By Michael Ritterhouse Staff writer
EAGLE NEST – The Eagle Nest Volunteer Fire Department (ENFD) has reason to celebrate along with home and business owners within city limits. The ENFD received news on Wednesday (Oct. 1) that it had improved its Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from the Insurance Service Office (ISO) from 6 to 4. The rankings are measured on a 1 to 10 scale, with a 1 being the highest ranking and 10 being the lowest ranking.
The lower ranking could result in lower insurance rates for local property owners and the village. Many insurance companies in New Mexico use ISO PPC ratings in calculating their rates. What it means to ENFD is that its improvements in record keeping, budgeting and fire hydrant water lines on Therma Drive have been validated by an independent nationally recognized rating agency.
The improved ISO rating also carries weight in calculating the stipend the New Mexico State Fire Marshal Fire Service Support Fire Protection Fund disburses every year. The formula includes the population, district, and ISO rating among other things. For financial year (FY) 2015 ENFD was awarded $49,348 prior to the rating announcement. The department will look to have the next award increased for FY 2016. New Mexico is one of the few states who supports their local departments in that way according to ENFD Chief Scott Gibson.
The ISO process is challenging, especially for all volunteer fire departments like ENFD. According to Dennis Parker, a volunteer with ENFD and retired battalion chief with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign’s fire department, it took six months of work to prepare for this evaluation. The majority of the work was related to gathering and compiling data. The data included truck inventories, water system documentation, color coding the hydrants and hydrant records and organizing training records.
“You will lose sleep over this wondering if you did it all right,” Parker said.
The process also gave the department better insight to what it was doing right and what it could improve including inventories. But according to Chief Gibson the department avoided the temptation to “buy ISO points.” The department did make some reasonable purchases and modifications to help them along, such as putting a rack on the rescue truck to carry ladders, which also gave the department some more points on the assessment.
Some surprising things that aren’t factored into the rating are response times to carbon monoxide poisoning and wild-land fire work. “Anything not on hydrants,” according to Parker. Also, newer technologies are take longer to be incorporated into ISO ratings because “foam capabilities don’t contribute.”
When the ISO visits Eagle Nest again in four to six years the department hopes to improve again. Chief Gibson said that the village’s plans to upgrade more water mains and increase the 200,000 gallon water tank by 18 inches to improve capacity and pressure will help significantly. The department will also have their existing records more aligned with the ISO methodology, particularly in the way the department records and reports training. One of the most important things for Gibson and Parker is increasing the department’s ranks.
“More volunteers would help a lot,” said Gibson.