Township insurance risk study is 15 years old

Feb. 13, 2013  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.



In general, the price of fire insurance in a community with a good PPC is substantially lower than in a community with a poor PPC rating…


Plymouth Township has not had an independent professional evaluation of the fire department, a usually routine procedure for insurance purposes, since 1998. The evaluations, which provide risk and casualty ratings for insurance carriers, are usually performed by the Insurance Service Office, Inc. (ISO). Considered the most important tool in the insurance industry is the Public Protection Classification (PPC) program of ISO that provides critical information about municipal fire-protection services throughout the country. Municipalities are given a 1-10 rating, with 1 representing exemplary public protection while a rating of 10 indicates that the area fire program doesn’t meet minimum criteria. The Plymouth Township rating in 1998 was 5.

In general, the price of fire insurance in a community with a good PPC is substantially lower than in a community with a poor PPC rating, assuming all other factors are equal. Major factors in the rating, according to ISO, are emergency response call times, available fire equipment and vehicles, community water pressure, the staffing ratio to the coverage area and training.

ISO conducts detailed on-site assessments of municipal fire-protection capabilities and according to their web site, collects information for more than 46,000 fire protection areas across the United States ISO claims on the company website that virtually all U.S. insurers of homes and business property use ISO Public Protection Classifications in calculating premiums.

At a board meeting last month, Plymouth Township Fire Chief Mark Wendel submitted his annual statistical report of fire department data that broke down fire incidents by fire station and shift, including types of incidents, alarms and number of patients transported. The average response time he reported to the board of trustees was incorrect and, he said, highly inflated due to some outdated software, he said. Last week, the corrected data provided indicated that the average response time in Plymouth Township was 4.67 minutes despite the closing of a fire station and the serious reductions in staffing. That time is well under the national standard of 6 minutes, set in 2001 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The 6-minute standard is a guideline, not law. The association recommends meeting that standard in 90 percent of calls.

According to Robert Cobb, ISO national director of community mitigation, a comprehensive field survey is required to determine any changes in a community PPC classification. “A survey can be requested by an insurer, or by a community, when substantial changes have occurred since the last visit.” ISO representatives visited the Plymouth Township Fire Department last fall and strongly suggested an updated field survey but township officials have not yet made such a request.

ISO could change the rating of the township at any time due to the lack of a field evaluation, a spokesman said.

Wendel said he was “not going to speculate” on the net effect of a new evaluation by ISO, nor what the rating might be especially with the changes that have taken place over the last 18 months, including reduction of the staff to only 11 full-time firefighters, the station closing and the loss of aerial ladder equipment. The other main factor considered by ISO, water pressure, is also a continuing problem in the township.

Since April of 2008 when the new township water tower was reported functioning by engineers, the 1 million gallon tank has reportedly not been filled to more than 65 percent capacity. Township officials were notified by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in September of 2010 that the township had exceeded the limits of the agreement for the purchase of water.

The cost of the water tower including repairs is currently $2,679,384 and increases are expected if reports of a needed additional and dedicated line in parallel to the Five Mile water main at the Sheldon Road pump station and installation of booster pumps to correct the deficiency are approved. There are estimates that additional expense could push the total cost of the water tower to as much as $3 to $4 million.

There have been numerous and varied reasons provided for the pressure failures with the new tank but no final word from officials as to when the tank will provide a steady and consistent level of water pressure.

That erratic pressure would be a major factor in the PPC rating, according to ISO.

Fire DepartmentPlymouthTownship
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