Despite tougher standards enacted by the state’s property insurance association, the Sulphur Fire Department received an even better fire rating in its last assessment, than it had previously.
Sulphur Fire Chief Dan Selph told City Council and administration members on Monday that the SFD scored 84.5 under the old assessment ranking them a Class 2, with Class 1 being the best.
Selph said the PIAL addendum, or criteria for assessment, was recently updated. “It’s a little bit tougher,” he said. “There are a lot of departments in the state losing their rating.”
The department scored an 86.45 — up from 84.5 — in their most recent assessment by the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana, PIAL. “That’s a very strong Class 2,” said Selph. “It’s a good solid rating. It’s not something we’re going to lose overnight.”
Selph said he had some concern going into the last assessment. He said he was told by the PIAL proctor that the department was likely to lose their rating.
“I had prepared the mayor for that,” said Selph. But when the score was tallied, Selph said the proctor was surprised and impressed.”
PIAL pulls a number of departments randomly each year for review. Otherwise, departments are rated on a five-year rotation, unless there is a two-grade change which requires review every two years. If a department feels they could qualify for a rating change, they can request an assessment.
Under the new assessment standards, Lake Charles is a Class 2, Vinton is a Class 3, and Iowa is a Class 5. Westlake, Class 2, and DeQuincy, Class 4, have yet to be rated under new standards.
Fifty percent of the PIAL’s rating assessment comes from fire department data. Forty percent is from the municipal water supply data and 10 percent is based on communications.
• Fire Department (includes engine, ladder companies, reserve pumpers and ladders, pump capacity, training, and personnel among others) — Overall, the department received a 39.05 out of a possible 50 points.
Engine and ladder truck response times are a major factor in rating a department. Departments must meet their goal times 90 percent of the time or they start losing points. Response criteria dictates that the first responding pumper should arrive on scene within 320 seconds — a little over five minutes — of dispatch.
The full compliment (second pumper and ladder truck) should be in place within 560, or a little over nine minutes.
The first pumper crew has only 80 seconds to get suited and geared up and on the truck. The remaining 240 seconds are for travel.
Even the best departments can be hindered by factors outside their control. Selph noted that a good portion of their allotted response time is taken up waiting for traffic to yield to their sirens and flashing lights. He said he has spoken with Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats about using surplus dashboard cameras in order to ticket violators caught on video.
• Municipal Water Supply (includes supply system, hydrant specifications, hydrant inspection and testing, among others) — Overall the Water Supply component received 33.54 out of a possible 40 points.
PIAL chooses hydrants to grade based on their proximity to structures that require a high Needed Fire Flow, or NFF. In the last assessment, 27 were graded, and 12 were determined to be deficient.
• Communications (includes 9-1-1, tele-communications, and emergency dispatch protocols, among others) — Overall, the Communications component received 8.99 points out of a possible 10.
The City of Sulphur contracts with E-911 in Lake Charles for their communications at a cost of around $37,000 annually. “Whenever I took over as chief, I wanted to have my own communications,” said Selph. “But when I looked at it, I realized you couldn’t get a better value for $37,000. That doesn’t even pay one employee’s salary and they have millions of dollars of technology over there.”
The chief said the department just got tablets that are linked with E-911. He said as soon as crews are dispatched, a fire icon on a map on their tablets shows them where each hydrant is located. “So, we’re not searching for hydrants in the dark,” he said. Also, information coming in about a fire is updated on the tablets in real-time, so firefighters are able to get dressed without worrying about communicating with dispatch at the same time. “We have the latest and greatest technology,” said Selph.
“I feel very good about the department.”