Fire Test Could Affect Houston Co. Insurance Rates | News
Houston County's Fire Department is gearing up for a major test.
The Insurance Service Office survey could affect how much you pay for homeowners insurance.
Fire Chief and EMA Director Jimmy Williams says they started preparations in June for the November Insurance Service Survey.
Monday, Houston County fire fighter Christopher Stoner checked hydrant number 15 of the day; his 300th since September.
Stoner said, "I make sure all the water flows clear and clean, get all the sediment out of the lines."
The hydrant checks are part of 5 months of preparation for the Insurance Service Office survey. It will be the first test for Houston County in 10 years.
Williams said, "It's a lot of work, a lot of paperwork especially to be done."
He said for three days, starting November 5th, an inspector will grade them on 3 categorys: access to water, 911 communications and the fire department itself.
Williams said, "That grade is for our insurance premium and how things will be charged, and how our fire department is classified."
Houston County is currently a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. A 5 would lower premiums. A 7 would raise them.
Williams said his chief concern going into the survey is manpower. Last time they were surveyed, they had about 175 volunteer fire fighters. Now, that's down to 51.
He said, "Volunteers are hard to come by now days. With the economy the way it is, we just need people."
The volunteer shortage will affect their grade, Williams said. The insurance service says it takes 4 volunteer fire fighters to equal one full timer.
For example, the ISO requires 4 career firefighters to respond to a call on a fire engine, or 16 volunteer firefighters. A two engine call would require 8 full time fire fighters or 32 volunteers.
Stoner is one of only 11 career firefighters on the Houston County fire staff.
Williams said, "I'd like to see 200, 250 volunteers."
That won't happen before the November inspection, but Williams hopes other factors measure up, so they can get the best rating with what they have.
Williams says moving from a 6 ISO rating to a 5 could lower insurance premiums $100 to $200 a year on a $100,000 home.
To give you some perspective, the City of Macon is a rated a 1. That's the best any city can get. Williams says only about 25 to 30 fire departments in the country have that distinction.
Williams says it takes at least three months for the ISO reviews to come back.
He said Perry and Warner Robins recently completed their surveys.