District fire ratings improveBy HASKEL BURNS,
Although the amount of any insurance savings has yet to be determined, almost 5,000 residents and business owners in Lamar County will certainly benefit from recent rating improvements for three fire grading districts in the county.
The improvements, which were announced at Monday’s meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, include Rock Hill Fire Grading District (Class 9 to Class 8), Pine Ridge Fire Grading District (Class 8 to Class 7) and Beaver Lake Fire Grading District (Class 8 to Class 7). Ratings are assigned by the Mississippi State Rating Bureau, with lower numbers signifying better rankings – and therefore, lower insurance premiums.
“(The savings) are going to be different (from district to district), because the insurance commissioner won’t let anybody charge but so much – some already discount and some don’t,” Lamar County Fire Coordinator George Stevens said. “We had some people when this happened a few years ago in Purvis – when it went from an 8 to a 7 – that said they didn’t save anything. But one guy said he saved $1,000 a year.”
The individuals served by the three districts include approximately 3,500 in Pine Ridge, 1,000 in Beaver Lake and 300 in Rock Hill.
Stevens said the improved ratings were given, in part, because of additional staffing and other measures recently implemented by the districts.
“(That) and improved water are the biggest things,” he said. “Right now, they’re working on buying some additional trucks and taking some care of some other business.
“We also had better record-keeping – we’re putting our records on computers – and we went to third-party contracting. So instead of us doing testing on the trucks and saying everything is good, if you have a third party do it, it’s a little more credible and the rating bureau likes to see that.”
Officials plan to keep working to improve ratings even more, as in the case of Northeast Lamar’s rating of 6.
“We continue to improve our water system, continue to build more stations – we’ve got several more planned – continue to prove our staffing,” Stevens said. “One thing we do that’s been very effective, is we have a firefighter staffed at a station three nine-hour shifts per week.
“So that’s 27 hours a week, and every four weeks we pay them $420. So if he’s a student, he can come in at nine o’clock … and he’s there to respond to fires, and that’s improved the response time tremendously.”
For Stevens and other fire staff, the rating improvements are just one of the many benefits of fire protection.
“Firefighters don’t get up in the middle of the night to lower insurance rates – they get up in the middle of the night to save lives and property,” Stevens said. “And the better you do that, the lower your insurance premium is going to be, so it’s just extra.”