By KERRY CRAIG
Changes in the city's telephone system has left only one public number for the fire department, 903-439-3760, which is dedicated for Fire Administration.
Although the phone numbers for both fire stations have changed, Chief Eric Hill said 911 is the number to use in an emergency situation.
“It's not a huge, critical issue for us,” Hill said. “Basically, we are doing away with phone numbers for Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 2.”
Hill emphasized the change only affects calls to the fire stations and not the emergency 911 number.
The change to having only an administrative number for the fire department will help in the ratings from the Texas Department of Insurance that, ultimately, can have an effect on the amount a homeowner pays for insurance.
The ratings, both the ISO [Insurance Services Office] and PPC [Public Protection Classification], grade fire departments in a number of areas including water distribution, fire department equipment and manpower and alarm facilities.
“About four or five years ago when ISO came in and did a rating scale for us, they docked us quite a few points and points to ISO are very valuable and are hard to come by,” Hill said. “This was a chance for the fire department to do away with the individual station's numbers that the ISO does not want publicized.
“That's basically because they don't want individuals thinking that fire station numbers are emergency numbers — they are not,” the chief continued. “Really, the only emergency numbers are manned 24 hours a day like our 911 system and the main number for the police department, 903-885-7602. That's a big issue with insurance rating.”
Hill said that up to the day the numbers changed, people were calling the fire stations to report they were putting the individual station numbers in their phone memory in case they need something or have an emergency.
“No. Don't do that,” Hill said. “We are not here 24 hours a day. Don't put us in your phones in case you have an emergency.”
The chief said that, several years ago, there were problems with people trying to call the individual fire stations in times of emergency and there would be no one there.
During the day especially, firefighters may not be in the station all the time. They may be responding to fire calls or with Emergency Medical Services or conducting safety inspections in businesses.
“The new phone system was an opportunity to come back in with a new system for the fire department only and do a Fire Administration number,” Hill said. “That way, individuals can call and get everything they need. Our new number, 903- 439-3760, was done for a purpose and, hopefully, a couple of years down the road as we improve on it along with our training and training records and record keeping, I can lower our PPC classification from a 'five' to a 'four' and that usually will help with homeowner's insurance ratings.”
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