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Sewickley fire department earns high ranking; could mean lower homeowner insurance

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Cochran Hose Company in Sewickley now ranks as one of the best in the country.

After conducting a Public Protection Classification survey, officials from New Jersey-based Insurance Services Office have ranked the department a level 3, an improvement from a score of 5 in 2003.

With that score, the volunteer fire company, which answered 261 fire calls in 2013, ranks among the top 4.6 percent in fire suppression ability.

Fire departments are ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 representing superior property fire protection. Each department is evaluated at least every 10 years.

The improved rating could mean property owners in Sewickley, Edgeworth, Glen Osborne and Haysville could have lower rates on property insurance, including fire insurance, fire Chief Jeff Neff said.

He added that it is difficult to know how much could be saved because every insurance company's policies are different.

ISO is an organization that collects information for insurance companies to help establish appropriate fire insurance premiums for properties.

Property owners in the Cochran Hose service area should check with their insurance carriers about a possible rate reduction, Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said.

ISO officials conduct evaluations of departments all over the country, focusing on four aspects of fire suppression — the fire department itself, emergency communications, water supply and the new community risk reduction section that recognizes community efforts to reduce losses through fire prevention, public fire safety education, and fire investigation, according to ISO.

Neff said a 3 is the department's best rating ever and will take effect in April.

“We had expected a 4, so we are really excited,” he said.

The rating provides fire departments with a benchmark and can be used as a tool when planning, budgeting and justifying fire protection improvements, ISO officials stated in a letter sent to the borough and the fire department.

Flannery said while the rating is a “huge honor” for the fire department, it was a joint effort by Sewickley Borough, Sewickley Water Authority and Cochran.

With the rebuilding of Broad Street in 2005, the borough worked with the water authority to install a 1,725-foot, 12-inch waterline, replacing an old, corroded line, he said.

Over the past 10 years, the borough and water authority have replaced fire hydrant couplings to have the same fittings to be able to pump at higher rates.

“This assists in an effective and efficient means to supply water for fire service needs,” Flannery said.

The water authority has rebuilt its distribution and pumping systems, which provide more water with more efficiency throughout the entire system, he said.

The borough always has provided the best in equipment to Cochran, “while balancing the real estate taxes needed,” Flannery said.

Neff said the area's 911 dispatch system through Allegheny County is more efficient than what they used in the past, a high number of the department's 38 active volunteer firemen always respond to fires, and all department personnel receive continual training.

“We want the public to know that their tax dollars that go toward the fire department are well spent,” Neff said.

“They are definitely getting their money's worth.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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