The Little Rock Fire Department is now among a top tier of departments in the U.S, according to a company that assesses community fire prevention and readiness for insurance companies.
In a press conference Wednesday, Fire Chief Gregory Summers revealed that the department had received a Class 1 ranking by the Insurance Services Organization, or ISO. ISO assesses fire response and prevention operations in nearly 47,000 communities around the nation.
The National Fire Protection Association estimated there were about 30,052 fire departments in the country in 2013. 144 have have achieved the Class 1 ranking, Summers said. Tom Weber, national director of Community Hazard Mitigation at ISO, said his organization
“We go in depth in their training records, to make sure that they're training on an annual basis like they should,” said Weber. We look at their equipment...We look at their response times, how long does it take to get the number of people they need and the apparatus to the calls.”
The Class 1 ranking results from a score of 90.10 on a scale of 100. Points correspond to criteria in the realm of deployment, training, water supply, community risk reduction and emergency communications. In 2004, ISO gave the Little Rock Fire Department a Class 2 ranking. Summers said that led to a renewed effort by the city to improve fire response and prevention. The Department was helped by revenue from a one percent city sales tax increase, approved by voters in 2011.
“We spent close to 4 million dollars on our fleet. Before the sales tax initiative we didn't have the money to do that,” Summers said. “So not only has it made sure that our firefighters get [to a location] within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time, but it made sure that they got there safely.”
According to the Little Rock city website, the fire department's 2011 budget was 35.6 million dollars. In 2015, it was 46.2 million dollars. It employed 421 people in 2015. Summers said that to attain the Class 1 rank, the fire department contracted with a consultant, Target Solutions, to help meet certain criteria assessed by ISO. That included documenting firefighter training, improving ladder trucks, establishing more rigorous fire code inspections, and devising detailed fire plan maps for large buildings.
Summers said Little Rock's fire department still hopes to receive accreditation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, or CPSE.