McALESTER — “This is really a big deal.” Those were the words of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak, when he came to McAlester Wednesday to help celebrate the Insurance Service Office ranking for the McAlester Fire Department improving from a Class 4 to a Class 3.
With rankings judged on a scale of one to 10 — and with number 1 considered tops — state and city officials gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to celebrate the achievement. “We have over 1,600 fire departments” in the state of Oklahoma, Doak said.
Less than 52 have an ISO Class 3 rating, he said. Approximately 49,000 fire departments operate across the United States, Doak said. “Less than 2,500 in the United States are threes,” he said.
Many insurance companies use the ISO rating to determine risks to insured property. “That’s one of the first things they look at,” Doak said. “Every homeowner in the area should be glad to see you moving in this direction.”
To determine a rating, the ISO reviews fire-fighting capabilities of fire departments, as well as related factors such as response time and water and hydrant availability. Rural Fire Coordinator for Southeast Oklahoma Larry Morgan, who works with the Kiamichi Development District of Oklahoma, opened the celebration.
He said a lot of people participated in making the higher rating possible. “I want to take my hat off to the chief,” Morgan said, referring to McAlester Fire Chief Brett Brewer. He noted the change in rating didn’t come easy. “We had some hurdles we had to go through,” Morgan said.
In addition to the fire department, City Utilities Director David Medley and his staff also worked to achieve the improved ISO rating, since the requirements also have a lot to do with a water availability and the location of fire hydrants throughout the city.
Among those who worked closely with the city to achieve the change was Kevin Stoneking, the ISO field coordinator for the Oklahoma Insurance Department and a retired firefighter from the Oklahoma City Fire Department.