NEWBERRY — The City of Newberry’s Fire Department ISO rating will move up one classification on Sept. 1 to a Class 2 following an evaluation by the Public Protection Classification Survey.
Fire Chief Keith Minick, along with staff members, volunteers, Explorers, honorary members, city manager and retirees gathered in front of the Firehouse Conference Center on Monday to display the new classification decals placed on the department’s fire engines. The presentation was followed by a dinner.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work and participation,” Minick said.
When Minick presented the news to City Council members in June, he told council that Newberry’s department was one of 40 departments in South Carolina that had received a Class 2 rating.
“It felt very rewarding to know that we were performing at that level,” Minick said.
Insurance Services Office classifications, commonly referred to as ISO ratings, range from Class 1 to Class 10, with Class 1 representing an exemplary fire suppression program.
Each insurance company independently determines the premiums it charges its policyholders and ISO is part of the information used to evaluate public fire protection. Property owners can contact their insurance company, Minick said, to determine if their rates will change.
Many factors play into the evaluation to determine a property owner’s savings.
ISO’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) program evaluates communities according to a uniform set of criteria, which includes nationally recognized standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association and the American Water Works Association.
Minick said a community’s PPC depends on:
• Needed fire flows that are representative building locations used to determine the theoretical amount of water necessary for fire suppression purposes.
• Emergency communications including emergency reporting, telecommunicators and dispatching system.
• The fire department including equipment, staffing, training, geographic distribution of fire companies, operational considerations and community risk.
• Water supply, including inspection and flow testing hydrants and a careful evaluation of available water compared with the amount needed to suppress fires up to 3,500 gallons per minute.
Each of the sections is scored, with each section getting a rating. Minick said emergency communications counts for 10 percent overall, where the water supply makes up 40 percent and the fire department is 50 percent.
The rating depends on the number of hours both their volunteer and career staff obtain, Minick said. The expected number is 240 hours per person per year.
Minick said their department is involved in the community with their smoke detector program.
“We’re on top of trying to prevent fires from occurring,” he said.
Another aspect of community involvement is pre-planning. Minick said they had staff walk through the new Piedmont Technical College facility and its new additions so if there is a need for the department they will be prepared and have a feel for how the building is laid out.
Minick said Newberry received bonus points for its community risk reduction plan this year, which included fire prevention code enforcement and going in schools to talk with students.
Minick said they have 11 certified fire marshals and five trained to the level of fire investigator.
“Those are a few things that gave us that boost to reach Level 2,” Minick said.
Minick said a few things that could help move the department to a higher level is in the training and personnel areas. Staffing for the department has not increased or changed since 1991, he said.
Minick said the department will focus on training in the next couple of years. Currently the department has locations in Whitmire and Newberry they use for training.
But Minick said they really need to work on realistic training for staff as far as a training facility is concerned. ISO also evaluates the department’s training facility, Minick said.
With the buildings in Newberry and surrounding areas, it’s hard to have realistic training like they did with old mill houses before the Oakland Mill renovation.
Minick said the department was allowed to use chainsaws to cut out windows and doors, breach walls, and perform search/rescue and ventilation tactics in the mill houses. By having those options and using simulated smoke, Minick said it gave a more realistic approach to training.
“We’re looking at how we can be more consistent,” Minick said. “We get out into the community a lot, but we’re looking at how we can do more.”
The department will be up for another evaluation in four years.