Whitfield County Fire Chief Ed O’Brien is reminding local homeowners they could see a reduction in their homeowner’s insurance premiums, thanks to a reduction in the county’s ISO fire rating that took effect Sept. 1.
To see if they qualify for the insurance savings, Mr. O’Brien recommends that homeowners contact their insurance agent immediately.
The county received notification of the new rating in June from the Insurance Services Office, which said a recent analysis of the county’s fire suppression delivery system had been completed and Whitfield County’s ISO rating has dropped to a Class 3 from a Class 5.
“That’s huge,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We had hoped to drop to a Class 4, so we are very excited to hear that we actually are going down to a Class 3.”
The chief said the new rating – which will place the county in the top 11 percent nationwide - could lead to lower insurance rates for some homeowners and commercial property owners, by as much as 20 to 25 percent, and he urged residents to contact their insurance companies now to be sure the change is reflected in their premiums.
“ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies,” said Alex Shubert, manager, National Processing Center, ISO. “In fact, most U.S. insurers – including the largest ones – use PPC information as part of their decision-making when deciding what business to write, coverages to offer, or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance.”
Earning a better ISO rating takes years of work, Mr. O’Brien said. “The department started as a full volunteer service back in the early ’70s, then it became a county department where one person was duty at each station Mondaythrough Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the rest of the time it was still volunteer,” he said. “Then we moved to a 24-hour shift with one man on every truck, and now we’ve progressed to two men on every truck. It’s been a long, slow process.”
But one that has been well worth the effort, he said.
The chief praised residents for being willing to fund an increase in staffing levels (to 25 firefighters from 14 per 24-hour shift) through the special fire tax, as well as approving the 2015 SPLOST that provided funds for new radio communications equipment and two new ladder trucks, as well as new turnout gear and other badly needed equipment for firefighters.
“It’s not just, hey, let’s drop a lot of money in the fire department because we want a good one,” Mr. O’Brien said. “You actually get a reward if you have a good fire department – you pay less on your homeowner’s insurance.”