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Captiva Fire improves its ISO rating

By Staff | Aug 26, 2015

The Captiva Island Fire Department improved its ISO rating from a four to a three, thus saving businesses and residents money on their fire insurance premiums. Some of the CIFD staff includes (L to R) Josh Hulslander, Shawn Kilgore, Zack Van Dyck, Deputy Chief Jeff Pawul and Chief Rich Dickerson. BRIAN WIERIMA

With the new Captiva Island Fire Department station officially open for just under two months, it is already paying off dividends for the community.

With the help of the new facility and other improved services, CIFD now carries an ISO rating of three, improving from its previous four score.

The ISO survey was done in April and the new fire station was still in the midst of being constructed, but it was completed enough for the CIFD to be given credit for the benefits it was going to bring.

“It’s just a great accomplishment for the entire department,” said CIFD Deputy Chief Jeff Pawul. “This score was due to everyone putting in the time and effort.”

The three rating ISO score is a good badge of honor to wear for the CIFD, which shows the big improvements by the department. But the community will now get to reap those benefits, as well, besides having a piece of mind that they have some elite protection on the island.

Fire insurance companies use the ISO rating to set premiums for both businesses and residents.

The ISO is run through the Public Protection Classification (PPC) program, which collects information on municipal fire departments throughout the nation. The program provides safety standards for local fire departments, helping them plan and budget for facilities, equipment and training.

The community is directly affected, as well, since a better ISO rating aids in lowering fire insurance premiums, which provides incentives and rewards for communities which want to improve their fire department services.

The ISO evaluation process includes: 10 points accounted for the review of the emergency communications system; 50 points for the review of the fire department of the total classification (reviewing such things as engine companies, ladder or service companies, deployment of fire companies, equipment carried on apparatus, pumping capacity, reserve apparatus, company personnel and training); water supply accounts for 40 points and 5.5 points account for a review of a community’s risk reduction efforts.

For CIFD, the most obvious improvement was their facility, which officially opened in July.

But staffing also played an important role in the better ISO rating.

“Back in 2010 when we had our last ISO survey, we had an average of two staff working per shift,” Pawul said. “Now, we have three per shift. To be able to gain a rating of one, which is the best, we would have to have five staff working per shift, but that is not possible due to budget constraints.”

CIFD also purchased a new engine in 2011, which added points to their score.

Another point gainer was the improved communication system and the high-end water supply on the island, which CIFD Chief Rich Dickerson credits Captiva’s Island Water director Ron Leavitt for that gain.

“Our second most important improvement came with our training,” Pawul said. “We kept very good records of our training (schedule) and with our increased staff, it was easier to schedule training sessions either at the Fort Myers Fire Training Academy or the Sanibel training tower.”

The mutual aid agreement CIFD has with other county fire departments was also beneficial. The agreement between fire departments includes each one will get the emergency call and respond, if they are not called to disregard.

In essence, it increases first response time, especially if multiple calls come in at the same time.

The location of the fire station also came into play, since it is centrally located on Captiva and can reach any resident at a rapid response, as well as its 95 fire hydrants on the island.

“We were maxed out in points for the number of fire hydrants we have,” Chief Dickerson said.

Pawul doesn’t see the department ever going back to a four ISO rating, as long as the department keeps up with their training, record keeping and keeping up to date with their equipment.

“Our reserve engine was purchased in 1987, so we’ll need to replace that in the future,” Chief Dickerson said.

It’s a win-win situation for the residents of Captiva, with the fact they will have a top-flight fire department serving them, along with savings in their fire insurance premiums to boot.