“Insurance companies base rates they charge customers in certain cities based on a whole bunch of factors, but training is one of them,” said Charlie Smith, Duluth Fire Department training officer.
The DFD has been increasing the amount of company training within the last three years. This includes increased efficiency in record keeping and technology training as well as physical training.
“Everybody who works on the fire rigs, the engines and the ladder trucks all have to have 240 hours of company training per year,” Smith said.
Every fire department receives a Public Protection Classification rating (PPC). According to the Insurance Services Office’s website, PCC ratings are set by how well the local fire department responds to fires in the community.
According to the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research, PPC ratings are one of the many factors that insurance companies look at when setting premiums. This means that the better the PPC a city receives, the lower the insurance rates for the residents.
“If we can improve in that area and contribute to a better rating in the city that's certainly what we need to move towards, and we have,” Smith said.
The increase of training has not affected the city budget either, Smith said. This helps minimize any impact the increased training would have on the taxpayers.
“It’s all on the clock when they're on duty for their 24-hour shift," Smith said. "That’s part of their duties they are required to do. At the worst case, this should be cost neutral because it was really just documenting what people were doing already and getting them to do that more on a regular basis.”
The training not only focuses on better record keeping, but also working with better medical equipment, which all local firefighters have access to.
“We have new automatic internal defibrillator, making sure they are training on those consistently because medical emergencies are the biggest part of our job,” Smith said.
The companies are receiving education on many different forms of new technologies.
“We do have computers in all our fire apparatus now that shows the address, so we get in there for emergencies," Smith said "We don’t have to take time and look at a map. It’s all right in front of you, so you don’t have to worry about missing the address."
The increases of the use of new technologies help make the DFD better at serving their community, Smith said. Yet, the fact still remains that
firefighting is still a very physically demanding job.
“No matter how advance the technology we get as firefighters, the stuff we really need to hammer home is those basic firefighting skills,” Smith said.