An inspector from the Insurance Services Office has visited Brookfield Township Fire Department and found deficiencies in the department’s training, equipment and operations.
Much of what the inspector found already was known by full-time department members, who said they are working on making improvements, but the ultimate responsibility for these issues will fall on the new fire chief.
The department has been without a chief since Keith Barrett retired in December.
ISO is a clearinghouse for insurance companies, officials said.
“They go over everything very thoroughly, what our trucks are capable of, what our manpower’s capable of and if we meet certain parameters,” said Capt. Matt Gordon.
The review produces a rating between 1 and 10, with 1 being the best and 10 meaning essentially there is no fire protection. Brookfield has a 5 rating in areas where there are hydrants, and an 8 in areas without. Hartford Township also has an 8 rating.
Insurance companies look at the ratings in determining premiums for homeowner’s insurance policies.
The department lost points for Engine 51, the truck at Station 51 on Addison Road. It fails pump testing because it overheats during the test. Officials have held off fixing the problem – which has been estimated at $4,500 – because they have applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants each of the last four years to replace the truck. The latest grant application has been denied, firefighters said on April 23.
The ladder truck kept at the main station on Route 7 has not been tested and certified in several years, which is something that is supposed to be done annually, said Interim Chief Dave Coffy. The truck will be tested in June, before ISO releases the results of the inspection, officials said.
The department has fallen behind on certain training that has to be done regularly, including driver operations and hazardous material handling, Coffy said.
The inspector found that some of the department’s volunteers have not kept up on their mandated 18-hours-a-year continuing education, said Lt. Nick Cresanto.
Trustee Dan Suttles, a retired firefighter, said having firefighters with gaps in their training responding to calls could open the township to lawsuits if something goes wrong.
“I don’t want them on a truck,” he said.
The pumps on equipment stored in Hartford – Brookfield has a contract to provide fire service to Hartford– have not been tested in some time, Gordon said. Hartford trustees had been approached about getting them tested, but there was never any follow through, he said.
“We’re going to have to come to some sort of agreement with them to get those tests,” Gordon said.
The review also showed Hartford had not been billed for its share of maintenance and repairs, 12 percent of the cost.
“We don’t know the process, but I think we’re starting to learn it,” Gordon said. “We do need to approach that. There’s probably a lot of money out there.”
Firefighters said the ratings will come out sometime after June.
The inspector made “some pretty good suggestions,”Cresanto said.
“There are some absolutely easy changes, some moderate changes, some hard changes that we can do to get our number even lower,” he said. “A lot of it is paperwork.”
Coffy said his immediate goal is to maintain the status quo.
“I don’t think that our ISO ratings will drop,” he said. “We just want to stay the same.”