DETERMINING THE BEST PLAN OF ACTION FOR IMPROVING THE ISO RATING FOR THE BRYAN, TEXAS FIRE DEPARTMENT EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP.

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1 DETERMINING THE BEST PLAN OF ACTION FOR IMPROVING THE ISO RATING FOR THE BRYAN, TEXAS FIRE DEPARTMENT EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP BY: Randy McGregor Bryan Fire Department Bryan, Texas An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program September, 2006

2 2 CERTIFICATION STATEMENT I hereby certify that this paper constitutes my own product, that where the language of others is set forth, quotation marks so indicate, and that the appropriate credit is given where I have used the language, ideas, expressions, or writings of others. Signed:

3 3 Abstract The problem was that there was no formal plan in place to improve the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for the Bryan Fire Department. The department was scheduled for a review in early 2007 and wanted to reduce its Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from 4 to 2, if possible. With limited funding and resources available, a plan of action was needed to determine the most effective and feasible way to lower the City s PPC. The purpose of this research was to determine the best plan of action for improving the ISO rating for the Bryan, Texas Fire Department. During this research, action research methods were used to answer the following questions: 1. In what areas, and how much credit does the Bryan Fire Department receive in its current Public Protection Classification (PPC)? 2. In what areas could the Bryan Fire Department improve in and what are the associated costs? 3. What improvements would be the most feasible and productive for the Bryan Fire department to reduce its PPC? Through the methods of literature review, literary research, requests for information, and personal interviews, efforts were made to address every feasible aspect of improving the City s PPC in a cost-effective and feasible manner. Information was gathered from the Insurance Services Office, related published material, fire equipment vendors, an ISO consultant, the Bryan Fire Chief, and human resources department personnel. Results obtained provided the necessary information for establishing a plan of action to reduce the PPC. Also, through the research, many new issues and considerations were

4 4 recognized that would help improve the quality of life for the citizens of Bryan and potentially lower their premiums on fire insurance. Recommendations were made to analyze all potential improvements for cost, feasibility, and added benefits. Also, it was recommended to continually monitor the process for any needed changes.

5 5 Table of Contents Abstract 3 Table of Contents 5 Introduction 6 Background and Significance 7 Literature Review 9 Procedures 23 Results 26 Discussion 29 Recommendations 32 References 34 Appendix A 35

6 6 Introduction The problem is there is no formal plan in place to improve the ISO rating for the Bryan Fire Department. The department is scheduled for a review in early 2007 and wants to reduce its PPC rating from 4 to 2, if possible. With limited funding and resources available, a plan of action is needed to determine the most effective and feasible way to lower the city s PPC. The purpose of this research is to determine the best plan of action for improving the ISO rating for the Bryan, Texas Fire Department. During this research, action research methods were used to answer the following questions: 1. In what areas, and how much credit does the Bryan Fire Department receive in its current Public Protection Classification (PPC)? 2. In what areas could the Bryan Fire Department improve in and what are the associated costs? 3. What improvements would be the most feasible and productive for the Bryan Fire Department to reduce its PPC?

7 7 Background and Significance The Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for a fire department is important not only for the department, but also has a significant impact on the citizens and commercial businesses which they serve. Still, many fire departments are not aware of how the ISO rating system works or how it affects their communities. The issue of improving the ISO rating for the City of Bryan is significant in several ways. First and foremost is improving fire and life safety services to its citizens. By utilizing ISO criteria, a fire department may target low-performing areas and improve its level of service, all while reaping other benefits from a lower rating. The goal of lowering the PPC can provide a blueprint potentially for bolstering fire fighting capabilities that might otherwise have been unattainable. The City of Bryan has an adjoining city, College Station, with which it competes for economical development. The neighboring city has a lower ISO rating which can be attractive to prospective businesses. The City of College Station also has a lower tax rate for attracting new businesses. The City of Bryan has seen many of its businesses relocate to College Station for the tax benefit as well as lowered fire insurance rates due to their lower PPC. It is critical for the City of Bryan to pursue every avenue to make itself more attractive for economic growth. The last ISO review for the City of Bryan was approximately ten years ago, and many significant changes have been made, most specific to the city s water supply. Currently, the City of Bryan has a Class 4 PPC rating. From preliminary assessments, obtaining a Class 3 PPC is fairly attainable, due to the mentioned upgrades since the last grading. But, ideally the

8 8 city needs to get to a Class 2 PPC in order to reap the maximum realistic benefits and to stay competitive with the City of College Station, which has a Class 2 PPC. Another issue facing the City of Bryan is its very limited resources to appropriate to this endeavor. There are many different ways to earn credit and reduce a city s PPC, but which ones are feasible and will provide a return back to the city in more than just a better PPC? In order to potentially reach a Class 2 PPC, research is needed to determine the best plan of action for reducing the ISO rating and to gain the maximum benefit from resources allocated. In 2004 the Fire Chief presented a plan to the Bryan City Council for relocating some of the city s fire stations in the next three to five years. This proposal has been added to a list of proposed capital improvements for the City of Bryan, which is currently reviewing which projects will move forward. The implications of relocating some of the fire stations will directly impact the ISO rating. It is critical that the potential relocations be researched to determine the maximum benefit. Another current issue is that the Department has begun plans for building a fifth fire station. Additional personnel are being hired in the next three years, and the station is proposed to be in operation during fiscal year The addition of a fifth station, along with relocating some existing stations, must be done in a way that will help lower the PPC for the City of Bryan. This study relates to the course content in unit eleven of the Executive Leadership Course which discusses determining relevant constituent groups and the arguments that would appeal to these groups. In order to lower the City of Bryan s PPC, there will be some significant costs to city and the taxpayers. As funding is limited for all city departments, it is critical to explain the

9 9 costs and benefits with the City Council and taxpayers in order to find the most economical and feasible method of obtaining a lower PPC. This study fulfills one of the three operational objectives set by the United States Fire Administration which is, To respond appropriately in a timely manner to emergent issues (United States Fire Administration, 2003, p.ii-2). This study will assist the Bryan Fire Department in the improvement of the City of Bryan s PPC rating which will help enhance fire protection and lower fire insurance premiums for the citizens of Bryan. Literature Review Research Question #1: In what areas, and how much credit does the Bryan Fire Department receive in its current Public Protection Classification (PPC)? When the time comes for a city to be reviewed for an ISO inspection, many departments are not aware of what their current rating is. In fact many fire department leaders are not even aware of their PPC. Even the ISO s own commissioned survey of 501 fire chiefs nationwide indicated that only 87% of fire chiefs were familiar with the PPC program and only 76% of fire chiefs knew their PPC number (Festa, 2004, p.128). In order to improve the current PPC rating for the City of Bryan, it would be imperative that knowledge of the current situation be ascertained. In review of the last grading schedule performed in February of 1990, The City of Bryan received an overall point total of which barely put it into a class 4 PPC. The following table shows the credit points needed for each class:

10 10 Credit points Class Credit points Class (Insurance Services Office, 2001, p.5) The 1990 grading schedule details point accumulations for the three areas that make up the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). The Fire Suppression Rating Schedule is the manual that ISO utilizes in reviewing the firefighting capabilities of individual communities. This schedule evaluates the three major items comprising a community s fire suppression infrastructure and develops a numerical grading called a Public Protection Classification (PPC). The items considered are Fire Alarm, Fire Department, and Water Supply. (Pietsch, 2005, p.2) The 1990 grading schedule showed the City of Bryan received the following points each in the three major categories that comprise the FSRS: Total Credit Actual Maximum Receiving and Handling Fire Alarms Fire Department Water Supply Texas Addendum Credit Divergence <3.25> Total Points Credit For Bryan Texas (ISO, 2001, p.5)

11 11 In review of the individual credits of the three categories, viable improvement areas are revealed. For example, in the category of Fire Department- Credit for Engine Companies, only half of the points available were achieved (ISO, 2001, p.11). When the proposed fifth station is opened, additional points will be gained. Also, part of this category includes equipment carried on engines. More points may be available by adding required equipment not currently carried on Bryan Fire Department Engine Companies. Another area in which the department did not rate well was the credit for distribution of companies. For maximum credit in the schedule, all sections of the city with hydrant protection should be within 1 ½ miles of an adequately equipped engine company and within 2 ½ miles of an adequately equipped service company (ISO, 2001, p.10). New stations and/or relocating current stations could be needed. In the category of Water Supply, a review of the grading schedule revealed areas of concern; Credit for the Water System, and Credit for Inspection and Condition of Hydrants. Out of a possible 35 points, only were achieved. (ISO, 2001, p.11) The City of Bryan is an older city with much of its water supply infrastructure antiquated as well. Additionally, fire hydrant maintenance has been minimal since the Water Services Department assumed those duties from the Fire Department back in the middle 1990 s. Since the last ISO evaluation, some changes and additions have occurred in the Fire Alarm office. The total credit for telephone service, operators, and dispatch circuits combined for a total of 6.50 points out of a possible 10. (ISO, 2001, p.11) There should be some additional points to be gained from the improvements since the last grading. There have been some hardware updates and additional personnel hired since the last evaluation.

12 12 In July of 2005, the City of Bryan hired a private consultant to analyze a grading scenario that should result if an ISO Public Protection Survey were requested. After analyzing the city s resources and capabilities, the engineer concluded: In 1990 the point total developed by ISO for the City of Bryan was (ISO PPC4). My study indicates that the point would be (ISO PPC 3) if an ISO survey commenced with the City of Bryan s fire defense infrastructure, as it existed on August 17, (Pietsch, 2005, p.8) Even if the consultant s conclusion is accurate, in order for the City of Bryan to get to a PPC of 2 there would still need to be an increase of ten to twelve points to comfortably achieve it. Research Question #2 In what areas could the Bryan Fire Department improve in and what are the associated costs? With the City of Bryan wanting to get to a PPC 2, there will be fairly significant upgrades and changes needed to achieve it. Nearly all the changes will have an associated cost that must be determined. While the Bryan City Council would like to improve the overall fire defense infrastructure, limited funding is available to do so. In April of 2005, The Bryan City Council approved funding to hire a consultant to evaluate all areas in which the city s PPC could be improved. Since the last PPC review, the City of Bryan has annexed significant amounts of land that caused the city to grow by about 35%. With the same amount of fire suppression resources in place, the annexing of the new property stretched existing resources beyond acceptable limits. According to an ISO survey,

13 13 Where residential and commercial growth has occurred in the last three years, 73% of the fire officials reported that the growth is straining their departments ability to protect the communities they serve. When asked about the areas where the growth had occurred, 71% of the chiefs reported that it occurred in areas where they needed or still need improvement to water mains, hydrants or hauled-water services; 50% reported it occurred in areas where they needed or still need additional fire stations. (McLaughlin, 2004, p.1) The mentioned scenario is what the City of Bryan has experienced in recent years due to the annexation. In order to accommodate the growth and to help improve the PPC, the City of Bryan is in the first year of a three year plan to design, build, and staff a fifth fire station. While the basis for building this station is to provide response coverage into annexed areas, it will add points to improve the PPC. A fifth fire station should be erected in the vicinity of Bronze and N. Harvey Mitchell Pkwy. This station should house an engine company (apparatus and manpower). If this station, apparatus, and manpower were provided, 4.61 points would be added to the grading point total. (Pietsch, 2005, p.11) The costs projected for this station include: Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $2,500,000* Equipment purchases: Fire Engine and Ambulance $550,000* Annual operating costs including salaries: $650,000 * Updated to current cost (Bryan Fire Department Comprehensive Fire Station Location Plan, 2004, p14)

14 14 Another issue with proper coverage for fire response is that existing stations are no longer in their most effective locations due to annexing land and residential and commercial growth. In addition, to meet ISO requirements for engine and ladder companies, the consultant recommends a sixth fire station. By relocating other existing fire stations, coverage could improve and the need for a sixth station could be eliminated for now. Fire station 4 should be relocated to the vicinity of Old Hearne Road and Stevens Drive. If this station, apparatus and manpower were relocated, 0.54 points would be added to the grading point total (Pietsch, 2005, p.11). While the points gained from moving station 4 may not be significant, it would put the station in a much more practical area to alleviate some of the response load of other stations. The costs for moving station 4 are projected to be: Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $2,500,000* * Updated to current cost (Bryan Fire Department Comprehensive Fire Station Location Plan, 2004, p.14) After station 5 is completed, more points could be earned by relocating other stations. Fire station 2 should be relocated to the vicinity of Briarcrest Drive and Kent St. Fire station 3 should be relocated to the vicinity of Copperfield Drive and F. M If both station #2 and #3 were relocated to the suggested sites listed above, the need for a sixth fire station would be eliminated. This would add 4.95 points to the grading point total. (Pietsch, 2005, p.11-12) While significant points can be earned, moving these two fire stations would be costly. To move these two stations, the estimated cost would be:

15 15 Fire Station 2 Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $3,000,000* * Updated to current cost Along with this station, a proposed training room would be constructed for companies assigned to the southern portion of the City. Fire Station 3 Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $2,500,000* * Updated to current cost (Bryan Fire Department Comprehensive Fire Station Location Plan, 2004) Another aspect of the Fire Department section of the grading schedule that is recommended to be improved is to add a second full-time ladder company. Doing so would garner significant points. By providing the Bryan Fire Department with a second fully equipped elevating platform or aerial ladder truck company (minimum height of the aerial device should be 75- feet), including apparatus and manpower would add 4.33 points to the grading scale (M. Pietsch, 2005, p.12). In order to implement this, the estimated costs would be approximately: Aerial platform ladder truck consistent with current fleet $1,300,000 (C. Russell, personal communication, August 3, 2006) Staffing (per year) 3 Lieutenant positions, including benefits $66,386 x 3 $199, Apparatus Operator positions, including benefits $58,710 x 3 $176, Firefighter positions, including benefits $49,508 x 3 $148, (H. Jackson, personal communication, July 27, 2006) Total initial costs for second ladder company $1,823,816

16 16 Recurring annual cost (staffing) $523,816 Other areas that can be improved upon include training, equipment and manpower. While the training division of the Bryan Fire Department provides on-going training for all personnel, the training criteria required by the ISO are not being met. As a minimum, eight drills of three hour duration should be accomplished for each firefighter on an annual basis. These drills must be at the training facility. Four of these drills must be multi-company; the remaining drills can be single-company or multi-company. Two of either type must be at night. Records must be maintained documenting the drills for full credit. At present, only one multiple company drill and one single company drill are performed annually for each suppression member of the Bryan Fire Department. Drills are not performed at night. If the drills outlined above were performed on an annual basis, 2.42 points would be added to the grade point total. (Pietsch, 2005, p.12) The consultant also concluded that increasing the number of training hours each month and better documentation of training could prove worthwhile. In all aspects of company and multicompany training, costs associated with increasing training and training at night would be minimal. Since all Bryan firefighters work a twenty-four hour shift, there would be no overtime-related costs. There could be some intangible costs such as increased fuel use in apparatus or potential damage to equipment used depending on the type of training. One area in which grading points can be gained is the required pumper equipment that the ISO requires. Currently, the Bryan Fire Department carries all the required equipment except in the category of nozzles. To get the maximum credit allowed, the following nozzles are recommended on each engine:

17 17 Type Quantity 2 ½ playpipe with shutoff 1 2 ½ straight stream and spray with shutoff 1 1 ½ straight stream and spray 2 ¾ or 1 booster hose nozzle 1 (Insurance Services Office, 2001, p. 4) Currently, the 2 ½ nozzles are not carried on BFD engine companies or any 2 ½ hose. The department should provide the following equipment for each of the existing four engines and the reserve engines: two, 2.5 inch shut-off straight stream nozzles attached to a play pipe capable of delivering 250-gallons per minute, two 2.5-inch combination nozzles and a 2.5-inch hydrant hose gate. Providing this equipment will add 1.93 points to the grading point total. (Pietsch, 2005, p.13) As mention above, to purchase the required nozzles and not have hose to use them would not be good judgment. To meet the nozzle requirements and utilize them effectively, adequate 2 ½ hose would need to be purchased as well. A fire equipment company was contacted and a quote was given on the following equipment: Each Extension 12 2 ½ playpipe nozzles with tips $ $ ½ dual force fog nozzles ½ gate valves ½ X 50 sections of N-DURA hose Total $15, (C. Russell, personal communication, August 3, 2006)

18 18 The last aspect of the fire department where significant points could be earned is in staffing or manpower. Currently, all BFD fire apparatus have a minimum of three firefighters. Most fire service leaders agree that fire companies should have at minimum, four firefighters per company. Adding personnel to any career department is very expensive. But doing so can gain more grading points. An increase in the paid personnel on duty by one firefighter will increase the grading point total by 0.59 points (Pietsch, 2005, p.13). For the Bryan Fire Department to increase staffing each firefighter will cost about $49,500 including benefits (H. Jackson, personal communication, July 27, 2006). In the category of water supply, many improvements have been made by the city to the water distribution system since the last ISO grading review. Two areas recognized by the consultant that could provide additional points are improving the distribution system and inspecting/maintaining fire hydrants. Consideration should be given to improve the arterial looping, distribution system gridirons, and hydrant distribution will help improve the water supply item of the grading system. While there exists a possible 4.64 points available within this grading item, a quantitative method does not exist to analyze prospective improvements in this aspect of the grading until such improvements are implemented; therefore, no additional point total will be shown. (Pietsch, 2005, p. 15) In a phone interview with Jayson Barfknecht, Water Services Division Manager for the City of Bryan, he explained that: the Water Department began about two years ago to install new connecting mains to loop previous dead-end lines. While the fire department will obviously gain benefit through the fire hydrants, the original intent was to increase water

19 19 availability to both residential and commercial customers during high-demand times. (J. Barfknecht, personal communication, June 13, 2006) A concern for many recent years with the fire department has been the maintenance, or lack of, for the approximately 2,600 fire hydrants in the city limits. For years the fire department was responsible for all upkeep (flow testing, painting, locations, etc.) of the hydrants. But about ten years ago, the water department took over these duties, and they have not been adequately done. Fire hydrants should be inspected semi-annually with proper records maintained throughout the city limits of Bryan. Each hydrant should be pressure tested semiannually as part of the hydrant inspection process. Providing this level of attention to the fire hydrants would add 2.60 points to the grading point total. (M. Pietsch, 2005, p.16) Since the consultant s report was delivered, the City of Bryan Water Services Department has begun a comprehensive hydrant maintenance program. Initially we GPSed all of the hydrants and ensured they had water and were functioning. We are now following up with greasing the hydrants and painting them. We flow hydrants when needed to determine their flow rate. Long term we will have these flow rates on the fire hydrant layer [on computer] so everyone can see the flow rates. We are collecting manufacturer date and hydrant type as well as how high the steamer nozzle is above the ground. The total expenditures I would say is in the range of 140K (this includes labor, equipment, fire hydrant replacements etc). Now that we have touched all hydrants and located them, it is possible the future

20 20 maintenance and painting would be done by contract. (J. Barfknecht, personal communication, August 8, 2006) In the area of receiving and handling fire alarms, only about half of a point is available for improvement. The Brazos County Emergency Communications District (911 office) receives all emergency calls and dispatches BFD units, as well as other public safety entities in the county. Over the years, several improvements have been made and additional personnel have been added, which has improved the ISO point rating since the last grading. Two areas have been identified to improve: Consideration should be given to implementing the following suggestions. Properly list the emergency and business number for fire emergencies in the white pages of the phone directory under the title Fire Department. This would increase the grading point total by 0.10 points. The emergency power source at the communications center should be tested weekly under a load for one (1) hour. Records should be maintained and be available that document this testing. This would increase the grading point by 0.45 points. (M. Pietsch, 2005, p.14) While the points to be gained are minimal, implementing these suggestions would have very little, if any, tangible costs associated with it. Unique to the State of Texas in the ISO system is the Texas Addendum (sometimes called the Texas Exception). This document analyzes the effectiveness of the fire marshal and building code offices and assigns additional credit for them. Under the Texas Addendum, the consultant noted two possibilities for gaining grade points. Consideration should be given to implementing the following suggestions:

21 21 Provide an additional full time inspector/investigator to the Fire marshal s office. This would add 0.81 points to the grading point total via the Texas Addendum. Provide an additional full-time inspector to the office of the Building Official. This would add 0.38 points to the grading point total via the Texas Addendum. (M. Pietsch, 2005, p. 17) In order to add the two suggested personnel, the following estimated costs, including benefits, would be incurred on an annual basis: Fire Inspector $76,512 Building Inspector $55,100 (H. Jackson, personal communication, July 27, 2006) Research Question #3 What improvements would be the most feasible and productive for the Bryan Fire Department to reduce its PPC? In order to reach the goal of a PPC 2, the City of Bryan must realize that significant funding could be required to accomplish it. Like most other cities, limited funding is available to do so. Considering the costs associated with needed service changes and the scarce resources available in local budgets, it s not surprising that an overwhelming majority of fire chiefs and other officials said obtaining the necessary funding will be a significant obstacle to making improvements. (McLaughlin, 2004, p.3) In order to convince city leaders to allocate adequate funding, careful attention needs to be given to the plan of action that will best benefit the city. While nearly every point to be earned

22 22 will have some associated costs, it would not be financially responsible to determine what the cheapest points would be without determining the impact in every aspect of benefiting the city. In order to win support from city leaders and citizens, the money invested needs to have a larger impact than just lowering the PPC. An important point in gaining support is to educate the taxpayers in the benefits they will receive. A community s classification number quantifies the fire protection delivery system. The classification number can bear directly on fire insurance premiums for structures within that community (Gage, 2001, p.43). In analyzing the different options available to improve the grade point total, affordability and feasibility must be considered. While, as firefighters, we would like every tool, resource, and apparatus known to the fire service, we must be realistic in asking for funds to improve the department. Of the improvements suggested by the consultant, some may be feasible, even if implemented over time, and others may not be realistic. Some of the recommendations made by the consultant involve hiring additional personnel. In an interview with Fire Chief Michael Donoho, he stated, Over the last few years, both the City Council and City Manager have been reluctant to fund additional employees. In fact several positions in the city (not fire department) have been eliminated through attrition (M. Donoho, personal communication, July 6, 2006). Although funding has been approved for the additional personnel to staff station 5, it may not be easy to acquire even more positions at this time. The most feasible way to lower the PPC right now may be to focus on capital improvements and existing infrastructure upgrades. City leaders are usually more open to these types of projects since they typically only have a one-time cost as opposed to the recurring costs of annual salaries of additional people (M. Donoho, personal communication, July 6, 2006).

23 23 By determining areas of town that are lacking in suppression resources and water supply infrastructure, improvements may be made that will not only benefit the ISO rating, but also improve the quality of life for those citizens affected. The PPC program also serves as a guide for fire departments to improve services, thus benefiting the fire service, its customers, and the insurance industry. This makes sense in theory, as long as it is comprehensible, accurate, and useful (Festa, 2004, p.128). By improving the PPC and at the same time, improving other areas that benefit the taxpayers, such improvements and costs would be most feasible and productive to all involved groups. In summary, through the literature review of several sources, including the review of the most current PPC and the consultant s report, the information obtained proved very valuable in this research project. By determining where the city s PPC should be now, after upgrades since the last grading, and determining the most feasible methods of making more improvements to ultimately reach the goal of a PPC 2, a plan of action was constructed to guide the fire department and city in obtaining their goal. Procedures Research Question #1: In what areas, and how much credit does the Bryan Fire Department receive in its current Public Protection Classification (PPC)? Two sources of information were needed to determine where the city s current PPC could accurately be; a copy of the last grading report (FSRS) and the report from a consultant the city hired to evaluate the possibilities of improving its rating. A copy was provided by Nathan Sivils, Bryan Fire Marshal, to the author. The report is also available by contacting the Insurance Services Office of Texas at 3000 South IH-35, Suite 225, Austin Texas, or by calling

24 24 (800) The consultant s report was made available to the Fire Chief, who supplied it to the author. A copy of this report is also available at Mike Pietsch, P.E. Consulting Services, 3101 S. Country Club Road, Garland, TX or by calling (972) A search was also done on the database at Learning Resource Center on the campus of the National Fire Academy to look for articles on reviewing PPC classifications. The search query of ISO PPC led to the article of Do you know your ISO rating? by James P. Festa in Fire Engineering magazine. By analyzing the FSRS and the review of the consultant s report, it was possible to see how grading points were scored at the last inspection and have an accurate estimate of what additional points would be added from improvements since that last inspection. By having a baseline estimate to work from, it was possible to see what additional improvements would be needed to get to the City s goal of a PPC 2. Research Question #2: In what areas could the Bryan Fire Department improve in and what are the associated costs? In referencing the consultant s report, several contacts were made to determine associated costs with potential improvements. In referencing costs for moving fire stations, a review of the Bryan Fire Department Comprehensive Station Location Plan was done. A copy was supplied by the Fire Chief Michael Donoho to the author. A copy is available by contacting Michael Donoho, Fire Chief, 300 W. WJB, Bryan, TX or by calling To determine the approximate cost for a second ladder company, a personal call was made on August 3 rd, 2006, to Craig Russell of Metro Fire Apparatus Specialists in Houston. An

25 25 estimate was given for a new 95 platform ladder truck similar to the truck in the current fleet. Also, a quote was received for additional equipment to add to engine companies. To determine costs for additional personnel, an was sent on July 27 th, 2006 to Hannah Jackson, Human resource Specialist for the City of Bryan. Information was requested for the costs of a Fire Lieutenant, an Apparatus Operator, a Firefighter, a Fire Inspector, and a Building Inspector. Ms. Jackson replied with costs for each position and benefits. To determine associated costs with improving the city s water infrastructure, a phone call was made on June 13 th to Jayson Barfknecht, division manger for Water Services for the City of Bryan. Information was requested on recent upgrades and future plans for upgrades to the City s water infrastructure. On August 8 th, 2006, an was sent to Jayson Barfknecht, division manger for Water Services for the City of Bryan requesting maintenance procedures and associated costs for all fire hydrant maintenance. A search was done on the website of Fire Chief magazine ( using the keywords ISO PPE. The search led to the article Growing Pains by Patrick McLaughlin. This article was researched for insight into improving a PPC rating. Research Question #3 What improvements would be the most feasible and productive for the Bryan Fire Department to reduce its PPC? An interview was conducted on July 6 th, 2006 with Fire Chief Michael Donoho to ascertain the feasibility of hiring additional personnel and his thoughts on how city leaders would view such requests, as opposed to capital improvements.

26 26 A search was also done on the database at Learning Resource Center on the campus of the National Fire Academy to look for articles on reviewing PPC classifications. The search query of ISO PPC led to the article of Bottom-up Approach to Better Classification, by Dennis Gage in Fire Chief magazine. The article was very informative in determining ways to make realistic and feasible improvements to a PPC rating. Limitations There were some limitations in the research on evaluating and improving a PPC. While there seemed to be sufficient literature available for this research, much information found was several years old and was not deemed current. A search of the National Fire Academy s Learning Resource Center was performed while on campus, but only a very few research papers were written on ISO improvements. A search was also performed at the Sterling C. Evans Library on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas for literature on PPC ratings, but no useable information was found Definitions FSRS GPS ISO PPC Fire Suppression Rating Schedule Global Positioning Systems Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification Results Research Question #1: In what areas, and how much credit does the Bryan Fire Department receive in its current Public Protection Classification (PPC)?

27 27 After reviewing the 1990 grading schedule, and the estimates made by the consultant, it was obvious that the City of Bryan has a significant task to achieve a PPC of 2. With points from 1990 and the consultant s estimate that if a re-grading took place today, the city would receive an additional 9.52 for a total of Still, this barely puts the city in a PPC 3. Although the city gained nearly ten points over the last fifteen years, there have been no specific actions taken to improve the PPC. Most of the estimated gain in points can be attributed to improvements to the water supply infrastructure. Research Question #2 In what areas could the Bryan Fire Department improve in and what are the associated costs? While there is an associated cost with every improvement, some are more significant than others. After evaluating all areas that could be improved, there are many different ways to gain more points to reduce the PPC. Listed below are all the potential improvements, their point value and their estimated costs. Improvement Point Value Estimated Cost Opening of Fire station $3,700,000 Relocating Station $2,500,000 Relocating Stations 2 and $5,500,000 Second full-time Ladder Company 4.33 $1,823,816 Additional Training 2.42 Small, intangible cost Additional nozzles for engine companies 1.93 $15,069 Staffing each additional firefighter 0.59 $49,500 Upgrades to water infrastructure 4.64 unable to estimate

28 28 Fire hydrant maintenance 2.60 $140,000 List emergency phone numbers 0.10 none Test emergency power source at 911 office 0.45 minimal Additional full-time fire inspector 0.81 $76,512 Additional full-time building inspector 0.38 $55,100 Totals $13,859,997 Research Question #3 What improvements would be the most feasible and productive for the Bryan Fire Department to reduce its PPC? Many considerations must be made to determine the most feasible and productive improvements. Included in those considerations are cost, point value, additional benefits other than PPC, and improvement of services for citizens. An interview was conducted on July 6 th, 2006 with Fire Chief Michael Donoho to ascertain the feasibility of hiring additional personnel and his thoughts on how city leaders would view such requests, as opposed to capital improvements. Chief Donoho stated that he felt the current City Council and city leaders would probably be more open to infrastructure improvements than hiring additional staff due to recurring personnel costs each year. After review of literature, research, personal interviews, and requests for information, a detailed recommendation was made to the Fire Chief (See Appendix A). It is apparent that in order for the City of Bryan to get a PPC 2, it will require some major capital improvements over several years or hiring additional staff.

29 29 Discussion It is apparent after much research that significant and careful thought must be utilized when developing a plan of action to improve a city s PPC. The PPC affects everyone in the community from how the fire department is equipped and responds, to city leaders allocating funding, to the residents and property owners who pay fire insurance premiums. As the City of Bryan, like many other cities, has experienced significant growth in recent years, planning for proper fire protection is critical. Annexation over the last several years has created areas that are difficult to protect effectively due to stretched resources. Not surprisingly, 84% of the fire officials in areas that experienced heavy or moderate growth over the past three years felt that growth has strained their departments resources (McLaughlin, 2004, p.1). In order to get the most out of this project, the Bryan City Council approved the hiring of a consultant, W. Michael Pietsch, P.E., to analyze the city s past, present, and future ISO PPC needs. Because of the outreaching implications of a better PPC, as well as political implications, the City Council felt the money spent on a consultant would be worthwhile. With growing public awareness that good ISO public protection classifications can produce significant cost savings on homeowner s policies, community leaders are turning to consultants for help to improve fire departments, water supplies, and communications systems the elements that go into the ISO classification. (Gage, 2001, p.42) As of the last grading, the City of Bryan was given a PPC 4. As seen in the consultant s report, upgrades to infrastructure since the last grading would probably move the City of Bryan to a PPC 3. But, the goal of the city is to get to a PPC 2 to be able to compete with a

30 30 neighboring city for economic growth. Two issues to consider in meeting this goal are the growth, both recent and future, and upgrades to existing areas. In order for the Fire Department to provide for growth, a new fire station and the relocation of other stations are needed in order to respond effectively. For a community to provide a reasonable level of protection under the analysis system used, a fire department should have suitable located apparatus of proper types (M. Pietsch, 2005, p.11). As for addressing improvements to existing areas, we, as members of the fire department, tend to focus only on what will improve the fire department. But we must consider all stakeholders that are affected. But when looking to improve the department, what is a good plan of action? As firefighters concerned with the quality of our departments, we should pay attention to the ISO s PPC program and use it to guide us toward improvement (Festa, 2004, p.129). Many areas have been identified that can be improved upon in order to better the PPC. But nearly all of them carry a significant cost with them. One of the most important aspects of the FSRS is water supply, but it is also one of the most expensive to upgrade. Most public officials will acknowledge that for many new and expanding communities, as well as rural communities, access to water still is the area requiring the largest investment. Adding accredited water sources often produce the greatest possible improvement in fire protection, as measured by the PPC. (McLaughlin, 2004, p.2) With many recommendations to consider, all improvements need to be evaluated to determine their feasibility and potential benefits beyond the PPC. With limited funding, any

31 31 improvement with significant costs should provide other benefits than just PPC points. It would make good sense to get more for the tax dollar spent than just buying points on the FSRS. In order to secure funding for costly improvements, the importance of lowering the PPC must be communicated to everyone in the community. Those who could receive direct benefits, such as lower insurance rates, might be more willing and understanding to support the project. If presented correctly, it can provide a win-win situation for the fire department and the residents. Communities wishing to lower residents fire insurance premiums can focus attention upon improving their fire protection delivery system. Over the long term, those improvements should reduce property fire loss, and insurers can reflect the lower losses in premiums (Gage, 2001, p.43). By studying the PPC program, a fire department can plan for the future, enhance capabilities, and prepare for the future. Even if a department is not looking currently to improve their PPC, it is still a good blueprint for the department, especially in the area of planning. Fire departments rely on the PPC program because it helps them plan for, budget and justify expenditures that reduce property damage from fire (McLaughlin, 2004, p.5). It is the author s interpretation that the City of Bryan can reduce its current PPC and improve other aspects of service delivery in the most cost efficient and feasible way. While it appears it may take several years to reach its goal of a PPC 2, it does appear that it is a reasonable possibility. The time frame for getting to a PPC 2 is predominantly based on the allocation of funding. This study has revealed the importance of proper planning and focusing on maximizing the benefits on money spent to improve the PPC. In order for an improvement in the PPC to be successful for the Bryan Fire Department, it is the author s opinion that all of the consultant s recommendations must be scrutinized for

32 32 efficiency and feasibility and a plan of action should be followed in order to implement a sensible and financially sound path to accomplish its goal. By following the recommendations made, the organization can greatly enhance its chance to improve its PPC in the most cost-effective and timely way. While doing so, it can also reap the greatest benefit from money invested in this project that can improve the fire department and allow the benefits to reach the residents in the form of better fire protection and lower insurance costs. Recommendations Based on the review of the information in this study, there are several recommendations to be made. First, city leaders need to be presented the options and costs for improvements made by the consultant. The Fire Department needs to also present its plan of action and communicate why we feel it is most feasible to follow and the benefits it will have. Support of this project could be bolstered by educating citizens on its benefits and explaining the need to lower the PPC. Continuous monitoring must occur while this multi-year project is working. For example, changes in demographics could affect proposed station location changes. When improvements are initiated, all potential benefits should be studied to ensure efficiency of money spent. Also, long term planning must be considered to ensure the improvement will benefit the city for many years and not be a short-term fix. It must be recognized that this is not a Fire Department only project; a good working relationship and communication is necessary with the Water Department and the Dispatch Communication Center. While the goal of this study is to determine a plan of action for lowering the city s PPC, the more global thought of improving

33 33 fire defense systems and enhancing the quality of life for the City of Bryan s citizens is most important. These recommendations are made to help the Bryan Fire Department to improve its fire defense system, improve city services, and reduce its PPC in the most timely and cost-effective manner. If done properly, not only will the Fire Department benefit, but so will all citizens of Bryan through better fire protection, better water service, and decreased insurance premiums. It is the author s belief that any city wishing to improve its PPC will have similar projected success by following the procedures, recommendations, and advice of the sources cited in this research.

34 34 References Bryan Fire Department Comprehensive Fire Station Location Plan (2004) Festa, J., (2004), Do you know your ISO rating? Fire Engineering, 157(1), p Gage, D., (2001), Bottom-up approach to better classification. Fire Chief, 45(8), p Insurance Services Office. (2001, May), Classification report for the City of Bryan. Austin, Texas McLaughlin, P., (2004), Growing pains. Fire Chief, 48 (1), Retrieved July 2, 2006, from Pietsch, M., (2005), A report to the City of Bryan concerning a possible improvement in the City of Bryan s ISO Public Protection classification. Garland, Texas United States Fire Administration, (2003) Executive Fire Officer Program, Operational Policies and Procedures, Applied Research Guidelines, II-2

35 35 Appendix A TO: FROM: SUBJECT: Michael Donoho, Fire Chief Randy McGregor, Assistant Chief Recommendations for improving PPC DATE: August 25, 2006 As you know, one of the administrative goals of the Bryan Fire Department has been to reduce our Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification (PPC) from a PPC 4 currently to a PPC 2, ideally. After City Council approval back in April of 2005 to hire a consultant, many different options have been presented, through the consultant s recommendations, to improve the PPC. While improving our PPC is important, other factors must be considered when deciding which improvements could be implemented. Nearly all improvements noted will have an associated cost and must be scrutinized for feasibility and any added benefit beyond Fire Suppression Rating Scale (FSRS) points. Listed below is a breakdown of all potential improvements recommended by the consultant with their associated point values and estimated costs. Fire Station 5 While this project has already begun, it will be about 2 years before we see any benefit from the projected point value (4.61) it will receive. The estimated costs for this project will be:

36 36 Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $2,500,000 Equipment purchases: Fire Engine and Ambulance $550,000 Annual operating costs including salaries: $650,000 When this station is opened, not only will the point gain be significant, it will dramatically improve response times and service levels on the west side of town. Relocation of Station 4 As part of the Bryan Fire Department s Comprehensive Station Location Plan, Station 4 would be the first station to be moved due to its current remote location at the very northern part of the city. Moving this station will only add 0.54 points, but it will greatly enhance the effectiveness of this station by getting it closer to the population it serves. Also, it would improve the station s response time to all other parts of town as well. The estimated costs (updated since the Relocation Plan) will be: Land acquisition, engineering and design, construction $2,500,000 There will be no recurring salary costs with this project since the current personnel and equipment would be moved to the new location. It would be likely that this would be done in 1-2 years after Station 5 is completed. Relocating Stations 2 and 3 After Station 5 is opened, there would be a need to move both Stations 2 and 3 further east to accommodate for new development on the southern and eastern portions of town. These could be moved separately, but if they were done concurrently, it would add 4.95 points to the FSRS. These relocations would be done after Station 4. The estimated costs (updated since the Relocation Plan) will be:

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