Mendenhall fire rating improves by two points

By MARLAN JONES,

The City of Mendenhall has successfully lowered its fire protection classification from eighth class to sixth class.

 The change will benefit everyone in the city. Mayor Todd Booth said, “I feel real good about this and this was something that we first started looking into as a city board because we knew it could help everybody.”

The process began last year, and the first big step towards improving the city’s fire rating was taken in October when Matt Abbott was hired as fire service coordinator. Booth said the board understood the importance of improving the fire rating and said Abbott was a key element in doing so.

Abbott was previously the dispatcher supervisor for the Mendenhall Police Department, and worked in emergency operations part time. Abbott has worked in fire service for over 16 years and maintains multiple certifications which qualified him for the job. He began his career in fire service after joining Pinola Fire Department as a volunteer in August of 2001. Abbott has served in emergency services since 1998.

With the start of the new fiscal year, the implementation of the fire service coordinator position was feasible. Mendenhall Fire Chief Wayne Walker previously appeared before the board to explain the need for the position and how it was necessary to improve the city’s fire rating. 

Abbott took the job understanding the city’s goal of improving the fire rating to help lower insurance prices for everyone within the fire district.

As fire service coordinator he handles most of the administrative and logistics needs of the fire department which includes anything from filing incident reports to testing fire hydrants. Abbott described paperwork as “the most difficult aspect of improving a city’s fire rating,” which is why the position was imperative to making progress.

On January 11, following an inspection, the City received notification that the fire rating had improved two points from an eight to a six. Booth said, “There is a lot of stuff involved in improving a fire rating and we planned on it taking at least a year, but to drop two points in less than four months is amazing.”

Abbot explained that the accomplishment was achieved through the efforts of the fire department and the city. He described it as a testament to the selflessness of everyone involved. He praised the work and effort put in by the volunteer firefighters of Mendenhall. He said, “They have all worked and gave a lot to the community. This will mean a lot to the city and the areas we respond to.”

He explained that the Mississippi State Rating Bureau is responsible for assigning fire departments rating. The lower the rating number, the better the department. Abbott said the bureau rates a city’s capability to respond to incidents. He explained that the rating is assigned to the fire department, but the entire emergency response system plays a role. He said, “The fire department, water department, and communications all factor into a rating.”

Abbot explained that several people involved with the water department and police department have assisted with the rating increase. Over the past three months the departments have made significant upgrades to equipment and the water system. Abbott said that City Superintendent Red Lewis was also a part of the recent Bureau inspection. Abbott said, “It’s all a team effort. There has hardly been anything done with an ‘I’ it’s been all about we.”

Abbott admitted that he was shocked to learn that the department increased by two ratings. He explained that rating inspections are generally done every four years. Abbott said, “This is only a start and we plan to continue to improve.”

He described rating improvements as a labor of love and again praised the volunteer firefighters. He said, “They’re not unpaid because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless, and we hope to continue to improve.”

Abbott laughed and said, “We’re glad this will have a positive effect on everyone’s wallet.”

Fire Chief Wayne Walker said, “It’s something that we’ve been trying to do to help the community and business owners. The city helped us on it and Matt being named fire superintendent was big.”

Walker said, “The rating was our way of helping and we’re going to continue.”

Booth said, “We understand the importance of it and we’re thankful for the impact its having on our city.”