SFD deserves recognition

To the editor:

The Steubenville Fire Department recently received great news, the Insurance Services Office a third-party independent agency that reviews and rates fire departments nationwide, increased the Steubenville Fire Department’s public protection classification score from a Class 4 to a Class 3.

Citizens of Steubenville and council members alike should realize that for a city of approximately 18,000 residents being protected by an average of 12 firefighters a day to obtain an ISO Class 3 rating is unheard of. What does this mean? Well, ISO has proven, based on statistical data and records, that the SFD is operating at the peak of efficiency despite the economic setbacks of the community it serves. Hundreds of thousands of fire departments, both municipal agencies and private companies, are rated by ISO, and Steubenville is now among the top 9 percent nationwide.

The score is determined by accruing points for water supply, fire department equipment, dispatching, training and staffing. Despite budget cuts and financial hardships, the fire department has on its own pursued and been awarded millions of dollars in grant money that have allowed it to improve the service it provides and continue to ensure the safety of their firefighters and the community with little to no additional cost to taxpayers.

Unfortunately, what should have been a great news was marred by the announcement that City Council is not wanting to allow the SFD to continue to apply for a 100 percent-funded federal grant that would keep several of the younger firefighters, who are the organization’s future, working. If this is allowed to happen, it’s almost certain that the fire department’s public protection classification would drop just as quickly as it increased. I’d welcome anyone  to explain why they would want to regress and put lives and property at risk for no additional savings.

On a final note, when your ISO rating increases or decreases, your community’s fire insurance costs change proportionate to your new rating. So if the city truly wants to revitalize the downtown business district, the progress of the fire department and its officers should be applauded as part of that effort and not attacked by the elected officials who represent them.

Robert Gaffney