(May 9, 2006) -- A story broken last month by LBReport.com that the City of LB doesn't provide Class One Insurance Services Office (ISO) rated public protection status regarding fire has taken a bizarre turn.
LBReport.com has now learned that ISO can find no record confirming that the City of LB ever had its Class One fire protection status.
On April 21, 2006 LBReport.com first reported that the City of LB doesn't provide taxpayers with Class One public protection status regarding fire as determined by ISO, an independent, non-government risk assessment firm.
The revelation left some at LB City Hall surprised and mortified. For years, LB officials had routinely stated as a matter of civic pride that LB had a Class One ISO designation that helped keep LB fire insurance rates low.
LBFD fire trucks are emblazoned with the designation "Class One." LBFD business cards also carry the designation "Class One."
City management hasn't provided the public with any direct explanation on the matter, although LBFD's spokesman has told us (and we reported, and reiterate below) Fire Chief Dave Ellis told his Command Staff about the matter in late April.
The City Council hasn't agendized or requested a public briefing on the matter...yet.
After LBReport.com's initial report last month, we asked ISO's media office to do a second check...and asked that records be examined going back beyond the mid-1990s.
ISO staffers searched back to the early to mid-1980s...and ISO spokesman Dave Dasgupta said ISO staffers couldn't find records of the City of Long Beach ever having had Class One Public Protection Classification status re fire.
"We spoke with several knowledgable people, including old timers, and searched records going back to the early to mid 1980s," Mr. Dasgupta said. "We simply could not find a record indicating that Long Beach actually had Class One status." He added, "You would do a service to your readers to report the this."
We are reporting this...but honestly with a continuing sense of disbelief. We remain at a loss to understand how what now seems to be a civic myth got started in CA's fifth largest city...and then percolated into years of erroneous representations by public officials.
Los Angeles City fire trucks also say "Class One" on them, although L.A. isn't rated Class One. But unlike LB, L.A. did have Class One status from roughly 1947 until somewhere in the late 1990s, says LAFD Public Information Officer Brian Humphrey. In contrast, ISO says it has no record of LB ever have had Class One status.
ISO doesn't set fire insurance rates, but says its risk classifications are used by many insurers in setting their rates. ISO says that all other things being equal, homes and businesses in a city that has Class One (the safest) fire protection status will likely pay lower fire insurance rates than Class Two or below. Class Two is s good rating (the classifications extend downward to Class Ten) but it isn't Class One, a status highly prized by cities that provide it.
Ten CA cities currently provide Class One Public Protection Classication (PPC) status, nine of them in So. Cal: Arcadia (boasts about it on its website), Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Vernon, Torrance, and Glendale. (Stockton in No. Cal is also Class One).
ISO upgraded LB to Class Two status in 2002 from LB's prior ranking of Class Two/Nine status. The 2002 upgrade was based on ISO's assessment of an improved level of hydranting in the city, ISO spokesman Dasgupta said. Mr. Dasgupta added that if the City of Long Beach wants to know what it would take to bring them up to Class One status, ISO can tell them.
LBFD Public Information Officer Battalion Chief Jeff Reeb told LBReport.com that Fire Chief Dave Ellis discussed the Class One issue with his Command Staff on April 28. Chief Ellis noted that the "Class One" rating doesn't include a reference to ISO, it just simply states "Class One"...and while "Class One" is closely associated with ISO's ratings, it was first placed on rigs to reflect LB's rating at the time and thereafter basically continued as part of the Departmental logo.
PIO Reeb said the most recent documentation LBFD could find dates back to 1973 when ISO did some survey work in LB...and that material doesn't discuss the city's classification.
PIO Reeb said inclusion of Class One as part of LBFD's painted logo indicates the values held by the LB Fire Department, a commitment to excellence that reflects the importance placed on LBFD's role as part of the City of LB.
PIO Reeb said that LBFD currently determines its capability to deliver services based on the optimization study (conducted for city management and released in 2005)...and LBFD also follows the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
But LBReport.com responded that NFPA [via one of its committees] refused to adopt a more stringent mathematical standard in calculating the burn risk for people and property from a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fire. The City of LB, and several CA state agencies, have called the mathematical standard insufficiently protective of the public in responses filed to a draft EIR/EIS for an 80+ million gallon LNG facility proposed for the Port of LB.
LBFD PIO Reeb replied that LB remains focused on service delivery based on its Departmental studies, NFPA's standards, LBFD's own experience and the value that LB city community has placed on the importance of fire service.