Room for improvement

Published 7:54 pm Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Clanton Fire Chief David Driver said yesterday the department is moving ahead on Clanton City Council’s request to work toward reducing the city’s fire insurance rating.

Monday night, the council asked the department to contact Insurance Services Office to determine what needs to be done to lower the city’s rating below its current rating of six.

The council asked for the contact in hopes the fire department has progressed to a point where the city will earn a lower rating. A lower ISO rating could result in businesses and residents paying lower fire insurance premiums.

Chief Driver said the city’s volunteer fire department has its records in good order, conducts hose and pump tests, has completed site visits on buildings that allow the department to plan how to extinguish fires that could occur at the site and has begun a training program for its volunteers.

“All of these items are important when you are trying to improve your ISO rating,” Driver said, “But there are many other factors that come into play in the ISO rating program.”

He said the department is doing what it can to meet the ISO requirements, but some of the ISO rating system items are not controlled by the department.

“The availability of water throughout the city is important and having the necessary water pressure is controlled by the Water and Sewer Board,” he said.

Driver added that the city’s fire engines meet ISO standards, but they do not meet the ISO’s minimum for fires of large buildings and buildings more than two-stories high.

“Clanton has at least three buildings that are at least three stories high,” Driver said, adding that the ISO requires a city with such structures to have a ladder truck. He explained a ladder truck today will cost the city $750,000 or more.

According to Driver, it has been about 15 years since representatives from ISO have conducted an analysis of the local department.

“I believe we have made much progress in several areas, and the changes could possibly move our rating down a notch,” Driver said, “but there is much more to the ISO rating system than just having good equipment and volunteers.”

The ISO states it allocates 10 percent of a community’s score based on how well the department receives and dispatches fire alarms. In Clanton, the dispatching duties are handled by the E-911 system and not by the fire department.

Another 50 percent of the department’s score is based on the department itself. ISO checks the distribution of the fire stations throughout the community, makes sure the department performs routine pump tests and maintains all other department equipment. The remaining 40 percent of the score is based on the community’s water supply.

Chief Driver said he planned to obtain information from ISO that outlines what needs to be done to improve the department and the ISO rating.

“I will provide this information to the council members to give them a better understanding of the process as we move forward,” he said.

In regard to the role the ISO number plays in determining insurance rates, the ISO Web site states “virtually all U.S. insurers of homes and business property use ISO’s Public Protection Classification in calculating premiums.” However, insurance companies are not required to consider ISO classifications when setting rates.