a class 1 generally representing superior fire protection and a class 10 indicating a community’s fire-suppression program does not meet the ISO’s minimum criteria.

Escanaba’s improved ISO rating places the community in the top 6 percent of the 1,987 fire departments in the state which use the classification system. Escanaba is among the top 15 percent of the 47,242 departments participating nationwide.

Segorski said the improved rate of class 4 for the local fire department was better than expected considering the number of fire personnel has downsized since Escanaba’s last ISO evaluation.

“Despite the decreased staffing, our ISO rate improved,” Segorski said, contributing the upgrade in large part to the city’s communications and water departments which both received perfect scores in the ISO evaluation.

In addition to evaluating the fire department, the ISO classification program also looks at a community’s water and communications systems, he noted.

Escanaba’s emergency calls are received through the Delta County Dispatch Authority. The dispatch center being housed in the same building as the police station and fire hall, helped Escanaba Public Safety achieve the improved ISO rating, said Segorski, also praising the water department for meeting ISO standards.

The quality of the fire department’s equipment and the training records of the 30 police officers, who are all firefighters, also offset the decrease in manpower and helped improve the ISO rating, Segorski added.

The classification process involves on-site evaluations of the fire hall, the water department, the communications system, fire trucks, other equipment, and training records, said Segorski.

The local fire department’s equipment inventory consists of two main pumpers (one for Escanaba and the other for Wells Township), a ladder truck, a water tender, and a rescue truck which also serves as a command post. The command post houses the communications unit, the Jaws of Life, and the equipment to refill oxygen tanks.

While the ISO evaluation reflects improved fire-protection in Escanaba, the rating program has additional advantages, said Segorski. The ISO rating is used by insurance companies to help establish fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties within a specific radius of the fire hall, he said.

According to one local insurance representative, Bruce Movalson, owner of Northern Insurance Agency Inc., the improved ISO rating is a good sign for the city of Escanaba.

The upgrade should lower insurance rates but does not necessarily guarantee an automatic rate reduction because of other factors in the equation, he said. Movalson expects to know more about how the improved ISO rate affects local policies in upcoming weeks.