Glendale Firefighters Garrett Hine, left, and Ara Hoonanian exit a burning house in 2009.

Glendale Firefighters Garrett Hine, left, and Ara Hoonanian exit a burning house in 2009. (Times Community News / September 28, 2012)

The Glendale Fire Department recently earned a Class 1 rating from a top insurance risk company, which may result in lower coverage rates for residents and business owners.

Glendale was one of 10 fire departments in California that received the rating — the highest score possible for an agency — from New Jersey-based Insurance Services Company. Another 251 fire departments statewide earned a Class 5 rating on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the lowest score.

“For us, we were pretty nervous because of all the changes we had to make over the last few years,” Glendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said. “For us, we are probably even more proud because we’re still able to achieve this.”

Glendale’s classification comes after more than a year of intense inspection from the insurance company, he said.

Fire personnel had to provide three years’ worth of records for the department’s vehicle, training, staffing levels and inspections, Scoggins said. The Fire Department has received Class 1 ratings since 1992.

The company’s classification and rating programs allow insurance agencies to “measure and evaluate the major elements of a community's fire suppression system,” according to Robert Cobb, the company’s national director of community hazard mitigation.

By securing lower fire insurance premiums for communities with better public protection, the evaluation program “provides incentives and rewards for communities that choose to improve their firefighting services,” he added.

Insurance agencies use the company’s classification information when deciding what businesses to cover and prices to charge for properties.

Fire departments are evaluated for their staffing, equipment, software, telephone systems and adequacy of telephone lines in emergency communications, Cobb said.

Fifty percent of a fire protection agency’s classification is based on its operations, including staffing, training, equipment, fire prevention and the location of each fire station.

The company also looks at the hours of training, alarm systems, fire apparatuses and housing for firefighters, according to Cobb.

Staffing was “a major area of concern” for the department’s management because it lost more than 30 sworn positions in the past five years, Scoggins said.

While some positions were replaced with the recent implementation of the Basic Life Support ambulance program, the ambulance operators didn’t factor into the company’s examination of the department’s staffing levels because they weren’t sworn ranks.

“When you look at all these different things and how we are graded and scored, for us to still achieve a score over 90% — that’s what you need to do to be a Class 1 fire department,” Scoggins said. “To me, that’s pretty amazing.”

To meet expectations of preparation, he said firefighters undergo 20 hours of training per month.

A great portion of a fire agency’s rating stems from the city’s water supply, including alternative water sources, maintenance of fire hydrants and amount of available water to suppress blazes.

“We have to have all the things we need to face the challenges,” Scoggins said.

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