Effective April 28, 2013, the Hackensack (NJ) Fire Department has been upgraded to a Class 1 Fire Department by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Of the more than 47,000 fire departments in the United States subject to the ISO survey, only 61 are rated as Class 1. In the state of New Jersey, Hackensack and Hoboken are the only Class 1 fire departments.
During the past year, Chief Freeman and other chief officers worked with members of the ISO gathering and reviewing the required information for the ISO rating. After the ISO’s data analysis was completed, Chief Freeman was notified by ISO of the department’s new rating of Class 1. This was a considerable upgrade from the department’s previous rating of class 3. Chief Freeman credits the department’s continued improvements in apparatus, training, equipment, and communications to this ISO rating. He also credits the members of the Hackensack Fire Department for their hard work and dedication to the City Of Hackensack.
Through the Public Protection Classification (PPC™) program, ISO evaluates municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. Many communities use the PPC as a benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of their fire-protection services. The PPC program is also a tool that helps communities plan for improvements. A community’s investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predictor of future fire losses.
ISO collects information on municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. In each of those communities, ISO analyzes the relevant data using a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS), which is the guideline ISO uses in reviewing the firefighting capabilities of individual communities. The schedule measures the major elements of a community’s fire-suppression system and develops PPC numerical grading. This is how ISO breaks down the percentages and determines the community’s rating. It then assigns a PPC from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.
Fire alarms—Ten percent of the overall grading is based on how well the fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its firefighting resources. ISO field representatives evaluate the communications center, looking at the number of operators at the center; the telephone service, including the number of telephone lines coming into 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.
Fire companies—Fifty percent of the overall grading is based on the number of fire companies and the amount of water a community needs to fight a fire. ISO reviews the distribution of fire companies throughout the area and their response times. ISO also checks that the fire department tests its pumps regularly, tests its aerial ladders, and inventories each engine company’s nozzles, hose, 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 and drills, firefighter response to emergencies, and maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment.
Water supply—Forty percent of the grading is based on the community’s water supply. This part of the survey focuses on whether the community has sufficient water supply for fire suppression beyond daily maximum consumption. ISO surveys all components of the water supply system, including pumps, storage, and filtration. To determine the rate of flow the water mains provide, evaluators from ISO observe fire-flow tests at representative locations in the community to determine the rate of flow the water mains provide. They also review the condition and maintenance of fire hydrants. Lastly, ISO counts the distribution of fire hydrants no more than 1,000 feet from the representative locations.