Beaufort, Port Royal seek combined ISO upgraded fire rating

Working together with improved firefighter training and equipment, the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department is seeking a joint Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire rating that could greatly benefit commercial property owners in both Beaufort and Port Royal, Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said.
For 15 years, Beaufort has enjoyed one of the state’s highest fire insurance ratings — an ISO 2. That can translate to annual savings on fire insurance premiums, particularly for commercial properties. Insurance companies can use the ISO rating as an indicator of a community’s ability to provide fire protection.
“With our combined firefighting capability with Port Royal, with our strong water supply system and hydrants, and with our new equipment, we are confident we can earn a joint ISO 2 rating for both the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal,” Negron said. The rating team will be in the Lowcountry through Aug. 5.
A joint ISO 2 rating would keep Beaufort’s fire rating stable and boost Port Royal’s — which could mean more fire insurance savings as developers consider renovating the Port of Port Royal property and others in the town, Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said.
“We have the right equipment, we have a well-trained group of firefighters and we have fire stations in the right locations,” Willis said. “As a community, we are excited about the ISO review coming up.”
Additional benefits of a joint ISO rating include allowing joint purchases of new equipment, saving both Port Royal and Beaufort taxpayers money. The shared equipment would serve the shared ISO, Negron said.
The ISO rating system measures the major elements of a community’s fire-suppression system and develops a numerical grade from one, the highest, to 10. Beaufort is a Class 2 ISO community and Port Royal carries a 3/9 ISO 3 — but missed the Class 2 rating by just three points in 2003.
The goal: Bring all of Port Royal up to a Class 2 ISO and maintain the City’s Class 2, Negron said.
“Since 2003 when the Town of Port Royal received their last rating and 1991 since the City of Beaufort received ours, our fire department has been working toward strengthening both ISO ratings,” he said.
Here’s how the review process works, according to the Insurance Services Office:
Fire alarms: 10 percent of the overall grading is based on how well the fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its fire-fighting resources. Field representatives evaluate the communications center, the number of operators at the center and the listing of emergency numbers in the telephone book. Field representatives also look at the dispatch circuits and how the center notifies firefighters about the location of the emergency.
Engine companies: 50 percent of the overall grading is based on the number of engine companies and the amount of water a community needs to fight a fire. ISO reviews the distribution of fire companies throughout the area and checks that the fire department tests its pumps regularly and inventories each engine company’s nozzles, hoses, breathing apparatus and other equipment.
ISO also reviews the fire-company records to determine:
• type and extent of training provided to fire-company personnel
• number of people who participate in training
• firefighter response to emergencies
• maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment.

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