Editorial: Prescott and its residents safer than ever

There is more to what The Daily Courier published this past week, “Prescott Fire Department gets upgrade in fire-risk rating,” than the number 4 and the number 2.

When a community has poor or faltering fire protection, residents can feel the pinch from safety concerns. It also can hit their pocketbooks in the form of higher insurance rates.

Simply put, insurance companies can raise rates on homeowners policies, for example, when the risk of fire increases — or when the level of available fire protection is not what it could be.

This is why some people were worried in 2016 when the Prescott Fire Department was dealing with staffing issues and fire station “brownouts.”

Among other concerns, the Fire Department had multiple vacancies, testing current firefighters with overtime, and when short on resources officials closed or downgraded stations, according to Courier archives. While the latter was usually at PFD’s airport fire station, staffing it with less than a full crew or closing it, the shortage tested not only its resources but also its mutual-aid agreement with Central Arizona Fire and Medical.

In part Prescott Fire began to turn the corner, coincidentally, when city officials implemented a citywide reorganization plan and, in early 2017, hired enough firefighters — with help of a grant — to bring staffing levels back up.

While the timing of those hires became controversial, because they happened before state pension reforms kicked in and could affect the city’s unfunded liability, the easily measured result is now the difference between the number 4 and the number 2.

This past week we told you lower insurance rates could be on the horizon for local property owners, because Prescott Fire Department’s rating with the Insurance Services Office went from 4 to 2. The 4 – on a scale of 1 (best) to 10 (worst) – was from 2012. And, the rating is based on a variety of factors, including fire department staffing levels.

“This a result of a coordinated effort at all levels of the Fire Department, the Prescott Regional Communications Center, and the city’s Public Works Department, which has been continually upgrading infrastructure over the past few years,” said Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light.

Still, the ISO evaluation that began in August 2017, resulted in Prescott’s highest rating to-date.

The Prescott Fire Department has improved its rating and Prescott citizens and businesses benefit, Mayor Greg Mengarelli said.

Regardless of how we got here, residents are now safer.

And residents also will see in 2018 that PSPRS debt come down measurably, because of payments and the voter-approved sales tax. The system works.