NEW HAVEN — The New Haven Volunteer Fire Department gained bragging rights when it recently became Mason County’s first fire department ever to earn an Insurance Service Organization Public Protection Classification of “4.”
The ISO analyzes fire departments nationally on their structural fire suppression delivery system. A classification of “1” is the best, while a rating of “10” is the worst. The ISO rating plays an important role when insurance companies decide coverages to offer and prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance.
Only 44 of West Virginia’s 444 fire departments presently have an ISO rating of 4. Eleven state fire departments have a 3 rating; three have ratings of 2; and no departments in West Virginia have a 1 rating.
New Haven Fire Chief Stephen Duncan said much is considered by the ISO when assigning a rating.
“They inspect us, and our rating is based on a lot of things,” Duncan said. “Our equipment, capabilities, training, the town’s water system, county 911 center, dispatch capabilities and mutual aid with other departments are all taken into account.”
The New Haven department has 36 firefighters. Five of those members joined just this year.
Greg Kaylor, the department’s public information officer, said it takes more than $3,500 to outfit each firefighter. As far as training goes, Kaylor said the New Haven department is fortunate that Duncan is an instructor for RESA III, so some of the training for local firemen is free.
“It takes 120 hours of training for new members before they are allowed to do anything,” Duncan added.
The department has worked hard since its last inspection to gain equipment to help them do their jobs more effectively. In recent years, the department has purchased a truck, an imaging system, air packs (self contained breathing apparatus), and a fire prevention trailer, all with grant money. In addition, the department spent $35,000 of its own money to buy a new “Jaws of Life.”
“The community supports us very well,” Duncan said, “which in turn allows us to protect them better.” He also credited the Sporn and Mountaineer power plants for their monetary and other support.
Kaylor said one of the department’s largest fundraisers is going on now. Letters were recently sent to the area’s 1,800 residents, telling them of recent news and accomplishments, and containing coupons requesting donations.
“One hundred percent of the money from this fundraiser goes directly to our department,” Kaylor said. Duncan added other funding comes through the state fire marshal’s office, as well as limited funding from the county commission.
Kaylor said one thing the department has emphasized in recent years is fire prevention. A program is in place at New Haven Elementary School, in which the department takes its trailer to the school and students are taught how to escape a fire. Each first-grade student is given a smoke detector with instructions for installation. In fact, any person in the area who doesn’t own a smoke detector can obtain one free by visiting the station.
Future plans for the New Haven department include purchasing a new engine to replace its oldest one, a 1995 model, according to Kaylor. The department currently has three engines, a brush truck, heavy rescue vehicle, personnel carrier and boat.
Duncan hopes the new rating, which goes into effect July 1, has a positive effect for residents in more ways than one.
“There is a possibility that residents’ insurance rates might go down,” he said.