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New ISO good news for Sumter County citizens

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — The ISO for residents of Sumter County has gone from a 5.5X to 4.4Y, effective Feb. 1. This means better fire protection for local residents and it could mean a break in insurance premiums.
This new rating culminates months of study and preparation by the Sumter County Fire & Rescue.
Sumter County Fire Chief John Ekaitis and firefighter/diver David Baldwin recently met with the Times-Recorder to explain what went into lowering the ISO.
“This is what we’ve been building towards for four years,” Ekaitis said. “On behalf of the board of commissioners and the citizens of Sumter County that have supported the fire department, there have been major improvements inside our fire department as a whole. It comes back to affect the citizens and it goes to show that the citizens are receiving an adequate fire suppression delivery system in Sumter County … It’s our job to give them the best fire protection we can, and we’ve accomplished that.”
Firefighter Baldwin talked about what went into the effort to lower the ISO.
He said the scoring is broken down into three segments for the inspection that took place in May 2017:
• 10 percent is for communications (the Middle Flint 911 Center and the dispatch. “They had some nice improvements,” he said, “since the last time they were graded.”
• 40 percent is for water availability (hydrants, and other water sources including ponds, lakes, rivers).
• 50 percent is for the fire department (includes staffing, training, equipment). “It also has to do with positioning, physical locale of those engines versus built-up areas,” he said. “A major portion of it is staffing and training. We were able to improve in both of those areas.”
“We improved in every single area we were graded on,” he continued. He explained that as far as staffing improvements, the department is now able to put 24 firefighters at a scene, as an average, “which is a really big deal.”
“We have moved from a protection class 5 to a protection class 4,” Baldwin said. “The Xs and the Ys and the absence of either is dependent upon water. A 5X means you have a protection class 5 fire department within 5 miles of your house and that there are no available water sources within 1,000 ft. … Now we’ve gone to a 4Y which means that you have a protection class 4 fire department. You do not have a static water source within 1,000 ft. but the department can transport over 4,500 gallons on a first alarm. It’s kind of a middle ground because we have our tankers.”
“The two 3,000-gallon tankers are located strategically around the county,” Ekaitis explained. “One’s at Station 1 on Rucker Street and the other is at Station 6 at the recreation department (U.S. Highway 19 South). We also have two 2,000-gallon pumper tankers. One is located at the Southwest Station (Ga. Highways 308 and 49 South) and the other on Ga. Highway 27 going towards Dooly County.”
The Sumter County Fire Department’s fire stations, which are staffed by career firefighters, are located at the following: Station 1 on Rucker Street (two), Station 4 at Lake Blackshear (one), Station 6 at recreation department (one), and Station 8 in Plains (one). “We do have volunteers who stay quite often,” Ekaitis added. “And we’re very proud of that.”
“Everything in the grading system, we improved on. And there was additional 5.5 points for things such as fire prevention programs, education and inspection that we added points on also,” Ekaitis explained. He said the best thing about the new ISO rating is that we’re building on. We’ve made positive improvements over the last five years and it’s documented. … In my opinion, they were elevated improvements because we gained almost 10 points from the previous evaluation.”
Ekaitis had high praise for his staff.
“The dedication of the staff, career and volunteer is what made this happen, along with the board of commissioners and the citizens, and the belief that people have this fire department,” he said.
Americus Fire Chief Roger Bivins was also asked to comment on the county’s lowered ISO.
“We are proud of Sumter County Fire Department for working hard and improving their ISO rating,” he said. “This gives them a great resource to help them plan for the future. It also allows them to see where they need to improve to get a better rating should that be their desire. The new rating should have some financial savings to the residents who they cover. The county’s rating has no direct impact on the citizens inside the City of Americus. Americus currently has an ISO rating of 2. We are proud of the fact that we have entered into an automatic/mutual aid agreement with the county and look forward to working with them in the future.”