The Mark of Achievement

The Mark of Achievement


An Editorial

Since 1916 the National Board of Fire Underwriters has employed what is termed the “Standard Schedule for Grading Cities and Towns” for measuring the fire protection defenses of communities of this country. The “grading schedule” as it is popularly known, is a remarkable document which has enabled insurance engineers to compare the fire protection potential of practically all municipalities on a more or less equitable basis and in so doing, determine basic or “key” insurance rates. Despite criticisms of it, the grading schedule has withstood the test of time as a solid measure of fire protection effectiveness.

From time to time, revisions of the schedule have been made to keep it abreast of our changing national conditions and general way of life. The National Board recently announced it has been conducting special studies for the past two years to determine if further changes and refinements of it are necessary at this time. The Board stated it is exploring the significance that such factors as high-value shopping centers, slum clearance projects and construction of superhighways have on over-all grading.

It is also re-examining standards of fire department manpower, equipment, operations and communications and their effect on the conflagration potential. Furthermore, it said consideration is being given to a study of the increasing exposure of some communities to catastrophe loss such as may be engendered by the increasing use of radioactive materials, transportation of explosives through congested areas and new potentially hazardous chemicals. The NBFU announced it is expected that some time would be required to properly study these and other difficult problems which concern a community’s welfare. In the light of this announcement, it may be well for all fire chiefs to closely evaluate how these changes have affected individual fire department operations in order to maintain the most effective and efficient operations.

A major portion of this issue of FIRE ENGINEERING is devoted to a study of the Rochester, N. Y., Fire Bureau, host department to the forthcoming 87th Annual Conference of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The purpose of this editorial effort is to relate to all interested fire service officials how a city reverses a trend of deterioration of its fire protection service and rebuilds it to a point of excellence. In Rochester the record shows that such an accomplishment was achieved in the short space of six years.

Late in 1949, the National Board inspected the fire defenses of Rochester. Conditions were found to be poor and the New York Fire Insurance Rating Organization advised the city that unless definite improvement was shown, the insurance classification would be dropped downward with attendant increased premium costs to the citizens of the community. The city officials immediately began exploring all means and methods available to them to prevent this downgrading, and at the same time, reap a dividend of increased fire protection if at all possible.

That such a program as eventually decided upon was effective is a matter of record. The over-all grading of the community improved greatly, enabling it to remain in the original classification it had enjoyed previous to the threatened downgrading. The future possibility of upgrading is an incentive which still remains within reach.

On the other hand, the Rochester Fire Bureau, based upon a reinspection by the National Board engineers in 1955, had improved so greatly in all categories that it entered the prime classification of cities considered to have fire departments which meet the requirements necessary for Class 1. The study in depth which follows recounts the story of the Rochester undertaking as the persons and groups involved in the reorganization see it. In addition, the day-to-day methods of administration and operation are recounted in order to show how the fire bureau intends to continue to hold its eminent position and, if possible, to improve it further.

Most of the articles touch on important points in the grading schedule and are intended to show that no “miracle” methods were employed. Rather standard principles of administration and operation already well known to the fire service were followed at all times. Most important, competent advice was first secured, a sound over-all plan devised and then followed through to a successful conclusion.

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