MARION — As a former fire chief, Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella is particularly proud of the new Insurance Service Organization’s fire protection rating for the city — it dropped from a four to a two.
Rinella said when he started at the fire department in the 1970s, the rating was an eight out of 10 — he noted that scores of nine and 10 essentially reflect no fire protection at all, so an eight wasn’t too good.
He said the rating, which tallies up scores in categories ranging from staffing and equipment to water storage and overall community risk, remained this high until he became chief in 2003. He worked with his department to drop the score to a four.
“In the last 15 years we have cut it in half and we have cut it in half again,” Rinella said.
The inspection process took about a week, Rinella said, adding that inspectors performed a thorough review of the city’s infrastructure for fire fighting.
The resulting scores broke down this way: emergency communication 9.85/10, water supply 37/40, divergence (which Rinella said was the difference between the fire department score and the water score) 84/105, fire department 38/50 — he said the city got max scores for both the engine and ladder companies.
The biggest downfall, Rinella said, was staffing levels, where Marion scored a 7/15.
“I’m not saying we don’t have adequate manpower,” Rinella said. “That’s something they say based on formulas they have for the city,” he said, adding that this was based in part on the number of buildings over three stories tall, the department’s geographic coverage area and response times for engine ladder companies. He said Marion has six people to a shift, which is likely the second-largest in the area aside from Carbondale.
Rinella said what pushed them over the edge, cutting their score so low this time around, has some to do with programs and upgrades the city has made. Rinella said there is not a municipal building in the city that does not have a backup generator. On top of this, he said the fire department has done “pre-planning” of many major buildings in the city. Rinella said this process collects data, which helps fire departments create plans for potential fire fighting scenarios.
Marion Fire Chief Jerry Odum said he was also proud of the city’s accomplishment — he said the last time the auditor’s from ISO came through was about seven years ago. He said they should come back through in the next three to five years to renew the inspection. Odum said he didn’t think there was much likelihood the city would be reduced soon, either.
“I don’t see any reason why we would ever go back up with the programs we have in place and our water system and dispatch center,” Odum said.
While this certainly is a good bragging right for Marion — a news release from the city says Effingham is the closes community that has and that Marion is one of 1,324 fire departments in the country with a 2/10 — but Rinella said businesses will really see a benefit.
Rinella said business owners that “even show interest in coming to Marion, one of the things they ask is ‘What’s your fire protection rating,’ because they know they have to buy protection based on that.” With a two, even down from a four, Rinella said premiums will fall quite a bit for commercial customers.
The new score will take effect June 1.