As a provider of Baltimore renters insurance, we understand the importance of both paid and volunteer fire departments in close proximity to every home in a city like Baltimore. It is with trepidation that we take note of a report by the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
The report suggests not only closing three Baltimore County fire stations entirely, but also merging several others. Baltimore County volunteer firefighters have expressed deep concern over both life safety and the safety of property were these recommendations to be implemented, and Effective Coverage stands with them.
The Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association buried these suggestions in a two hundred and six page report, but ultimately they suggest the following:
- Closing Violetville Fire Station
- Closing Woodlawn Fire Station
- Closing Liberty Road Fire Station
- Merging Lansdowne and English Consul Fire Stations
- Merging Middle River Fire, Middle River Ambulance, and Bowley’s Quarters Fire Department into one organization and location
- Merging Hereford Fire, Hereford EMS, and Butler Fire Station
- Merging Glyndon and Reisterstown Fire Stations
- Merging Arcadia and Boring Fire Stations
- Merging Middleborough, Hyde Park, and Rockaway Beach Fire Stations.
First, we note that this is a recommendation. The Association has no authority to compel any of the above actions as neither the Association nor the departments in question are governmental entities. Speaking of governmental entities, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamennetz has publicly gone on record as taking steps to distance both his own office and the County government as a whole from the report, according to the Sun.
The report itself is not even a product of the Association per se, it was commissioned to and performed by an outside firm. Like any such commissioned study, it bears the hallmark of foregone conclusions. Few organizations pay for a study to determine that they’re the number one brand of widgets. They only have the study done if they already know they are the number one brand, but want to substantiate that claim and give it more credibility. Interestingly, The Sun also reports that the Association refuses to release the report. A statement from John McDowell, the Association’s President, said that “At this time it’s not available to the public…”
As a company that issues renters insurance in Baltimore, obviously we believe that properly located and accessible fire departments are crucial to safety, protection of property, and maintenance of society in an area as large as Baltimore County. The recommendations we’ve seen derived from the report not only appear to be ill-considered, but implementation likely will not actually save any money! Let’s take a look some of the reasons that a Baltimore renters insurance company would stand with the Baltimore County firefighters on this issue.
On the consolidation, for example, of the Glyndon and Reisterstown Road fire stations, serious concerns arise. Have you ever had the pleasure of driving down Reisterstown road in heavy traffic? The experience is more akin to sitting in a parking lot than driving. Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Department sits directly on Reisterstown Road, near the intersection with East Chatsworth Avenue. The strip malls, urban sprawl, and traffic surrounding it are evident from a quick trip through the area.
If Glyndon, about a mile away as the crow flies, were merged into Reisterstown Road Fire Department, significant concerns would arise as to the consolidated organization’s ability to timely serve any location north of the Royal Farms. A serious accident on Reisterstown Road could completely disable the consolidated department.
Did you know that these Baltimore fire station closings are likely to have an impact on both homeowners and renters insurance in Baltimore? The insurance industry, in large part, relies on a company called the Insurance Services Office to aggregate data that gives a general indication of the level of risk for any given address in the entire country. ISO creates something called a “Protection Class” that’s used to determine the base premium for fire and hazard insurance.
The way it works, in a nutshell, is that they take factors like the presence (and distance to) a credible year-round water source such as a fire hydrant, the distance to the nearest fire station and any reasonable alternates, accessibility of the road the on which the dwelling is located, and other information and they turn it into a number.
The higher that number, the more your (and your neighbor’s) insurance will cost because of the additional risk. Mere seconds make a difference in a fire. Closing Glyndon could add three to five minutes to the average fire call response time in the area currently served by Glyndon. Traffic on Reisterstown Road being what it is, it could be much longer, fifteen minutes or more additional time to first response.
When a fire isn’t attacked immediately, it quickly gets out of control. There was an apartment fire at an AvalonBay community recently. That fire was not reported for a full fifteen minutes after it was initially sparked by a maintenance employee who was immediately aware of the fire. Reporting was delayed, for reasons unknown. What impact did that fifteen minutes have on the outcome of the fire?
A four story luxury apartment building with four hundred apartments now lies in ashes. The building was consumed so completely that the spot where it stood is now covered with snow.
Yes, you read that correctly. All that remained of the four story building after the fire is so thoroughly burned to ashes and small bits of charred rubble that what little snowfall we’ve had this year covers the majority of the area where the building once stood. The possessions of nearly a thousand individuals are all part of those ashes.
Why did that fire turn from an minor accident to a catastrophic total loss of an entire building? Why are the assets that brought in well over a million dollars a month in gross rent burned to the ground? Because a fifteen minute delay in reporting the fire allowed it to spread enough that it was unstoppable.
Needless to say, we support the Baltimore County volunteer firefighters who are also gravely concerned about the recommended closing and merging of fire stations in Baltimore County, and the potentially disastrous impacts such fire station closings could have on the communities they serve, and on Baltimore County residents as a whole.