New equipment, fire stations pay off for Viera, Suntree and beyond


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Tall fire engine ladders, like the 75-foot ladder at the new Station 48 in northwest Viera and the 100-foot ladder due this month at Station 80 in Suntree, may improve Brevard County Fire-Rescue’s ISO rating, leading to lowered property insurance rates for home and business owners.

Linda Wiggins

Recent, current and planned improvements to firefighting and emergency response in the Viera/Suntree area could lead to lower insurance rates for homeowners and business owners in the coming years.

Property insurance rates depend in large part on a good rating by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), Inc., which works on behalf of insurance companies and citizens. Brevard County Fire Rescue which serves unincorporated areas such as Viera and Suntree, will undergo an audit in the coming months, something fire departments have every five years. Major recent, current and planned improvements include:

  • Station 48 in northwest Viera is the newest in the county and allowed BCFR to centralize and provide advancements to its special operations and hazardous materials operations. 
  • Station 80 in Suntree will receive one of the most advanced and capable apparatus in existence this month. Called a “tiller” or hook and ladder, and has a  its 100-foot-tall ladder. 
  • Future Station 49 is slated for southwest Viera and will go on line as residential, retail and workplace development progresses west of Interstate 95 and between Wickham Road and the Pineda Causeway Extension.

The advancements add up to more than dollars and sense, according to BCFR officials.

“The savings aspect is huge, but more importantly, it means it’s safer for life and property,” said Viera resident Lee Nessel, BCFR public affairs and information manager. 

Reduced response time is a huge factor in improving a fire department’s ISO rating. The rating is called a Public Protection Classification and ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.

BCFR overall has a rating of 4.9, with a 4 in most areas, including Viera and Suntree. The rating is broken up into different areas and rated accordingly. 

Factors considered during the ISO audit include: 

  • Fire alarm and communication systems, including telephone systems, telephone lines, staffing and dispatching systems.
  • The fire department itself, including equipment, staffing, training and the geographic distribution of fire companies.
  • The water supply system, including condition and maintenance of hydrants, alternative water supply operations, and a careful evaluation of the amount of available water compared with the amount needed to suppress fires up to 3,500 gallons per minute. 

Much of the aspects under consideration have to do with utilities that have nothing to do with the fire departments. For example, hydrants are not owned by fire departments, but rather the water utility for that area of the county, with the fire departments using and checking them, but not having to maintain or repair them.

The ISO rating concerns far more than the financial and physical wellbeing of current residents. It also affects where they will work, shop and play, or economic prosperity overall, as well as how much of the tax burden they will bear for community infrastructure, versus taxes generated by businesses and retail sales.

It is a vital factor that companies consider when selecting a community in which to locate their operations.

“It definitely makes communities more marketable,” said BCFR Assistant Chief of Operations Mark Lighthill, who oversees the ISO process. It will take about a week for the audit and three months to compile the data to arrive at a new ISO rating.

“A big corporation may not locate their operations in an area where they have to pay exorbitant rates for insurance,” Lighthill said. “The rating can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to their 

bottom line.”

While the improvements to the BCFR system will result in better services to Viera and Suntree, the investments also pay off county wide.

Station 48 is a training ground for crews around the county, with special equipment allowing for a variety of emergency drills.

The new tiller at Station 80 will benefit areas outside the Suntree area.

“It’s an amazing piece of equipment that can be helpful in so many situations,” said Station 80 Lt. Aaron Pritchard. “We definitely are looking forward to deploying it as soon as we have trained all our staff to use it.”

Like stations 48 and 80, crews from Station 47 on Murrell  Road help out where needed, especially when specific equipment is required.

 “We routinely respond beachside,” said Lt. Pam Rudnicki of east Viera’s Station 47. The station has a powerful aerial platform that is capable of shooting an aerial column of water directly from the unit that can reach about 160 feet in height.  

All of the equipment fits into a master plan to address the current and future needs from one end of the county to the other. In addition to engines and aerials, the plan includes large water tankers for rural areas. These tankers provide volumes of water that utilities are unable to provide in response to larger fires in the more rural areas.

 “The improvements are definitely an investment and as in any case, you always have to make sure that what you are spending is worth the return on that investment,” said BCFR Chief Larry Collins. 

“By improving our ISO rating for the next five years, that means not only that our residents and their property will be safer, but in the long view, current and future citizens and their employers will also realize dividends from that investment in lower insurance rates down the road.”

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