Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003
An important aspect of most Greenville area residents’ lives is their homes. And directly tied to the insurance policies that cover those homes is the ability of our fire department to protect them from destruction.
The Insurance Services Organization (ISO) is a company that provides information, products and services related to property and liability risk. Insurance companies heavily rely on ISO’s information when setting insurance rates.
The Greenville Fire Department has recently been graded by ISO and received a Class Five rating.
&uot;ISO grades us about once every 10 years,&uot; Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips said. &uot;Five is not bad, but we would like to see it better.&uot;
ISO rates fire departments based on whether they have fire dispatch centers, fire departments and water supplies that meet credit standards under ISO’s fire suppression rating schedule.
The best rating is a Class One; the worst is a Class Ten.
To gauge how important this is to your home insurance costs, Cotton States Insurance Agent Olin Scott compared the insurance costs of a $100,000 home within the city limits of Greenville covered by a Class Five fire department to that same home out of the city limits.
&uot;Once you go out of the city limits and live in an area with a Class Nine rating, your home insurance rate can be three times higher,&uot; Scott said. &uot;There are a lot of variables to determining the rate. For instance, if you live near a well-rated volunteer department, such as the Searcy Volunteer Fire Department that has a Class Five ISO rating, your home insurance rates will be good. The short story is that it significantly reduces your rate if you live near a well-rated fire department.&uot;
Phillips said that the fire department has continually improved over the past 10 years.
&uot;We moved into the new station in 1991,&uot; he said. &uot;Since then, we have replaced two trucks with new ones, gotten a new ambulance and improved our communication system with an additional transmitter.&uot;
Despite these improvements, Greenville’s ISO rating has stayed at Class Five – the rating it received 20 years ago.
&uot;We have improved,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;We have a much better fleet of vehicles than we had 10 years ago, and we have better communication coverage of the area, but during the years we were improving, the city was changing. So the requirements for the fire department changed.&uot;
One of the biggest problems the chief has with getting a better rating is manpower.
&uot;We just don’t have what the ISO wants us to have,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;The ISO standard is at least two engine companies responding to each structure fire. They really want three. We usually have two engine companies respond, but if our ambulance is out on a medical call, we have to leave one truck behind to cover any calls that may come in.&uot;
The fire chief said the city currently needs to add an additional engine company to improve its ISO rating.
&uot;It’s something we have discussed,&uot; he said. &uot;With the new industry coming in, I don’t see how we can avoid adding the station. We had thought we needed one on Highway 185, out near Cambrian Ridge. Now with the new industry being built on Highway 31, we have several options that have to be considered before making a decision.&uot;
Phillips said he wasn’t sure what changes would need to be made in connection with the new industry.
&uot;We are in a &uot;wait and see&uot; mode,&uot; he said. &uot;What we do will all depend on what the city wants to do.&uot;
For right now, the fire department is accepting applications to hire two firefighters.
&uot;We will accept them until this Friday,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;Next week, we will start the hiring process and, hopefully, have two new firefighters before the end of April.&uot;