In March of 2021, the Ozark Fire Protection District requested the Insurance Services Office (ISO) to conduct a review of the community’s public protection classification to update the insurance rating. This rating is an important factor in setting rates for property insurance. The rating is based on a grading scale related to a community’s emergency communication system, water supply and fire department. The evaluation is translated from a score of 1-10, with a "1" being superior fire protection, ranging to "10" being no fire protection at all. As of 2020, there were almost 40,000 communities across the United States that were graded, of which 388 were rated as a “1.”
The last rating of the Ozark Fire Protection District was completed 2014. The rating was a "4" for all properties within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. A rating of “5” was assigned to the properties that did not fall within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant, but within 5 road miles of a fire station.
The most recent rating, which will take effect on January 1, 2022, was reduced to a “3” to those areas within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. This reduction is attributed to the improvements made to the water supply system, as well as improvements the fire district made to staffing, fire apparatus, training for firefighters and community risk reduction programs.
Ozark Fire Chief Jarett Metheny attributes the improved rating to the hard work of the members of the fire district, improvements made to the roads and water system in Ozark, and the telecommunicators who answer the 911 calls in the Christian County E-911 dispatch center.
Ozark Director of Public Works Jeremy Parsons noted the collaboration between the city and the fire district that helped lead to the better ISO rating for 2022.
“The city of Ozark Public Works Department has worked diligently, in collaboration with the Ozark Fire District, to make substantial water distribution and facility improvements throughout our community. Our goal is to provide the citizens of Ozark with a safe and reliable municipal water system," Parsons said. "Our partnership with the fire district has allowed us to make data-driven decisions that help mitigate water supply issues and encourage future economic development. The city is proud of the relationship that we have established with the Ozark Fire District, and together we will strive to continue to make Ozark better every day for our citizens.”
In April of 2021, voters in the Ozark Fire Protection District passed a 20-year, $12.5 million dollar bond initiative for capital improvements that will provide the support for an effort to further reduce the ISO rating and improve the effectiveness of the Ozark Fire Protection District. Improvements to the fire district will occur in two phases. The first phase includes selling $8.435 million in bonds to pay off the existing lease of Fire Station No. 2, which will provide general funds to add three additional full-time firefighter positions. Additionally, Phase 1 funds will also be used to renovate Fire Station No. 3, purchase an aerial fire truck, relocate Fire Station No. 1, and build a training facility. Phase 1 bonds will be available in November 2021, and improvements will begin immediately. The remaining bond funds will be used in a second phase set to begin in 2025 or 2026, and will include replacing fire trucks and equipment and purchasing land for future fire stations or training sites.
Metheny said the ISO rating process was an important step in long-term decision-making. It provides an additional layer of information that is used to ensure the correct decisions are made to address the growing risks in Ozark as it grows, and the effectiveness of emergency communications, water supply and fire district operations.
The Ozark Fire Protection District is led by a five-person board of directors responsible for financial oversight and setting future priorities. Board President Susie Ballard emphasized the partnerships among all emergency service groups in Christian County are important for the Ozark fire district to maintain, as directors work to be good stewards of public funds and seek operational improvements as the community grows.
“At the end of the day, we are one family with one community to serve as we keep our commitments and live our values,” Ballard said.
Ballard expressed her thanks to voters and patrons through the effort to reduce Ozark's ISO rating the process. Long term, she hopes the effort will foster economic development in Ozark with cost savings for everyone in the community when it comes to insuring their property.
Bonds became available for purchase on Oct. 18.
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