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Columbia Fire Department Ranked Among Nation’s Best

The Columbia Fire Department is officially one of the nation’s best, and that could mean lower insurance rates for homeowners in the city and in Richland County.

Chief Aubrey Jenkins joined city and county officials Wednesday to announce that the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rates the city Class 1 in its recent Public Protection Classification (PPC) ratings, and the county a Class 2.

The ISO rates more than 48,000 fire protection areas nationwide, and many insurance companies use the ratings as a factor in determining homeowner and business insurance premiums. The ratings are given on a scale of 1-10, with Class 1 being the best possible.

The Class 1 rating for the city puts the fire department among the nation’s elite. Less than one percent of departments nationwide are ranked Class 1, and this is the first such achievement for Columbia in the 113-year history of the department. The previous high was a Class 2, achieved in 2006.

The Class 2 rating for the county places it in the top two percent nationally, and is a significant step forward from the Class 4 rating received at the previous inspection in 2006.

“This is a tremendous achievement for the Columbia Fire Department as well as the City of Columbia and Richland County,” Jenkins said. “I commend the members of my staff that devoted countless hours of preparation that went into getting ready for the inspection and I would also like to thank the City of Columbia’s Water Division and Columbia-Richland Communications for their partnerships through this process.”

The ratings are determined by the ISO based on independent expert evaluation of the following components.


1. Communications

  • 911 Centers’ ability to answer/dispatch calls efficiently
  • Dispatching hardware/software upgrades
  • Backup generator power for call center

2. Water Supply

  • Robust city pressurized system (hydrants)
  • New pressurized system in the Richland County area (Hopkins)
  • Substantial Rural Water Supply Strategy to include daily/weekly training and record retention

3. Fire Service

  • Training-efficiency, frequency & record retention
  • Aggressive equipment/apparatus replacement & inventory accountability/tracking program
  • Exemplary record of response times to structure fires

4. Community Risk Reduction (also known as prevention/education/code enforcement)

  • Juvenile fire setter intervention programs
  • Grass roots Smoke Alarm Installation Program
  • Code Enforcement program supported by a collaborative team effort by both City & County Code Officials

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