Photo | Courtesy MCSO

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Public Safety Director James Barber and Fire Chief Mark Sealy celebrate the city’s achievement of an ISO Class 1 rating Tuesday.

The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department is officially one of the top departments in the country, according to the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Fire Chief Mark Sealy announced on Tuesday morning the department’s ISO rating had been upgraded to a Class 1 from a Class 3.

“For the citizens, you can be assured the men and women [of MFRD] are better trained, better equipped and the response will be better,” Stimpson said at a press event at the Crichton Fire Station.

The MFRD becomes one of about 332 districts out of 46,000 to achieve the ISO Class 1 rating, Stimpson said. ISO Community Hazard Mitigation Services Manager Michael C. Morash compared it to joining an elite club.

“Class 1 is big,” he said. “It’s like joining a family across the country that is very limited … ”

In fact, Morash said the rating is given to less than 1 percent of districts across the country. While the rating means the possibility of better service for residents, in some cases it can also lower insurance rates on homes in the city, Morash said.

To achieve the rating, departments are judged on three facets of fire protection and each segment is given a point total, he said. To achieve Class 1, a department must score at least 90 points.

Communications is 10 percent of the score, the fire department itself is 50 percent and water service makes up 40 percent, Morash said.

The communications were judged, in part, on equipment and by how quickly calls were answered. The department was judged, in part, by how quickly those calls were responded to and the level of training firefighters receive on equipment and techniques. The water service was judged, in part, by whether enough water was being supplied to specific discharge points, Morash said.

In this case, the water service was the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System, or MAWSS.

“This was a team effort,” Stimpson said. “There were many members of this team, but MAWSS was the biggest teammate.”

Assistant Director of Operations Doug Cote said MAWSS crews maintain 1,600 miles of water mains and 14,000 hydrants. Of the 14,000, Cote said only two are currently out of order.

“This is the Super Bowl for fire protection,” Cote said. “It’s a real honor for MAWSS to be associated with this achievement.”

Stimpson thanked others involved in the rating upgrade — from human resources for hiring new firefighters, to the city’s Geographic Information System department for mapping hydrants, to the architectural engineering department for designing new stations and the City Council, which quickly confirmed Sealy as chief in May of last year.

“Becoming an ISO 1 city was one of Chief Sealy’s goals from day 1 … ,” Stimpson said. “That was his main goal.”

Sealy thanked many in the department for helping reach the goal, including members of the communications staff, who scored a perfect 10 out of 10 on the assessment. He thanked the fire prevention bureau and the training staff in emergency medical services (EMS) who logged 90,000 hours in training to get to this point. Sealy thanked other departments, the administrative staff, assistant chiefs and the individual firefighters who inspected all of the city’s fire hydrants.

“We have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but this is a great first step,” Sealy said.

City Councilman Fred Richardson, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, applauded Stimpson for the achievement, telling the mayor it was a huge part of his campaign promise to make Mobile the “safest, most business- and family-friendly city in America by 2020.”