SPFD’s Hard Work Yields Improved ISO Rating; Taxpayers Likely to Benefit
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point Fire Department now ranks among the top three percent of the safest departments in the nation — and it could have a positive impact on the cost of property insurance.
The SPFD announced last week it had earned a Class 2 rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), the second-highest possible rating offered by the international risk-assessment organization. The rating is based on multiple factors, to include the level of fire protection offered by the department, internal training requirements, and the amount of fire safety education provided to the public and institutional organizations, such as local schools.
“A lot of it was behind-the-scenes work,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jodi Baganz.
Mayor Mike Wiza said the department was hoping for a Class 1 designation, but added the new classification will likely help lower insurance premiums for property owners — both commercial and residential — throughout the city.
Property owners are responsible for notifying their respective insurances companies of the new rating, he said.
“It’ll probably vary depending on your coverage and your insurance company, but I think most people can expect between a two and five percent drop in their premiums,” Wiza said.
City Treasurer Corey Ladick said while he wasn’t an expert in property insurance matters, he agreed Wiza’s numbers were a realistic estimate.
“Taxpayers could stand to benefit with lower rates on their homeowners insurance, but what those changes would be…it’s really going to vary depending on the insurance agency,” Ladick said. “We would expect business owners to see some change in their premiums as well.”
Ladick added the city’s premiums on municipal property could also be affected, but whether that change would be positive or negative wouldn’t be known until an citywide property reassessment is finished later this year.
For the rating inspection, the department did “quite a bit of data crunching,” according to Baganz. Department records show Stevens Point firefighters reached all fire calls over the past year within eight minutes — 92 percent of those calls were reached inside the four-minute mark.
“We also revamped our training program,” Baganz said. Now, anyone who drives a SPFD vehicle needs 12 hours of training annually; fire investigators within the dept. must complete 40 hours of training per year; 24 hours of specific training is required for fire inspectors; and new hires in the department undergo a stringent 290-hour training program.
That’s in addition to EMS training, regular shifts and calls for service, ancillary tasks at the FD and the 10-16 hours of required monthly firefighter training, Baganz said. It also doesn’t include ongoing classes and training for other firefighting niches, like that of certified instructor. Those training elements added nine points to SPFD’s score.
But the most points were awarded based on the department’s efforts in fire prevention and investigation. Lt. Tracy Aldrich and Firefighter Shane Westphal were among those who played an important role in the new rating, Baganz said. Aldrich worked directly with local schools to identify additional fire routes and exits in each building, while Westphal was awarded Public Educator of the Year by the Wis. State Fire Investigators Association.
The department had been hoping for a Class 1 rank, Baganz said, but missed points for reasons beyond its control.
“We’re two-and-a-half points from a one [classification],” Baganz said. “But we don’t have the personnel to be able to do it, and we don’t control that in-house.”
Baganz said the department currently staffs fire engines with three individuals, but the limited budget of SPFD doesn’t currently allow for additional fire trucks or personnel.
“They’d like us to have another engine company, and four or five people on an apparatus,” Baganz said of the ISO inspection. “We’re just not there right now. But the whole department really came together on this — these guys worked really hard to get here.”