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Posted: 12:33 a.m. Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

Oklahoma's fire department ratings tragically low

Efforts include public education campaign

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By Russell Mills

TULSA, Okla. —

KRMG has learned the fire protection rating that determines insurance premiums and more importantly indicates the level of protection for homeowners is extremely low in most of the state.

The Insurance Service Office, or ISO, provides the ratings based on specific criteria.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak tells KRMG that nearly 700 communities have a rating of nine or worse.

Ten percent of the rating is based on communication systems, forty percent on water supply and fifty percent on the fire department.

The fire department component is based on number of personnel, their level of training and the equipment they have.

Oklahoma's 77 counties have nearly 1,600 volunteer and professional firefighting agencies, Doak says.

ISO has only 2 people whose job it is to update and maintain the ISO ratings.

Commissioner Doak has announced a plan that for the first time will seek to improve the ISO ratings of Oklahoma's fire departments and reduce home insurance rates.

In a recent statement, Doak said “Some fire departments haven’t had a review in ten years. They’ve made major improvements that aren’t being recognized. Others just aren’t aware of all that goes into the ratings and how they can improve them. Our state is full of great fire departments but the system doesn’t reflect that.”

His department's efforts will include a public education campaign, as well as educating fire departments about the importance if ISO ratings.

The plan also includes hiring professional firefighters to train volunteers and adding more inspectors.

Career firefighter Kevin Stoneking will spearhead the project.

His main goal will be to train fire departments around the state how to understand  the ISO grading process and improve scores.

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