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Safety: Midway sees jump in fire insurance rating

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Midway Fire and Rescue has received an improved rating from insurance inspectors that puts it in the top 1.6 percent of fire departments in the nation.

Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said the department’s Insurance Service Office rating improved from a Class 4 to a Class 2 after an inspection by an ISO team last year. Midway scored 83.04 points out of a possible 100. “We are tickled to death to be a 2; that’s fantastic,” Eggiman said. “I can’t tell you how proud I was to make that announcement Saturday night.” He said 49,010 communities were surveyed last year. Sixty were awarded Class 1 and 750 got Class 2.

Eggiman said the improved ISO rating came during the busiest year in department history. Midway answered 3,002 calls in 2014, up from 2,500 in 2013. “I can remember when it was a big deal when we had 300 calls,” he said. “We’ve got to be in a position to keep pace with the increase.”

Joe Gabriel, vice chairman of the Midway board, said the improved rating, used to assess fire insurance costs in the community, was the product of the training and the emphasis Midway puts on its people. “The chiefs and everybody who worked on it did a fantastic job,” Gabriel said.

The improved rating will go into effect April 1, according to Eggiman. It will be up to individual insurance companies to judge how the Class 2 rating affects policy costs.

Members of the community approached Georgetown County Council more than a year ago to raise their special purpose tax district rates in order to give Midway firefighters raises and stop the loss of trained employees leaving for more pay. The county eventually adopted a plan to give most county employees more pay in phases.

 The ISO rating gives points for training levels of personnel among many things. “ISO is a community risk rating that takes into account water supply, emergency communications at the 911 center and certainly the largest portion is the fire department itself,” Eggiman said. “They look at everything from response times and how many people we have to training, equipment and policies.”

 The chief said Midway benefitted from updated rules that awarded points for fire prevention. “We’ve got a solid fire prevention program that’s won some awards,” he said. “The best way to put out a fire is to prevent if from happening.”

Eggiman said Midway employees prepared for the five-hour inspection by finding the documentation for hose and ladder tests, training of 24 hours a week for firefighters and employee time sheets to verify staffing. “They have to protect the validity of what they do and are obviously very thorough,” he said. “It was a huge effort on the department’s part. The flip side is that we couldn’t be a Class 2 if it wasn’t for the support of the community, County Council and the administration. Some of that goes back to why they call it a community rating. You can have a tremendous fire department, but if you don’t have any water it doesn’t matter.”

Eggiman said he is considering putting “ISO Class 2” decals on Midway vehicles. “From a development perspective,” he said, “that says a lot to businesses and the public. It tells them fire protection in this area is in the top 1.6 percent in the nation.”

There is still room for improvement, Eggiman said. He wants to make the water flow volume of all 1,200 fire hydrants in the Midway area available on firefighters’ smart phones. “You can’t rest on your laurels,” he said. “You’ve got to continually be looking forward and make sure you’re keeping up.”

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