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Fire chief addresses ISO rating

Bonne Terre Fire Chief Matt Barton addressed the city council on Monday night with concerns about the current ISO rating the city has and how it effects the city.

ISO collects and evaluates information from communities on their structure fire suppression capabilities. The data is analyzed using their Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) and then a Public Protection Classification (PPC) grade is assigned to the community.

“There are some things in the report, that even myself had problems figuring out exactly what they mean,” said Barton. “The problem with the ISO rating is they are basing it on every fire department, full-time, part-time and volunteer. Of course we don’t have the money to keep up with the full-time fire departments, but there are a lot of things I have found, that I would suggest the city try to do to lower this ISO rating.”

Barton stressed documentation was a lot of it, his understanding was the city has gotten the meter to flow test hydrants and that is a big thing. He added keeping the records of the flow testing was a big downfall for them. He said another one of the downfalls is their equipment which is growing old. 

“Our newest truck of course is a 2013 and then we drop to a 2006 and then drop all the way down to a 1995,” said Barton. “That kind of puts a damper on it. I think these numbers are more for a big city with more than one fire department. For the most part, considering, I think we did pretty well. I know it still went up which is not what you wanted to do, but I think for the most part we still did pretty good for what we have.”

Bonne Terre City Administrator Jim Eaton said he feels they have many questions as a city. He added it was a substantial increase going from a 6 to a 7 ISO rating.

Barton responded saying it is a substantial increase and that anytime it changes, whether it’s a point or two points, it is substantial.

“My goal is to not get the rating to change, to not necessarily lower it, but to keep it from going up,” said Barton. “Unfortunately, some of it was just out of my hands. The documentation was the big thing and one of the other big things was our communication center.”

Barton said he asked a lot of questions, he did work as a dispatcher for 10 years and he knows with the sales tax that passed he has a lot of questions of why they don’t have a better ISO from the communications center.

“I know they do an outstanding job, but they base it off the size of your county, how many phonelines they have, how may 911 lines they have and how many people they have on staff,” explained Barton. “I don’t feel we scored as high as we should have in that aspect. I know it is out of our hands, but I also think if the proper paperwork would have been filled out we could have scored a little bit better than we did with our communications.”

Barton stressed he did take the paperwork over there, but he didn’t receive it back. 

“It was just kind of … it wasn’t necessarily the run-around, but I don’t feel the questions I had were answered,” said Barton. “Again, the water system, as far as the hydrant testing, I looked at just about every piece of paper that was in that firehouse to try to locate any type of history on testing the hydrants. I did find some, but they were past the date he would allow me to turn in. So there were signs of hydrants being tested, however, it was expired. It wasn’t able to be used.”

Barton said they would be willing to help city workers test the hydrants. He added they have a couple of guys who know how to test them and are willing to help.

“They don’t look at every hydrant in the city, they pick like a dozen or 10 and it is sporadic,” said Barton. “Overhead maps are a big thing, they like to see it on paper. They want the fire department to keep an overhead map with highlighted areas of the fire hydrants.”

Barton believes it is more for mutual-aid firefighters. 

“If something would take place and the city fire department isn’t able to break free, our mutual aid company has the information right there at their fingertips,” said Barton. “Like I said, we do have things we need to work on and we didn’t quite shine like I had hoped.”

Barton said they scored about half of what they were able to score, but he can assure that he has taken every action possible to bring the rating down.

“My goal is to lower this — a 7 is not acceptable to me,” said Barton. “I think a 5 would be, with what we have equipment-wise and people-wise. That is my goal, how long that will take us, I don’t know. Every time something is done down there it is documented and filed. I have six, five-drawer filing cabinets designated just for maintenance and everything I found we failed on to keep.”

He stressed they are making an effort to change the rating for the better. He added this is the first time he has experienced the inspection and he learned a lot from it.

“There is still a lot I questioned just because I feel budget-wise, staff-wise and equipment-wise we just can’t compete with a lot big cities and big fire departments,” Barton said. “Unfortunately that is the way it goes.”

Also during the meeting, the council voted in favor of two ordinances, one was an ordinance granting authorization to the city administrator to enter into a contract with Taylor Engineering for the north industrial park layout and the other was an ordinance granting the city administrator to enter into a contract with Mineral Area Office Supply for the purchase of a Cannon copier and service plan.

The council also accepted Dawn Sens’ resignation. She had served as city clerk and has left the position to take another job. 

Bonne Terre Fire Chief Matt Barton addresses the Bonne Terre City Council Monday evening about the ISO rating the department received and plans to improve it. 

Bonne Terre Fire Chief Matt Barton addresses the Bonne Terre City Council Monday evening about the ISO rating the department received and plans to improve it. 

Bonne Terre Fire Chief Matt Barton stressed the importance of flow testing fire hydrants and keeping a record for ISO rating purposes.

Bonne Terre Fire Chief Matt Barton stressed the importance of flow testing fire hydrants and keeping a record for ISO rating purposes.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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