Beaufort Today -

Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department earns top rating

  • Photo courtesy of City of Beaufort SC

The Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department will carry the highest possible fire rating effective Aug. 1, becoming one of about 200 departments in the country to hold an ISO 1 rating.

An improved rating can translate into fire insurance savings for businesses and residents, a department news release said.

Twenty-one other fire departments in South Carolina are rated ISO 1. Nationally, less than 1 percent of departments earn the rating. No other Beaufort County fire department has the top rating, the release said.

“This best-possible rating speaks to the determination and dedication of our fire department over the years, and to the strong support by the Port Royal Town Council and Beaufort City Council to provide exceptional fire protection,” Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop said in the release.

Most South Carolina fire departments are in the ISO 4 or 5 range, the release said. Before the latest review, Beaufort and Port Royal carried a joint ISO 2 rating.

Verisk Analytics, formerly known as the Insurance Services Office, provided the review, assessment and rating.

Insurance companies can use ISO rating as an indicator of a community’s ability to provide fire protection.

Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said the upgrade could help boost economic growth, particularly for commercial developments like the Port of Port Royal project.

“We have the right equipment, we have a well-trained group of firefighters and we have fire stations in the right locations,” Willis said. “We’ve also got a strong water utility in Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer, and they’ve done a tremendous job making sure we have fire hydrants and strong water pressures in our area.”

The ISO rating system measures the major elements of a community’s fire-suppression system. In the review process, the fire department carries 50 percent of the total points, followed by the water system with 40 percent and communications/dispatch with 10 percent.

New to this year’s fire rating is the Community Risk Reduction factor, which includes the area’s building codes and enforcement, fire safety education and community outreach such as smoke detector programs. Beaufort and Port Royal earned 5.3 of the total 5.5 points in that category.

“The Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department serves our communities at an exceptionally high level, and this new ISO 1 rating affirms that,” Fire Chief Reece Bertholf said. “About 30 years ago, our communities had an ISO of 6 to 9. Over the years we have made great strides and we are proud to share this new ISO 1 rating.

“This is a clear indication that we are making progress and making the right improvements to serve and protect our entire community.”