Colors indicate water flow and help Somerset achieve important ISO rating

Somerset residents may have noticed that fire hydrants throughout the city have recently been painted bright new shades of color — some even decorated to celebrate school teams or show off community flair.

But this is more than just downtown beautification. Painting hydrants red, orange, green and blue is part of a larger effort to participate in the ISO Mitigation Public Protection Classification (PPC) program, which collects information about the quality of fire protection in more than 39,000 areas in the United States and assigns each area a grade.

University of Kentucky fire hydrantThat grade is then often used by most U.S. home and business insurers to calculate insurance premiums. A better score generally means lower premiums for that community.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 representing superior fire protection and 10 indicating an area does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria, Somerset has been graded a Class 2 PPC community. Somerset is one of only 1,729 communities in the country to receive this classification, according to ISO Mitigation’s website, and one of only 42 in the state of Kentucky. For comparison, the grade with the most community designations nationwide is a Class 5.

“Our ISO rating is the best way for us to ensure our community is best protected for fire emergencies and to offer economic benefits to residents and businesses in our area by providing excellent fire protection,” Somerset Fire Chief Tyler Jasper said. “It is our number one priority to provide the best fire service to all citizens and visitors of our great city.”

The hydrant colors represent different levels of water flow. This way, when firefighters arrive on the scene of a fire, they know by the color of the hydrant whether they are connecting to one with ample water flow, Jasper said. On those hydrants that have been decorated, the bonnets — or the tops of the hydrants — have been painted the appropriate color.

The water supply system is just one area inspected when ISO provides a PPC rating. In addition to hydrant inspection and flow testing, there is also a careful evaluation of the amount of available water compared to the amount needed to suppress fires. A community’s PPC also depends on emergency communications systems; equipment, staffing, training and geographic deployment of fire departments; and community efforts to reduce the risk of fire, including fire prevention codes and enforcement, public fire safety education and fire investigation programs.

Mayor Alan Keck said being able to continue beautification efforts throughout Somerset while enhancing public safety is a win-win for the community.

“Lighting up Somerset doesn’t just include the work we do to improve the city visually, it is also about the hard work that goes into protecting our community and keeping it safe,” Keck said. “Every day the City of Somerset team goes above and beyond to make both of these things happen, and this project is just one example of that outstanding dedication.”