The fire department increased its Insurance Services Office fire rating from a Class 2 to a Class 1, Mayor Chuck Brawer said in a phone interview. This rating indicates the department is among the best fire departments in the state for response time, training and equipment.
Brawner said of the 3,000 fire departments across Texas, only about 70 have a Class 1 rating.
Because of the Class 1 rating, some residents may see a reduction in homeowners insurance, while commercial entities will see at least a 2% reduction in hazard insurance, Brawner said. These savings only apply to homes and businesses within a 5-mile radius of Katy’s three police stations.
“The end result for our homeowners is that this will attract more business … to the city of Katy because it's cheaper for the companies to operate at a lesser cost on their insurance,” Brawner said. “Then we get [new businesses] in here. They [will] produce and [pay] sales tax [and] property [tax that] is going to give us an income stream that at some point I want to see us start lowering taxes again.”
In a separate phone interview, Fire Chief Russell Wilson echoed Brawner’s statements on the benefits of a Class 1 rating on insurance and economic development.
“It boils down to not just having a good fire department and good public safety system to include fire, EMS and police for the citizens, but at the same because you've got that premier public safety system, you're going to save [residents’] money.”
Rising to Class 1
The city’s efforts to become a Class 1 fire department began in 2013, when Brawner was tasked to reorganize the department from a volunteer fire department to a full-time career fire department, Brawner said. Wilson, who was hired in May 2016, said this was achieved within his first year as chief.
Brawner said he also set a goal in 2013 to increase the department’s ISO rating to Class 1. The city used a consultant to create a strategic plan to achieve this.
In October, the ISO audit was performed, Brawner said. The auditor examined and graded the departments’ training and deployment practices, equipment and water supply. The audit’s results revealing the Class 1 ranking were received during the week of April 15.
“The consultant told me that the big factors for us getting [a Class 1 rating] was staffing and Station [No.] 2,” Wilson said.
He and Brawner said Station No. 2—which opened in early March at 25420 Bell Patna Drive, Katy—has allowed the department to respond more quickly to dispatches in the southern part of the city near Katy Mills. Sometimes, slow-moving trains on the railroad blocked emergency response teams at Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Katy from getting to the southern portion of the city in a timely manner, Brawner and Wilson said.
Other practices put into place in the past three years that helped the department achieve the new rating included upgrading the dispatch system, implementing better training and promotion procedures as well as hiring additional staff, Wilson said. The department has 78 firefighters, Brawner said.
“We’ve stepped up a lot,” Wilson said. “We stepped up in our staffing. We’ve stepped up in our training. We just set the bar higher across the board.”
He emphasized the Class 1 rating was a team effort by the mayor and fire department employees.
“I’m proud of the men and women of the department,” Wilson said. “The fact is I can set the bar higher, [but] they’re the ones who met it.”