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Safety rating for Tallmadge Fire Department improves, might result in better insurance rates

by Holly Schoenstein | reporter Published: March 23, 2014 12:00 AM
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Tallmadge -- Insurance rates for owners of residential and commercial property might decrease because of an improved safety rating the Tallmadge Police Department has secured, according to city officials.

The Insurance Services Office, an independent organization that provides information to insurance companies to use during the underwriting process, recently rated the fire department a Class 3.

"We went from a Class 5 to a Class 3, which is a phenomenal jump," Fire Chief Patrick Gaffney said, adding this is the first time the fire department has received a Class 3 rating.

ISO rates 49,000 fire departments in the U.S. on a scale of one to 10 with consideration of many factors, including performance, speed, efficiency, training and supplies. Also figured into the score is access to an acceptable water supply, pumping capacity, water pressure, equipment, dispatch services and fire risk reduction programs.

One is the highest possible rating. ISO assigns Class 10 ratings to areas with no fire department that rely on the aid of neighboring communities and Class 9 to those with no water supply that can be accessed, requiring fire trucks to bring water to the scene.

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The organization tries to reissue its ratings every five years, but Tallmadge Fire Department was last evaluated in 2006, according to Gaffney. He said evaluations only include information from the three years before the current evaluation period instead of all the years since the last one.

The new rating for Tallmadge was available for insurance companies to use March 1. Property owners can call their insurance companies to find out whether they'll save money on fire insurance through decreased rates.

Gaffney said the fire department is one-half of a point away from a Class 2 rating. To reach the next category, he plans to focus on better documentation of personnel training so the fire department can receive credit for all of the training its employees participate in, particularly that they get through other fire departments for which they work. Another priority is formalizing the fire department's automatic mutual aid agreements with Munroe Falls and Mogadore. Tallmadge already has formal mutual aid agreements with Akron and Brimfield Township.

Gaffney said it's unusual for fire departments to jump two class ratings in subsequent evaluation periods as it's more common to improve by one class or stay within the same class.

He attributes the improved rating to the city's mayors, administration and Council for their support of the fire department over the years.

"They helped us improve our dispatch center, put forth time and money to upgrade our water system in our city, and they also support our fire department in terms of personnel and equipment," he said. Tallmadge outsources its dispatch service to the Stow Fire Department.

Macedonia is among the fire departments in this area that the ISO has ranked at a Class 2, and Stow Fire Department has a Class 3 rating.

Contact this reporter at 330-541-9428 or hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Facebook: Holly Schoenstein, Record Publishing Co.

Twitter: @SchoensteinH

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