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Ocean City Fire Department Achieves Top Rating

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Ocean City Fire Chief Jim Smith, holding plaque, is joined by firefighters and Mayor Jay Gillian, at far right, during the award ceremony.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Ocean City’s fire department has joined the elite ranks of fire departments in New Jersey and around the country that have been given a prestigious award that recognizes superior firefighting protection.

City officials announced Monday that the department has received a Class 1 ranking from the Insurance Services Office effective June 1.

The classification reflects superior firefighting operations, staffing, training, equipment, community risk reduction and other key factors in what is described as a rigorous evaluation process by the ISO.

Ocean City now joins Jersey City and Hackensack as the only fire departments in New Jersey to have achieved the Class 1 ranking from the ISO. The same ranking is held by less than 1.5 percent of the fire departments nationwide.

“This is huge,” Mayor Jay Gillian said during a news conference at the fire department’s headquarters at 550 Asbury Ave.

Gillian praised the fire department and other first responders for giving Ocean City “the best public safety.”

“I just think we are the best department and with what’s happening today, you have just proved it to this city, the rest of the state and, really, the country. I’m proud. I couldn’t be more honored to be your mayor,” Gillian said to a group of firefighters standing next to him in front of a fire truck.

Fire Chief Jim Smith calls the award “a team effort.”

Fire Chief Jim Smith thanked the mayor, his administration and City Council for their support of the fire department and rescue services, including giving firefighters the critical fire-protection equipment they need to safely do their jobs.

“To achieve this rating, it required the similar recipe that it takes for success on the fireground. It is a team effort,” Smith said.

In addition to the training, equipment and personnel given to the fire department, Smith also pointed to the city’s 911 emergency dispatch center, Ocean City’s mutual aid partners and an excellent water supply and hydrant system as major reasons for the department’s highly rated operations.

“And lastly, the hard work, constant training, compassion and dedication from our members is the binding agent that brings all of these other ingredients together to allow us to be recognized as ISO Class 1 rated community,” Smith said.

The Ocean City Fire Department has 67 full-time firefighters and an annual operating budget of about $10.5 million.

Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Walker said now that the department has achieved the Class 1 ranking, it is determined to hold on to it.

Walker noted that the ranking is “a symbol of excellence recognized by fire departments throughout the country.”

“The Class 1 rating is the highest rating achievable and signifies that the Ocean City Fire Department provides exemplary fire protection,” Walker said.

He added, “The achievement is a culmination of multiple years of hard work, a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of the Ocean City Fire Department members, as well as a testament to the emphasis the city of Ocean City puts on public safety.”

Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Walker says that the department is determined to retain the Class 1 rating in years to come.

Jeff Gordon, ISO field representative, was at the news conference to present Gillian, Smith and Walker with a certificate formally recognizing the fire department for the Class 1 ranking.

“Out of all of the (fire) jurisdictions in New Jersey that we have, this is just a big honor to have,” Gordon said while addressing the Ocean City firefighters. “Now that you have the honor, your next goal is to keep it.”

Gordon explained that the ISO conducts rigorous follow-up reviews about every five years to make sure a Class 1 rated fire department is maintaining the levels of training, equipment and personnel needed to retain the classification.

In addition to having the prestige of being a Class 1 community, the rating may lead to Ocean City homeowners and business owners receiving discounts on their fire insurance based on the Public Protection Classification program, or PPC, used throughout the country.

“In general, the price of fire insurance in a community with a good PPC grade is substantially lower than in a community with a poor PPC grade, assuming all other factors are equal,” according to a city news release explaining the program.

Gillian emphasized that Ocean City property owners should educate themselves about fire insurance discounts. He urged them to reach out to their insurance companies to see if they would be eligible for discounts now that the fire department is ranked as a Class 1 operation.

Gillian characterized public safety as being the cornerstone of Ocean City’s reputation as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”

Turning toward the firefighters who attended the news conference, the mayor thanked them for their dedication and professionalism in helping to keep the city safe.

“It’s a shame, sometimes, that people really don’t understand how hard these (firefighters) work – the men and women. There’s a legacy in Ocean City about public safety,” he said.

Fire Chief Jim Smith and Mayor Jay Gillian are presented with a plaque from ISO field representative Jeff Gordon, center.

 

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