Fire department's attention to detail may pay off in lower insurance premiums
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Sulphur Springs firefighter Duane Sprague, a member of the local dive team, checks the area near the dry hydrant at Peavine Pinion Pond in an attempt to locate the source of pumping problems Monday. SSFD is required to conducted training using the dry hydrant annually to meet National Fire Protection Agency regulations and for ISO standards, which factor into costs of insurance premiums for Sulphur Springs residents and businesses.
Staff photo by Faith Huffman

July 15, 2005 -- Testing a dry hydrant at a city park may sound like a little thing, but in the grander scheme, it turns out to be a big deal that could affect how much Sulphur Springs residents have to pay for their home insurance.

When Sulphur Springs Fire Department began last week conducting its annual test of dry hydrants, they discovered a problem with the newly installed dry hydrant at Peavine Pinion Pond.

They were unable to draft the proper amount of water per minute utilizing the dry hydrant, installed at the city park in May, to provide an additional water source should it be needed if a fire occurred in the area or in case of a natural disaster.

According to Sulphur Springs Assistant Fire Marshall Eric Hill, SSFD spent the better part of the morning Friday trying to test the pumping capacity and vacuum on one of its trucks, only to have one of its suction hoses collapse. They determined the problem to most likely be with the dry hydrant, not the hose or fire truck.

A member of SSFD's dive team went in Monday morning to find the cause of the problem. Duane Sprague discovered a long tangle of fishing line near the hydrant and a rusted-out barrel over a portion of the tank. The items were removed, but the problem persisted. They were still working Wednesday to fix the problem, and planned to continue working at the hydrant until it is fully functional.

It may sound like a lot of attention to small problem, but the testing of hydrants are critical to the city's Insurance Service Office Public Protection Classification rating.

ISO collects information on fire-protection efforts in communities, then assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 is the considered the highest level of fire protection, while a Class 10 indicates the area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet ISO's minimum criteria.

ISO ratings are based on a broad spectrum of factors, including firefighting equipment, personnel and training, water supply, types and conditions of fire hydrants, and how fire alarms are handled. Insurance premiums on property for each city or region are affected by those ratings.

Because fire hydrants account for 5 percent of the score ISO uses to evaluate a city, something like an inoperative dry hydrant could hurt the city's rating.

"This is just part of the process," Hill said. "For ISO, they look at a lot of different things. We're just trying to get us in shape for when they do look at us, and our paper work will all be in order."

"We are currently at an ISO level of 5," said Sulphur Springs Fire Marshal Gerry Cleaver. "We'd love to see that drop to 4 in the future, but right now we are focusing on maintaining a 5. Every day we incorporate a little bit more to try to improve our rating."

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