Review prompts survey of Perry fire hydrants

bpurser@macon.comNovember 7, 2012 

An evaluation of Perry’s fire hydrants is under way after a 2012 review of the city’s fire-fighting capabilities resulted in an ISO ranking of 5/9, the fire chief said.

The Insurance Services Office uses a Fire Suppression Schedule that measures key components of a community’s fire-suppression system such as fire alarms, engine companies and water supply to develop a numerical grading. The grading is called a Public Protection Classification that is more commonly referred to as the ISO rating. The rating is used to help determine property insurance rates.

Fire Chief Joel Gray said the city received an ISO rating of 5 in the 2000 review. A 1 represents the best public protection, and a 10 indicates no recognized protection. Reviews generally take place every 10 years.

The current 5/9 rating -- with the 9 considered a deficiency -- impacts structures within five miles of the city’s station that are serviced by a two-port fire hydrant, or a hydrant that has two main water discharges that are 2.5 inches in diameter, Gray said. The city also has newer conventional two-port hydrants that also have a large steamer cap in the front of the hydrant, he said.

The lower ranking is for the older two-port hydrants, Gray said. Those hydrants are no longer recognized by the ISO as acceptable for structures more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant, he said.

As a result, the fire department is in the process of identifying all those type fire hydrants to determine which ones need to be replaced and what others may be relocated to improve efficiency.

Gray said he’s hopeful the ISO organization also may include a grace period for when improvements may be made before insurance premiums may be impacted. Such a grace period would also enable the city to stagger a schedule of hydrant replacements and relocations, he said.

Gray said he hopes to have a handle on what may be required by mid-December.

Also, for properties on the east end of town where the city is building a new fire station, the rating will remain a 10 for now, he said. But once the station is up and running, the fire department will go back to the ISO organization to see if a better rating may be obtained, he said.

Two other areas of deficiencies dealt with water flow and manpower, Gray said. Neither came as a shock, he said. That’s because both were cited in the 2000 ISO review, and the manpower issue was also raised by Warner Robins Fire Chief Robert Singletary when he did a review for the city in 2006, Gray said.

Based on ISO standards, Perry should have 17 people on duty each day, Gray said. The city currently has six on duty on each day, Gray said.

The new station on the east end, which is expected to be finished by mid-March, would bring staffing up to 10 per day, he said.

Also, ISO has a basic fire water flow requirement of 3,500 gallons per minute to fight a fire based on the size of the city’s commercial buildings and some of its larger residential complexes, Gray said.

For the city to be able to handle a minimum of 3,500 gallons per minute, the department would need an additional engine truck and a third engine crew of four people, Gray said. The department’s fire engine and ladder truck are capable of producing 2,700 gallons per minute, he said.

Overall, the city scored 58.57 points out of possible 100, Gray said. In 2000, the city earned 50.62.

“So we came up some in the 12 years, but we haven’t come up a lot,” said Gray, who gave mayor and council a similar report on the ISO rating at their Tuesday meeting.

If anyone has questions about how the 5/9 rating may impact properties, contact Gray’s office at 988-2852.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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