Annual ladder truck testing a weighty process

Jeff Weldon, left, is an associate field engineer for Field Engineering Services with Underwriters Laboratories. He and Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul work on the annual testing of the fire department’s ladder truck.

The Pierre Fire Department’s ladder truck passed its annual testing last week. As part of the inspection, it was loaded with 1,000 pounds of bagged water then put through its paces of lifting, extending and turning.

Each year, all of the city’s trucks, pumps and other equipment are checked for safety and usability. Depending on the machinery, different companies do the testing.

Jeff Weldon is the associate field engineer for Field Engineering Services with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) who test the Pierre ladder truck. UL is one of the largest and best-known independent, not-for-profit testing laboratories. Based in Northwood, Illinois, UL conducts safety and quality tests on a range of products, including fire testing, to see whether they meet standards set by UL engineers in conjunction with input from manufacturers and product users.

Insurance Services Office (ISO) creates ratings for fire departments and their surrounding communities. A No. 1 rating is the best possible rating, while a 10 means the fire department did not meet ISO’s minimum requirements.

According to Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul, Pierre’s ISO rating is three; a fairly good rating.

An ISO fire score determines how well a fire department can protect its community and the homes, business and other buildings in its reach. This ISO fire score is provided to homeowners’ insurance companies. The insurers then use it to help set homeowners’ insurance rates. The more well-equipped the local fire department is to put out a fire, the less likely a house is to burn down. That makes a houses less risky and, therefore, less expensive to insure.

According to the ISO’s Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS), there are four main criteria to a fire rating score:

50 percent comes from the quality of the local fire department which includes staffing levels, training and proximity of the firehouse.

40 percent comes from the availability of water supply, including the prevalence of fire hydrants and how much water is available for putting out fires.

10 percent comes from the quality of the area’s emergency communications systems (911).

An extra 5.5 percent comes from community outreach, including fire prevention and safety courses.

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