Effective July 1, the Burton Fire District’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification rating will improve from a 4 to a 3, elevating the fire district into an elite group of fire departments nationwide and helping lower many individual and business insurance premiums throughout the district.
ISO inspects fire departments throughout the United States and analyzes the relevant data and assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet ISO’s minimum criteria.
The Burton Fire District protects an area of 83 square miles that includes areas of commercial, industrial, residential development along with rural communities and the intertwining waterways.
The last time the Burton Fire District was evaluated was in 1986 when the district operated out of three fire stations with six paid firefighters. Today the district operates out of five fire stations, with 56 paid firefighters trained to national standards and capable of responding to the various types of emergencies expected of today’s modern fire service to include an Advance Life Support program.
“What this grading signifies to us and to our citizens is, that with all the tremendous and dynamic growth our county has undergone in the last 26 years, that we have approached providing the needed fire protection in a smart, efficient, and economically responsible manner,” stated Burton Fire District Fire Chief Harry Rountree. “Not only did we maintain our rating, but improved to a level that puts us with the top graded fire departments in both the state and the nation!”
Nationally 48,324 departments are graded by ISO, with 681 of those departments being in the state of South Carolina. Nationally, only 2,662 fire departments, or less than 1%, have a rating of 3 and below, and 104 South Carolina departments, or 15%, have a similar rating of 3 or lower.
Several of the Burton Fire District’s programs were closely inspected and graded such as training, apparatus, and personnel. While the district was given high grades in all areas, it was the management of the fire district’s apparatus fleet that was a highlight during the inspection.
The fire district maximized its grade for pumper capacity — scoring 5 out of 5 points — in which the fire potential that the district may be faced with is compared against their apparatus’ ability to combat those fires.
The change in ISO grading from a 4 to a 3 can mean savings in insurance premiums for homeowners, and even more so for commercial businesses. Burton Deputy Fire Chief Tom Webb cautions homeowners to call their insurance company because savings can vary between agencies. Another major impact to insurance premiums can go beyond your fire department’s ISO grading but in the water supply to your community.
“For any building that does not have a fire hydrant within a 1,000 feet of the structure, it doesn’t matter if your fire department is graded as an ISO 1 or an ISO 3, you may not see any savings,” Webb stated. “No matter what type of equipment the department has, if there is no water available to use at that address, the grading doesn’t matter.”
“To protect such a vast area encompassing so many diversified hazards, and being able to keep up with growth and continue to meet both national standards and public expectations; and then, to be graded in the top 1% of fire department’s nationally is quite an accomplishment,” stated Rountree. “We have proven we are doing right, we are doing it smart, and providing our citizens with what they need and deserve.”