Addison Township’s ISO rating gets upgraded

Traditionally, celebrations are marked by popping open bottles of champagne.
But in Addison Township’s case, it’s probably more appropriate to shoot off some fire hoses.
Effective Oct. 1. the Public Protection Classification (PPC), issued by the New Jersey-based Insurance Services Office (ISO), for the majority of the township will be upgraded from Class 5 to Class 3. The Village of Leonard is included in that, but it was already Class 3 and has been for 10 years.
Just in case you’re confused, a low number is good when it comes to ISO ratings. The lower the number, the better.
After collecting and analyzing data regarding a municipality’s fire-suppression efforts, ISO assigns a PPC grade ranging from 1 to 10.
Class 1 represents “an exemplary fire suppression program,” while Class 10 means an area’s fire suppression program “does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.”
Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson had nothing but praise for the fire department for making this happen.
“It just continues to amaze me how much they keep improving for a small township fire department,” he said. “It just shows that you don’t have to have a huge city to have a top-notch fire department. We have it already.”
“I think it’s awesome,” said Fire Chief Jerry Morawski, who noted “it shows the dedication of the fire department” when it comes to serving the community and repaying residents for their continued support in the form of approving and paying millages.
Morawski went on to explain the Class 3 grade “applies to the whole township, except for our western border.”
“Ninety-some percent of the township is a (Class) 3,” he said. “The only part that isn’t is the very western side where our (closest) station is . . .  more than 5 miles away.”
The western side will remain a Class 10.
“Class 10 applies to properties over 5 road miles (away from) a recognized fire station,” according to ISO.
Morawski said the only way to improve the west side’s grade would be to build a station there.
To put Addison’s class upgrade in perspective, of the 46,042 communities evaluated by ISO in 2017, a total of 3,409 were designated as Class 3. The number of communities rated as Class 2 was 1,324. Only 241 were graded as Class 1.
The PPC program helps communities “evaluate their public fire-protection services” by providing “an objective, countrywide standard that helps fire departments in planning and budgeting for facilities, equipment and training,” according to the ISO website.
When determining the classification, ISO looks at emergency communications systems, the fire department (including equipment, staffing, training and geographic deployment of fire companies), the water supply system and community efforts to reduce the risk of fire.
In its ISO review, Addison scored a total 70.56 out of a possible 105.5.
For a community that lacks fire hydrants connected to a municipal water system, Addison did quite well when it came to the water supply portion of ISO’s review. It scored 32.82 out of a possible 40.
The fire department achieved this by “dramatically” improving its water delivery system, according to Morawski.
For example, the size of the department’s hoses was increased from 4 inches to 5 inches in diameter.
Addison increased the amount of water brought to scenes from 6,000 to 8,000 gallons thanks to two new tanker trucks, each of which holds 500 gallons more than the previous ones, and the conversion of a rescue truck to an engine that carries 1,000 gallons.
The new tankers also have bigger pumps capable of moving 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm), Morawski said. The old trucks had 1,000-gpm pumps.
“They have good equipment. I don’t think we’ve ever denied them any equipment that they say they need,” Pearson noted.
As for the rest of the ISO review, the fire department itself scored 28.37 out of a possible 50; emergency communication systems received 9.92 out of a possible 10; and community risk reduction scored 4.51 out of 5.5.
The divergence factor subtracted 5.06 from Addison’s total, which gave it a final score of 70.56.
According to the ISO website, “The divergence factor mathematically reduces (a community’s) preliminary scores if the fire department and water supply scores are incompatible with each other.”
Morawski noted the addition of two full-time firefighters (one of whom doubles as the department’s office manager) since the last PPC review and “a lot of good record-keeping” also contributed to the classification improvement.
Pearson gave a lot of credit to Morawski, who became chief in 2009, for this making this happen.
“Our chief continues to do great work for Addison Township,” the supervisor said. “He’s done a terrific job  . . . I’ll tell you what, he was the right man for the job. After all these years, he continues to prove it.”
In addition to helping communities evaluate their fire-protection services, the PPC program “plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies,” stated the June 25 letter ISO sent to Addison.
“In fact, most U.S. insurers – including the largest ones – use PPC information as part of their decision-making when deciding what business to write, coverages to offer or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance,” the letter stated.
“Assuming all other factors are equal,” the ISO website states, “in  general, the price of insurance in a community with a good PPC is lower than in a community with a poor PPC.”
Morawski noted “there’s not much of a difference” between Class 5 and Class 3, so Addison property owners probably won’t notice a big impact on their insurance premiums like they did in 2008 when the township dropped from Class 9 to 5 and Leonard from Class 9 to 3.
“But this does help,” he said. “It’s not as drastic, but it does help somewhat.”