Room for improvement

ISO rating indicates there's work to be done in dispatch center

-Steve Hergenreter

An independent company that evaluates fire protection throughout the United States identified some areas of improvement for the Webster County 911 dispatch center.

“Looking at room for improvement where we can pick up more points — emergency dispatch procedures and protocols, we definitely have room for improvement there,” Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said during the Webster County Telecommunications Board meeting Thursday afternoon. “And continuing education, there’s more points we can get there.”

The dispatch center was evaluated when the Insurance Services Organization rated the Fort Dodge Fire Department.

“They look at the fire department itself, the water supply of that community, and then the telecommunications (911 dispatch) for handling emergency alarms and processing them,” Hergenreter said. “It’s a weighted scale.”

The fire department accounts for 50 percent of a community’s score, the water system accounts for 40 percent and the dispatching operation accounts for 10 percent.

That report, which was released in recent weeks, ranked the Fort Dodge Fire Department among the top departments in the country, with just 3 percent of the roughly 46,000 departments having a better score.

The ISO rates fire departments on a scale of one to 10, with Class 1 being perfect and Class 10 being the worst.

As a result of the most recent review in Fort Dodge, the Fire Department moved up from a Class 4 to a Class 3.

In terms of the dispatch center, Hergenreter said ISO looks at things such as communication equipment, how alarms are received and processed, protocols and procedures, initial communication training, and ongoing training and education.

“There is an NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standard,” Hergenreter said. “It’s a nationally recognized standard on those items I talked about.”

He said the Webster County dispatch center only received 50 percent of the possible points for continuing education.

According to Hergenreter, the center received zero points for its procedures and protocols.

“As far as equipment, and things like that, we did pretty good,” Hergenreter said. “In a nutshell that’s what the ISO report was.”

Hergenreter said ISO used to release new ratings every five years, but is planning to release the ratings every three years going forward.

In other business, the board discussed potential changes to its bylaws.

One change includes how often board members are selected.

The board is proposing to choose its members every two years.

“One problem with having short terms is the fact that you establish a budget and then the next group has to come and live in that budget and if you are switching often,” Webster County Chief Deputy Rod Strait said. “It forces you live under something someone else sets up.”

Another potential revision is how the telecom budget is financed.

Fort Dodge Assistant Police Chief Cory Husske said under the newly written bylaws, all entities would pay in based on population.

“If it’s by valuation, county would be paying more, city would be paying less,” Husske said.

“The EMA budget is based on valuation and is just, I think county is paying 55 percent of EMA budget, while the city is paying 66 percent of the telecom budget, which is a much larger budget,” Jeff Nemmers, Fort Dodge city clerk and finance director, said. “The thinking is you are protecting property through EMA, a valuation based, where telecom is people, people responding.”

Ryan Kehm, the telecom board’s attorney, said another change in the bylaws is the addition of an executive committee.

“It adds a paragraph for an executive committee,” Kehm said. “It sets out that that committee would be made up of Webster County sheriff, the police chief, and Webster County attorney.”

Kehm added, “Because this board is made up of more than just law enforcement, the state recommends whether IXP is ever brought on board or if things continue the way they are, it should be an executive committee to oversee compliance as kind of a subcommittee of this board, because this board is made up of non-law enforcement.”

IXP, of Princeton, New Jersey, is a public safety management services company, that the board may hire to manage the dispatch center.

Kehm said there needs to be 30 days notice in providing the revised bylaws to board members.

He said they also have to be sent to all of the cities in the county for approval.

Also during the meeting, Strait was approved as the board chairman.

He was nominated by Husske, who was the previous chairman.