Fall 2016
Welcome to Community Fire Protection News...

Welcome to Community Fire Protection News, our online newsletter for the fire service, insurers, building officials, water professionals, and emergency responders. We provide concise and topical fire protection information, relevant community mitigation and insurance news, and more.

CFP News is a joint publication of Verisk Insurance Solutions and its ISO Community Hazard Mitigation business. In this issue, we explore new technology, safety issues, and other activities in community hazard mitigation. In an interview with Chief Gary S. Allyn of the West Hartford Fire Department, we discuss the decline in fire frequency, and that topic is featured in our “You Make the Call” video poll. We get a very personal perspective on cancer in the fire service from one of our own, Chief Tom Weber, ISO Community Hazard Mitigation national director. Other articles provide insight on how Washington County, Maryland, attained its BCEGS® class 2 designation, a look at a traditional fire department wetdown, and an introduction to our new ISO logo.

This issue also includes many industry updates and insights. We hope you’ll find our latest information useful in your own efforts to keep people and property safe against fire and other catastrophes.

Robert L. Andrews
Vice President and Chief Field Operations Officer
Verisk Insurance Solutions

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Fire Frequency vs. Fire Severity: An interview with Chief Gary S. Allyn, West Hartford Fire Department

An interesting current trend in the fire service is that fire frequency is down nationally, but fire severity has increased.
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I never saw that coming — Cancer in the fire service

The situation has become so dire that 33 states and 9 Canadian provinces made cancer a presumptive job-related injury.
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Austin Fire Department’s RED Team promotes use of unmanned aerial systems in firefighting

The fire service is often a risky and dangerous profession. Modern technology holds a lot of promise in making it safer for firefighters, emergency responders, and the public. Community Fire Protection News wants to share information as often as we can on the new devices and systems being developed.
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BCEGS® Spotlight: Washington County, Maryland

ISO’s Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®) program rates the effectiveness and enforcement of building codes in communities throughout the United States.
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A good old-fashioned wetdown

The fire service is known for its traditions. One such tradition is the time-honored commissioning of new fire apparatus with a good old-fashioned wetdown.
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ISO announces new logo

Over the years, you’ve come to know ISO Community Hazard Mitigation for our data collection and analysis, particularly related to our Public Protection Classification (PPC™) and Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®) programs.
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You make the call

The ISO Public Protection Classification (PPC™) program works with fire departments to analyze and measure their performance in the community.

BCEGS® Spotlight: Washington County, Maryland

By Dale Thomure, CBO, CFM

ISO’s Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®) program rates the effectiveness and enforcement of building codes in communities throughout the United States. We assign a classification of 1 (meaning exemplary building code enforcement) to 10. A favorable classification is a milestone worth noting. This past year, Washington County, Maryland, achieved a class 2 rating for both residential and commercial construction. That’s quite an achievement considering less than 7 percent of communities in Maryland have a classification of 2 or higher. How did they do it?

One customer wrote this to the county’s permitting department: “Thanks for your concurrence with increasing the size of the deck posts from 4x4- to 6X6-inch posts. The point you made about the increased chance of the 4x4-inch posts twisting as they dry out seems to be a very important consideration. I want to avoid that possibility so I am glad to upgrade with the 6x6-inch posts.”

Another customer wrote, “Several design issues arose throughout our project, and two Washington County inspectors were happy to meet on-site with a plan reviewer to discuss possible solutions with the project team. There were several times I forgot to call for an inspection. But when I contacted inspectors in the morning, they squeezed my project in to keep us moving.”

As those customer reviews show, Washington County’s plan review, permitting, and construction departments work as a team with contractors and customers involved in any construction project in the county. The staff understands that improving their BCEGS classification is one way they can support customers and the construction community. Customer service is a key to giving that support.

Angela Smith
Angela Smith speaks with one of her staff members.

Even so, Angela Smith, deputy director of the Washington County, Maryland, Permitting Department, was quick to point out that their jurisdiction’s structures are held to a high building standard. The standard takes into account natural disasters and mitigates other potential hazards—which create a lower risk for insurers. That way, they aren’t just ensuring a safer community but also passing along cost savings from more favorable insurance rates to citizens and businesses.

“For our team, it’s not about fees and permits,” Smith said. “It’s about providing for the welfare and safety of citizens. Providing information at the beginning of the permitting process helps our customers make better decisions and leave with the confidence of knowing what they’re doing.”

With 16 code enforcement personnel, the permitting department processed approximately 6,000 permits and 39,085 inspections during 2015 and 2016. That means efficiency is top of mind. The BCEGS process has allowed Washington County to hone their skills as a code enforcement agency. And they’ve taken decisive steps to deliver a better experience and share information with customers.

“We have exceptional code enforcement officials engaged with projects and community members on a daily basis, offering best practices that often result in time and cost savings for projects,” Smith said.

The BCEGS process sharpened their focus on qualifications and training department staff. The staff logged more than 2,550 hours in training focused on the International Code Council (ICC) building codes and field inspection.

Rich Eichelberger
Rich Eichelberger speaks with a contractor.

“The ultimate goal is to guide projects through the plan review, permitting, and inspection processes on time or ahead of schedule and at or below budget so residents and businesses can carry on,” said Rich Eichelberger, deputy director of Washington County construction.

In addition to a focus on training, Washington County invested in software upgrades critical to increasing communication with customers and expanding service capabilities. Some of the new features included the expansion of online building permits and licensing. They can also send text and e-mail reminders for expiring permits and alert customers when inspections are complete.

“The Washington County staff has worked hard over the years to excel in our rating to benefit our community financially, as well as to provide healthy and safe environments to all of our citizens,” said Smith. “That’s something we’ll continue. We’re committed to supporting building code enforcement to make Washington County as safe a community as possible. “

CFP News commends Washington County on its efforts.

new logos

ISO announces new logo

iso flagOver the years, you’ve come to know ISO Community Hazard Mitigation for our data collection and analysis, particularly related to our Public Protection Classification (PPC™) and Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®) programs. For many years, you’ve recognized our “red flag” logo as our symbol. However, during that time, we’ve changed, improved, and grown. Now we’re introducing a new logo to better reflect the breadth and reach of our capabilities.

In the coming days, you’ll start to see our new globe logo on our correspondence, website, employee ID and business cards, and other materials.iso globe

For decades, ISO Community Hazard Mitigation has worked with fire departments, building departments, municipalities, water suppliers, emergency communications centers, and our insurance customers toward our mutual goal of safer communities. We’ll continue that work hand in hand with you for years to come.

‘I never saw that coming’ — Cancer in the fire service

By Tom Weber, CFO, EFO, MPA, MiFireE

“I never saw that coming” is something we hear all too often in the fire service. Firefighters of all ages are being diagnosed with cancer at alarming rates. Studies show that firefighters have a greater chance than the general population of getting six types of cancer:

  • intestinal, liver, prostate, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – 1 to 1
  • testicular – 2.2 to 1
  • malignant melanoma – 2.5 to 1
  • skin, bladder, and leukemia – 3 to 1
  • brain – 3.5 to 1
  • kidney – 4 to 1

The situation has become so dire that 33 states and 9 Canadian provinces made cancer a presumptive job-related injury. There’s currently no single source collecting data on firefighter cancer, which means there are no hard numbers on its prevalence in the fire service. Last year, I became one of those who said “I never saw that coming.” Here is my story—and some lessons for us all.

probability chart

For 35 years, I had the time of my life working in a career that was challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling every day. I never expected to become a member of the association of firefighters with cancer. My career had me work in Fort Lauderdale from 1979 to 1997, just a few years after the infamous Everglades Fertilizer fire, which 50 firefighters fought for days. That was before breathing apparatus was common. During the end of my time in Fort Lauderdale, many of those firefighters were diagnosed with different types of cancer. As I continued my career as a fire chief in two other cities, I kept hearing about my former coworkers getting sick. Some recovered, but too many died. That never left the back of my mind, and it had a profound effect on my actions as a chief. And last year, when I started having pain in my right side near my kidney, that memory made me go directly to my doctor.

My doctor researched potential ailments, such as a muscle pull or kidney stones. He ordered x-rays, but they didn’t show any issues. Still the pain continued. His office then made a recommendation that I think saved my life: Go to the emergency room because “they won’t let you go until they find the problem.”

The next morning I did just that. The emergency room doctors ran a CAT scan, didn’t like the results, and conducted an ultrasound. That confirmed what they had thought, and they told me to see a urologist “right away.” That was my first indication that I might be a member of the infamous cancer association. The urologist was not familiar with the latest reports of firefighters and cancer. I gave him my history and that of many friends. He took a very aggressive approach even while telling me he didn’t think it was cancer.

Within weeks, I had oblation surgery, where a biopsy was conducted, and we got the results. We really didn’t need to hear them, though, as my surgeon had already told my wife and me that he “killed it. I really killed all of it.” That pretty much said “cancer” to us. The biopsy confirmed a right, lower-pole renal lesion characterized as a malignant Bosniak III Stage 1 lesion. How did this happen to me? What did I do during my firefighting time that may have contributed to getting cancer?

I did pretty much what everyone did. We always took off our breathing apparatus (SCBA) right after the bulk of the fire was put out but while still in the smoke. We almost never showered directly after the fire, and there were nights we went from one fire to another and another. We dumped our bunker pants by our bed and just crashed. We rarely cleaned our gear. I remember days that I went home and took a shower the next night still smelling the smoke emitting from my pores—15 hours after the fires I had fought.

The real eye-opener for me was taking supplies out of a storage room inside the living quarters of the station and seeing a ring of diesel soot around the bottle. The exhaust from the apparatus permeated the station and consequently our bodies. All of the actions I mentioned have proved to contribute to the risk of getting cancer. That’s why the Firefighters Cancer Support Network and every fire-related organization recommend these actions:

  1. Always wear PPE and SCBA on all fires, including during overhaul.
  2. Before leaving the fire scene, perform a gross decontamination to remove potentially toxic contaminates from your turnouts and gear.
  3. Rinse and wipe off hands, arms, face, neck, etc., immediately after the fire.
  4. After the fire, bag your gear to avoid unnecessarily inhaling off-gassing carcinogens.
  5. Always use the vehicle exhaust capture system to minimize exhaust fumes in the engine bay and living quarters.
  6. If available, a clean second set of turnouts should be used upon returning to the station, and the contaminated turnouts should be thoroughly cleaned. If a second set of turnouts is not available and/or thoroughly cleaning turnouts is not an immediate option, take care to clean off as much of the contaminates as possible.
  7. Turnouts should be hung in a well-ventilated area away from crew or apparatus passenger compartments until proper cleaning is possible.
  8. After returning to the station and outfitting your equipment, crew members should thoroughly shower to remove carcinogens from skin and hair and then change into clean clothes.
  9. Immediately clean contaminated clothing and gear at the station.
  10. Don’t throw your contaminated clothing on your bed or in your locker, where it will contaminate your bedding or other clothing, and don’t off-gas in the crew quarters.
  11. Don’t take contaminated materials, clothing, or gear home, where you will further expose yourself and your family to carcinogens from the fire.
  12. Don’t wear or bring turnouts (dirty or clean) into living or sleeping areas.
  13. Document your exposures in either a PERS (Personal Exposure Reporting System) or personal binder. At minimum, keep track of the date, time, run ID number, the crew that was present, exposure or materials burning, and duration of exposure.

When I was chief in Manchester, Connecticut, and Port Orange, Florida, I was able to provide firefighters with two sets of gear and washer/extractors. At the time, I didn’t realize the true value of having clean gear to use after a fire. I knew it was a good practice but didn’t realize how important it was. Now we’ve discovered that we need to change what we did in the past to save future generations of firefighters and their families from dealing with cancer.

Experience is an opportunity to learn and pass on lessons to others. My takeaway from my experience is that firefighting means working in an environment of unknown hazards that can have devastating long-term effects on our safety and health. Firefighters must take every precaution to reduce those risks.

I’m one of the lucky ones; I listened to my body. I knew something was wrong, and I acted as my own patient advocate, pushing hard to find out the truth. That allowed the doctors to find my cancer early and control it. During my last checkup, my urologist said to my wife and me that I was one of his anomalies: a kidney cancer survivor. He hasn’t had many because the disease is usually found too late. As chiefs, we know we must enforce safe practices, make sure firefighters understand why dirty gear needs to be dealt with, and require full-time SCBA use—and truly promote that everyone goes home safely.

Have a suggestion?

We welcome your feedback.
If you have questions or would like to suggest a topic, send an e-mail to fco@iso.com.
Or call us at 1-800-444-4554, option 2.

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ISO Community Hazard Mitigation actively works with fire departments, building departments, water suppliers, and municipalities with our Public Protection Classification (PPC™), Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS®), water outreach, and emergency communication center review programs. With your participation and cooperation, we will attain our ultimate goal: safer communities.

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