The Bowling Green Fire Department has moved up in the ratings, being recognized by a leading analytics bureau for its ability to protect the community.

For the first time in its history, the BGFD achieved a Class 1 Public Protection Classification from the Insurance Services Office.

The classification, which was announced last week, takes effect Sept. 1 and is the highest ISO rating a fire department can earn on a 10-point scale.

“This demonstrates our commitment to trying to progress our department,” BGFD Chief Jason Colson said. “We’re quite proud. It shows the dedication of our employees to improvement. They put a lot of effort into making sure we’re trying to perform at a high level at all times.”

The ISO scores fire departments on a number of criteria by conducting a field survey that helps determine an agency’s ability to protect its community.

The surveys evaluate a fire department’s personnel, capabilities, training and equipment, as well as emergency communication systems, the area’s water supply and community risk reduction.

The more points a fire department scores on the evaluation, the better its ISO rating.

Before the most recent classification, the BGFD was evaluated five years earlier and received a 2 rating, Colson said.

Increasing the BGFD’s goal for annual training for each firefighter from 100 hours, which is the state minimum for a career firefighter, to 192 hours helped improve the fire department’s score in the most recent ISO evaluation, according to Colson.

Investments in emergency communication tools with the effect of improving call processing and response times also helped, along with effective management of its engine fleet.

“We repositioned some apparatus a couple years ago that allows us to get a couple engines and a ladder truck on scene a little faster than what we were able to do years prior,” Colson said.

Community awareness in the form of public education campaigns on fire prevention methods and evacuation plans also helps a fire department’s ISO score.

A Class 1 rating has been achieved by 388 fire departments in the U.S., but it serves as more than just a laurel for the BGFD.

Most insurance companies use a fire department’s Public Protection Classification rating when they calculate residential, commercial and industrial property premiums, and an improved ISO score can in some cases lead to reduced premiums.

Colson said the Class 1 rating can produce other ripple effects.

“Where it’s beneficial to the community, I think, is in attracting business and industry to an area,” Colson said. “When you have an accredited Class 1 fire department providing a service for industries that are conscious of fire safety, that helps attract industries.”

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit

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