Want to know how volunteers, global positioning systems, and your local fire department’s Insurance Service Offices (ISO) rating effect the cost of your home owners insurance policy?
According to Cheraw Fire Chief John L. Melton III, the dedication of Cheraw’s volunteer firefighters to attend fires, along with a year-long dedication to “portable water hauling drills,” are finally paying off for home owners.
Evaluation results, released last week, have given the Cheraw Fire Department an “astounding district wide class (4),” said Melton. “This was beyond our expectations; we would have been pleased with a 4/7,” he said. “For the last 30 years the Cheraw Fire Department has held an ISO rating of 4/9/10.”
The number (4), said Melton, represents structures in the district within 1,000 ft. of a fire hydrant. The (9) represents structures more than 1,000 ft. from a hydrant. And the (10), he said, represents any structure more than five miles from the Cheraw Fire Department.
Melton explains several factors that contribute to the total rating system. The fire department’s ability to haul water in response to a fire is linked to other agencies in the community. Chesterfield County’s water supply system, as well as the town of Cheraw’s, are subject to evaluation. “All three make up the ISO rating,” said Melton.
“The biggest contributing factor for us is our normal average attendance at fires,” said Melton.
“Just so you will understand just how important attendance is in the eyes of ISO,” said Melton, “it takes three volunteer firefighters on a fire scene to give us credit for one career firefighter.”
According to Melton’s example, the difference in money for the homeowner should look like a half price sale. The class (4) rating would offer a $1,000 deductible for a home valued at $147,000; lowering policy rates from $1,450 to $737.
Although Melton is excited about the current rating, he is concerned it could be short lived. “ISO requires we respond the ladder truck to all structure fires,” said Melton. “The problem is that our ladder truck is a 1975 model truck — it’s 37 years old.”
Not only is the ladder truck old, said Melton, “It has been down, just recently, for two months for repairs, and is due to have additional aerial repairs which will take it out of service again.”
“Should ISO return and audits our last structure incidents, and the ladder has not responded,” Melton said, “we could easily see an immediate ISO class increase to a (7) or worse.”
Other changes in ISO ratings include the use of technology in the way of global positioning systems. “Many insurance companies have begun utilizing satellite positioning systems to measure distances from fire hydrants and fire stations,” said Melton, “from behind their desks.”
“I want to thank the career staff and volunteer personnel for helping us help our community, both in our responses to emergencies and in lowering the insurance premiums in our community,” the chief said.
“I also wish to thank our neighboring fire departments,” said Melton, for supplying tankers for the training drills in water haul. “We could not have done it without the assistance of the Teal’s Mill Fire Department, the Wallace Fire Department, the Brock’s Mill Fire Department and the Chesterfield Fire Department.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.