Scores help keep rates low for residents
The Haines Fire Department last month received its Public Protection Classification, a rating that in two categories remained the same or slightly improved from the last evaluation, meaning homeowners’ fire insurance rates should stay about the same or slightly decrease over the next 10 years.
The designation from Insurance Services Office, Inc., is a fire department certification for insurance ratings. It is the rating most insurance companies and local governments use to determine property tax amounts for fire protection. The rating is re-evaluated about every 10 years.
The evaluation looks at two categories: properties within five miles of a fire station and 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant, and properties within five miles of a station but beyond 1,000 feet of hydrant. This year, the Haines department rating kept its 5 rating for the core area of town and it dropped from 9 to 8B for outlying areas. The lower the rating number, the better the rating is considered.
Departments are examined in three areas to determine ratings. Ten percent of the overall grading is based on how well a fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its resources. Fifty percent of the grading is based on the number of engine companies, equipment, personnel and training. The other 40 percent of the grading is based on whether the community has sufficient water supply for fire suppression and the distribution of fire hydrants in the service area.
Haines fireman Al Badgley said the evaluation took place in August when ISO representatives came to town for two days. They examined records, equipment, and inventories and talked with dispatchers. They issued their report in February.
Badgley said he was pleased with the results. He said for a mostly volunteer department, a five is a solid rating. For example, the department loses points for not having a ladder truck division. Also, the evaluation considers mostly volunteer departments inefficient in responding to calls because departments cannot precisely predict how many volunteers will respond to a fire at any one time.
“There’s just certain aspects you can’t do very well in because they don’t count volunteer departments as having very efficient ways of responding,” he said. “There are certain aspects we have that are just challenging for us.”
However, the report also offered ways that the department could score better next time. Badgley said the evaluators like to see departments list two numbers in the phone book’s white pages: one with the 911 emergency number and the other with the department’s non-emergency business line. Badgley said the Haines phone book puts emergency numbers on the first page of the phone book, but the department doesn’t list 911 under “Haines Fire Department” in the white pages.
“We just never even thought about it,” he said. “I thought most people are pretty familiar with the procedure that if you have a fire, you call 911.”
But every point counts and Badgley said the 50-page report from the evaluators will help the department make sure they don’t compromise its score, even if they are not able to get lower than a five ranking for the core area.
As for the ranking for the outlying area, Badgley said the department was able to improve its score by showing good response time in those areas, good reserve pump capacity and other solid criteria.
The ratings should mean that homeowners won’t see an increase, or may see a slight decrease, in fire insurance. But Badgley notes that rates could increase for other reasons, like increased property values.
“But the fire department has done its part for keeping fire insurance rates from going up,” he said.