Thirty five volunteer members of six fire departments did a tanker water shuttle demonstration for State, County, City officials and the public on Saturday, September 7. County Judge Roger Hooper addressed the group along with State Representative Kim Hammer who announced the ability of fire departments to apply for grant monies to help with the cost of improving their ISO ratings under the GIF (General Improvement Funds) program.
Choctaw Fire Department was the host department on this event which was held in the Choctaw Recreational Area of Greer’s Ferry Lake. A special thank you is given to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their work and corporation with the various fire departments around the lake. This event coincided with the Corps of Engineers Lake clean up weekend and several youth groups were on hand to see the demonstration and get a close up look at fire equipment.
Choctaw fire department set up two engines as they would be set up at a house fire scene. One near the house fire and the other set up where the driveway of the house would meet the main road. Drop tanks were used near the engines to hold water.
Culpepper and Burnt Ridge fire departments set up their pumper engines at what would be the “water point” scene. This would be a lake or pond that is somewhere close to the fire scene. These two departments drafted or pumped water out of the lake and filled tanker trucks from Bee Branch, Burnt Ridge, Choctaw, Culpepper and Fair Field Bay. The tanker trucks then moved the water to the drop tanks at Choctaws location.
During this exercise Choctaws two pumper engines at the fire scene delivered approximately 60,000 gallons of water to the “fire scene” in one hour. All of this water was delivered without a single drop being pulled from a fire hydrant! (Note water was pumped from the lake, moved to another location by the tankers, and then returned to the lake.) Fire departments have to start looking to other sources of water than the nearest fire hydrant. Most municipal water systems were designed more than 40 years ago for domestic water use and the infrastructure has not been updated to be able to provide the needed flows of water to combat a structure fire. Many fire hydrants cannot be used without danger of collapsing the water mains connected to the fire hydrant.
All of this effort is being made by the various Van Buren Fire Departments to get ready to have their service areas re-evaluated for ISO ratings. ISO rating is how insurance companies base their rates for homeowner policies, the lower the rate the less the annual premium. The ISO rating is based on the fire departments ability to provide the needed fire flow of water for the structures within its district. By using the tanker shuttle system the needed fire flow can be provided anywhere within the district even if fire hydrants are not present. Lower ISO ratings also provide an economic impact on the area. Let’s say an $80,000 home located in a class 9 rated area is paying approximately $867 per year in homeowners insurance, if that rating is lowered to a 5 or 6 the insurance rate would be around $446 or a savings of approximately $421 per year. Right now the homeowner is sending the $421 with their premium to an out of state insurance company. If they were to save that amount the homeowner would more than likely spend the savings locally. In Choctaws district there are approximately 1000 homes and if each had a $421 per year savings that would mean $421,000 would more than likely be spent locally. Now extend that to the other fire departments within the county and see the economic impact on what the fire departments are doing.
Alread, Bee Branch, Burnt Ridge, Culpepper, Damascus, Denard, Fair Field Bay, Highway 110 and Shirley Fire Departments have signed agreements to provide automatic aid to Choctaw Fire Department.
In an effort to improve the ISO rating of Choctaw Fire Departments service area Choctaw has secured written agreements with several landowners to draw water from their ponds or lakes. Each of these locations has been GPS and our 911 coordinator has given each of these locations a 911 address. Reflective blue 911 address signs will be placed on each location so that the location will be easy to find on that dark night. The Choctaw Chief will advise his counterpart chief from the nearest automatic aid department to go to a specific address and set up a drafting operation while Choctaw fire Department goes to the fire scene.
Maintaining and keeping the ISO ratings depend on the fire departments having adequate personnel, proper equipment and public support. The average age of the firefighters participating in Saturday’s event was 52 years of age and the average age of the trucks used was 28.5 years. The most senior firefighter was 72 and the most senior truck was 41 years of age. With volunteer fire departments there is always something that someone can do at their local fire station so contact your fire chief to help out.