It was announced this week that the City of Greenwood has earned an ISO rating of three, which is a point lower than it was two years ago in 2015.
What is an ISO rating?
ISO stands for Insurance Service Office. The ISO provides data on risk to insurance companies that is based largely on the fire protection provided by the city’s fire department.
What does this mean to you?
According to local insurance salesman, Phil Hicks, when a city goes from a rating of four to a rating of three most homeowners will see a reduction in their base premium. “There are lots of variables,” said Hicks. “One homeowner may see a savings of $50 while others may only see a $15 savings depending on such things as whether you have a brick house or a frame house as well as the age of the house. But there is a rate decrease.”
The Greenwood City Fire Department received an ISO rating of four in 2015. That was down from a five that they earned in 2004. The oldest rating on record at the fire department shows that the city received a rating of seven in 1988.
How did we get here?
When you look at the fire department and the parks department in Greenwood the recent spike in improvements can be traced back to the three quarter cent sales tax that citizens passed back in 2006.
The proceeds of the sales tax are split equally among the fire, parks and street departments. According to Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow each department receives approximately $250,000 a year depending on how much the sales tax brings in. The tax narrowly passed in 2016 squeaking by with just 85 more votes than needed.
The new tax allowed the city to hire a full time employee at the fire department. In Oct. of 2007 Fire Chief Stewart Bryan was hired on by, then mayor, Ken Edwards. “When I was hired on we had already began discussing station two,” said Bryan. “And then we built it the next year.”
Station two, located on Old Chismville Rd. is another key component. That station helps to cover the east side of the city.
The tax also afforded the department the ability to purchase some much needed equipment such as the ladder truck, a rescue truck, a wildland fire truck a command vehicle, an operations truck, a rehab trailer for extended events such as search and rescue, an east side substation as well as other improvements. “The ladder truck is what got us from a five to a four,” said Bryan.
After Bryan went from being a firefighter to the chief the department started a whole new level of training. Several fire fighters have reached the level of Firefighter II since 2007, not to mention a search and rescue team, a swiftwater rescue team, a high angle rescue team, several EMT’s of all levels and many firefighters are now instructors, which allows the department to provide some of its own training rather than go out of town to receive it.
“Moving to a three we did not buy any new equipment,” said Bryan. “Going from a four to a three has everything to do with us having better training and a better response.”
Improvements made by the water department and by the water commission also played a key role in the reduction of the city’s ISO. The addition of a million gallon water tank certainly helped but according to water commission chairman, Steve Ratteree, the largest issue was the flow to fire hydrants. “(Water Superintendent) Tim Posey was able to identify better hydrants that would meet the requirements of ISO,” said Ratteree.
Since 2015 the city has added 24 hydrants around town and has plans to add more to keep pace with the city’s growth.
As time marches on and the city continues to grow there is a race to keep pace with ISO. “As we get larger there is the possibility of us dropping again,” said Chief Bryan. “Not necessarily increasing in land size but increasing in population in subdivisions within city limits. So we have to make sure that everything meets code. And we are doing a good job of that.”
If the city does annex more land that could possibly effect the ISO.
The citizens of Greenwood have passed a ten year extension of the three quarter cent sales tax in 2015. The tax extension ordinance states that the fire department will build a west side fire station and add additional apparatus to extend fire protection to that side of town and to replace trucks that are out of date.
The fire department has made a commitment to future by planning even more training. Starting this year the department will train for one weekend each month to do all that they can to keep the current ISO if not drop it by another point in the coming years.
Chief Bryan has done his share of training as well. “When I became chief I was a regular firefighter like everyone else,” said Bryan. He then went to the fire academy and received his Chief Fire Officer training in Little Rock. And over time Bryan took courses such as arson investigation and inspector. Then along with several others on the department Bryan earned the level of Firefighter II, Driver Operator, Instructor I, Arson Investigation Inspector I, Fire Marshal courses and currently he is taking the Executive Fire Officer Course. “Going through all this training you are always striving for more,” said Bryan. The Chief was recently elected as the President of the Arkansas Association of Fire Chiefs last year. Bryan is also a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators and the Arkansas Fire Marshall Association.
The Greenwood City Fire Department was the first community in the county to become a Firewise Community, which helped with the ISO and helps the city to get grants. Greenwood is also certified as a Ready, Set, Go department, which is a designation by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
“The city should be proud of what we have achieved,” said Bryan. “And that we still want to improve and of how much money that we have been able to save them. We are not doing this so that we can say that we have the biggest and the best. But also citizens want to see us have the type of training that when they dial 911 were there and we know what we are doing and we do it professionally.”