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Civic Guide to Economy in Municipal Government: Fire Department

2 min readBy: TF Staff

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Foreword“They shall pay especial attention to fire and upon the first sign of smoke, extraordinary light or otherwise warn the people by knocking at their houses. And if they see any likelihood of fire, they shall give warning by rattling and calling, and run to the church, of which they are to have a key, and ring the bell.” —Quotation from court records describing duties of night watchman in Beverwyck (now Albany),1659.

Citizens in a community pay for two types of fire protection. To guard against possible fire loss, they collectively support a fire department and other municipal fire defenses. To receive compensation when fire losses occur, they individually pay premiums to private insurance companies. The costs of these two services are not unrelated. Adequate municipal fire defenses result in low base insurance rates for the community; and conversely, inadequate fire defenses mean higher base rates. The problem, therefore, in providing municipal fire protection is to determine the desirable level of government expenditures. Municipal fire defenses must be adequately supported to enable the city to enjoy low rates, but the support must not be so liberal that it encourages waste and inefficiency.

An appraisal of your municipal fire defenses will indicate whether expenditures are wisely made and whether increased expenditures have actually resulted in improved protection. What is your city’s fire insurance rating as established by the National Board of Fire Underwriters? How many “deficiency points” must be removed for your city to obtain a better classification? Is the number of fire houses determined on the basis of modern condition, s of motor-driven apparatus? Does your city have a comprehensive fire prevention code and is it rigidly enforced?

This manual has been prepared to serve as a guide for appraising your municipal fire defenses in order to determine where economies can be effected without impairing the city’s fire insurance rating.