Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpA panicked call to 911 described a residential fire with potential entrapment on the upper level. Thick black smoke poured out of the widows as the brand new tiller truck from Bailey’s Crossroads Station 10 roared up and disgorged firefighters in full turn-out gear to fight the blaze. One firefighter stood a ladder up to the second floor window, while another established a safety perimeter at the fire ground. The tiller truck extended its full 100 foot aerial ladder as a third firefighter raced up the slanted ladder to aid in the rescue of a small child, who was quickly turned over to paramedics for treatment. Firefighters on the ground laid the fire houses and raced into the burning building. In a few moments, white smoke appeared and the fire was out. Just another day in the life of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department?

Well, not exactly. The incident occurred as described, but it actually was a live fire demonstration at the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Academy to celebrate and highlight Fairfax County’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating of Class 1, the highest rating possible. Fairfax County is the first jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the first jurisdiction in the National Capital Region, to receive such a rating. According to the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) which is responsible for the rating system, a Class 1 rating represents “superior property fire protection.”

The PPC Program reviews fire prevention and overall suppression capabilities of communities. Several primary areas are rated, including emergency communications, fire department operations, water supply, and community risk reduction (fire prevention, fire safety education, and fire investigations). With an improved PPC rating (up from a previous urban/suburban classification of 3), the fire and rescue department gets valuable benchmarks (fire officials from Henrico County were on hand for Monday’s demonstration), helping measure program efficacy, and plan for future improvement. The new Class 1 rating means that residents and businesses may qualify for lower fire insurance premiums, but you need to check with your own insurance provider to see if you qualify.

Board Chairman Sharon Bulova noted that “fast response times, equipment, and trained personnel help make Fairfax County one of the safest jurisdictions of its size.” Fire Chief Richie Bowers added that receiving a Class 1 rating was part of the department’s strategic plan and a challenging objective. Coincidentally, the celebration of the new ISO rating was planned before the department’s Virginia Task Force One urban search and rescue team was deployed to Nepal for earthquake search and rescue, and their safety was not far from everyone’s minds during the live fire exercise.

The new ISO rating also reflects substantial reinvestment in public safety by the Board of Supervisors and the community – in training of personnel, equipment, and apparatus. Fairfax County is fortunate to have such an outstanding fire and rescue department serving the entire community – whether urban, suburban, or rural. When you call 911, you can be sure that well-trained, well-equipped help is on the way!


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.