The Hamburg Fire Department underwent an ISO audit in December, the results of which could save property owners some money in coming years.
The Insurance Services Office audit looks at local fire services from a risk mitigation point of view, ranking departments on a scale of 1 to 10. The lower the number, the better the rating with the 1 representing “superior property fire protection” and the 10 showing that an area doesn’t have what the ISO considers to be minimum fire suppression infrastructure.
In addition to departments having bragging rights at having a good fire suppression rating, property insurance schedules are generally cheaper for property owners in areas with good ISO ratings.
Hamburg Fire Chief Tim Hollis told the city council this month that the last audit was approximately nine years ago, and that the city had been rated as a class 5 for 20 years — though he said that on the audit sheet last time the city had come within 0.7 of a point of going up another notch on the rating system.
The ISO audit looks not only at an area’s infrastructure – such as the ability to access or move water and fire fighting equipment – but also at a department’s training, staffing and communication abilities, among other things. Among other things, the new fire department building on North Main Street has been built since the last audit, and the department has received an influx of new equipment.
The 2022 audit was on Dec. 6.
“I feel like we did really well on it,” Hollis said. “(The auditor) worked with us real well.
“The guy was really impressed with our department.”
The results of the audit likely won’t be available until mid-year. Since the audit, Hollis received permission from the city council to purchase a water tank that the department can attach to a fire truck chassis that the department recently received from the state forestry department. Getting the tank installed and able to move water will give the department extra pumping capacity, something ISO auditors consider.
The tank, which the HFD will purchase from the Arkansas Department of Corrections, will cost $12,000.
Hollis said the members of the department feel like they can attach it to the chassis themselves, saving several thousand dollars in bodywork.
The approved funds will come from the department’s Act 833 money, which is directed from the state’s collections on fire insurance premiums.
If the work is completed and the tanker is placed in service in the intervening months before the audit is finalized, the auditor said he could do a supplemental audit report, Hollis said.
“That will help with the overall rating,” he said.
That’s because, of a possible 105 points a department can earn on the audit calculation, water supply can earn up to 40 points.
The fire chief also said that, in light of the audit, the department has several areas it can work on, one being community risk reduction.
In that instance, firefighters would work with businesses and the owners of non-residential structures by doing a walk-through and developing a pre-plan for the structure in case the HFD has to respond to a fire at that location.
“We can get that done and try to help us get even better (ratings),” Hollis said.
During its December meeting, the Hamburg City Council also approved the purchase of a new set of auto extrication equipment — sometimes called the “jaws of life” — at Hollis’ request. He said several of the department’s newer recruits had recently completed extrication training, and that the department’s current set of extrication jaws is 20 years old when most people in the industry consider the use-life of such tools to be 10 years. The new extrication equipment purchase will also be funded by Act 833 money.
Between the dates of Jan. 1 and Dec. 19, the HFD responded to 102 calls.
“It has been a busy year,” Hollis said. “We normally come in at around 70 to 80; with the drought, we had it kind of heightened.”
Of the calls, nine were structure fires, six were automobile extrications, and 18 were woodland fires.
Sixty-six of the HFD’s responses were to what Hollis referred to as “general calls,” responses to smoke sightings, smoke alarms and grass fires. Smoke alarms within the city made up 40 of the calls.