Dayton VFD earns prestigious ISO rating, making city more attractive for industrial development

Dayton Volunteer Fire Department has earned a historically low rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). This rating means the fire department is better equipped, trained and prepared for a fire emergency and positions the city for more industrial development.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Dayton Volunteer Fire Department has cause for celebration. As of Jan. 1, 2019, the collaborative effort of volunteer firefighters and officials with the City of Dayton has resulted a significant drop in the fire department’s ISO rating from 6 to 2.

Besides possibly lowering insurance rates for homeowners covered by carriers that recognize the Insurance Services Office (ISO) ranking, the lower rating gives the city more traction when competing for industrial business development.

“A lot of those businesses won’t even talk to a city that has a score of 3, so when we knew we were within striking distance of a 2, it became imperative to go after it,” said Dayton City Manager Theo Melancon. “Now we are on a preferred list for industrial development. A lot of the industrial rates for insurance will recognize ISO, even though many homeowner policy carriers might not.”

The new rating has earned Dayton VFD entry into an elite group of fire departments across the nation that have a score of 2 or better.

“Only 1.1 percent of the fire departments in the United States have a 2 ISO rating,” said Councilman and firefighter Alvin Burress. “Only 4 percent of the fire departments in Texas have a rating of 2 or better.”

In order to achieve the historically low rating for the fire department, Melancon, Fire Chief Murphy Green, Burress and others worked closely with a Dallas-based consultant, Mike Pietsch, who conducted a thorough review of the department’s record-keeping, certifications, communications systems, response times, equipment and gear, and apparatus.

“We started working on this in April,” said Melancon, which was about the same time the fire department acquired its new 105-foot ladder truck with an increased pump capability of 2,000 gallons per minute.

“Mike went through and audited us. Then we put the pieces together and he graded us. We were about a 3 then. He gave us pointers to tweak before the ISO inspector came to survey us in August,” Melancon said. “We got our first real idea that we were on the cusp of a 2 in October and got official word at the beginning of December.”

The city planning department pitched in to map the more than 300 fire hydrants that are scattered around town.

“There are some unsung heroes in this. We had to have all the fire hydrants mapped and GPS’d in. Having a mapping of those hydrants available to ISO got us more points,” the city manager said. “We had people working across departments, which was very exciting to me. It was a big accomplishment to me to see it all come together with everyone helping.”

An automatic aid agreement with Kenefick and HWY 321 volunteer fire departments also added to the rating.

“They are part of our ISO rating and we couldn’t have done this without them. We already had a mutual aid agreement with them in place, but with ISO you have to have an automatic aid agreement,” Green said. “That means when a structure fire call drops for Dayton, they will automatically answer the call, too. We are an automatic aid to them. That dropped their ISO rating as well.”

With this achievement accomplished, Green and Burress are setting their sights on a new fire training facility in Dayton. Currently the department attends fire training in Livingston.

“A lot of my firefighters are already certified through their work in plants but ISO wants you to train in-house. They don’t like to see all the corporate training,” Green said.

Green, Burress and Melancon hope the new rating will serve as a catalyst for other county fire departments.

“We are upping the game across the county and I’m very proud to be a part of that,” Melancon said. “The ISO just shows where we are going as a city.”

The lower rating is an easily attainable goal for other fire departments if they follow the steps laid out by the consultant, he added.

“Our goal is not to just bring up the city but the county as well. I hope that we can achieve that,” Burress said. “This is about making the city more attractive to industrial developers, but is also sets a standard for the whole county for us all to strive to do better.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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