Lowndesboro VFD lowers ISO rating

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Anyone who lives within a 5-mile radius of Lowndesboro could see a “dramatic reduction” in homeowners’ insurance rates as a result of the town’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) being lowered from a 10 to a 6 by the Insurance Services Offices (ISO), according to Lowndesboro Volunteer Recruiter Dennis Blair.

Blair, a former Lowndesboro Town Council member and current member of the Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Department, made the announcement Saturday.

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Blair explained that the ISO rating is a leading source of information regarding property and casualty insurance risk.

He said each insurance company independently determines the premiums it charges policyholders, and Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Chief Brian Hudson urged Lowndesboro area residents to contact their insurance agents to inform them of the new rating to see if they are eligible for a reduction.

Blair said the new rating is expected to go into effect on Sept. 1 of this year.

He said the scale is from 1-10 with 1 having the lowest risk and 10 having the highest.

“PPC is a reflection of a community’s fire suppression and firefighting capabilities and is determined by three categories, fire alarms, fire suppression equipment and water supply,” Blair said.

The Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Department was inspected in April, Blair said.  Hudson also said the department passed in the three main focus areas.

“This is great news,” Hudson said. “All of the Lowndesboro firefighters did a great job, sacrificing their time and working really hard.”

He called it “amazing” to have 13 certified firefighters for a community the size of Lowndesboro.

“We’ve been working for several years to get this rating lowered. The community has provided tremendous support by raising desperately needed funds. It has required the entire community to achieve this goal,” Hudson said.

Blair said the fire department upgraded including equipment, staffing and training. He said the town also invested in a new well and extended the water system, which all contributed to the lower ISO rating.

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate expressed his admiration to the volunteer fire department and the community for the accomplishment. He said so many of the houses in Lowndesboro are older (as much as 170 years-old) and that “fire is a huge issue.”

Pate said every church in the community held fundraisers, and the town gave $5,000 seed money.

The mayor called the accomplishment the result of “an amazing commitment on not just on those firemen but their families.” Pate said the volunteers went through was a “huge effort” by participating in¬†classroom time and training.

According to Pate, at the same time the fire department was improving, the town coincidentally expanded the water system, doubling the number of fire hydrants and increasing the water storage capacity.

He said the town’s well could manage in excess of 200 gallons-per-minute pumping capacity. He also said the town increased its water storage capacity to 280,000 gallons and added close to 15 miles of waterline.

“When they first starting working on it (getting the ISO rating down), we were really just trying to get back to an 8/9, which would have helped a lot,” Pate said. “I had no idea, no expectation that they would get to a 6.”

He said stressed, however, “The town didn’t do it. It was those men (volunteer firefighters) and their families that made the sacrifice.”

Blair pointed out that the Lowndes County Commission subsidizes all volunteer fire departments, but the funds “rarely cover all the expenses of the departments.”

He also said Lowndesboro gets little reimbursement for claims to insurance companies “so funding is always an issue.”

Blair noted, however, that Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Department has recently been awarded a $123,000 federal grant to purchase personal protection equipment for firefighters, which will replace outdated turnout gear and air tanks that have exceeded their life expectancies.

“We could not use our air tanks during training because regulations prohibit refilling out of date tanks,” Hudson said. “Lack of air tanks places every firefighter at risk. This grant was literally a lifesaver for us.”

Blair said grants allow for the purchase of turnout gear, air tanks, helmets and more, but don’t cover the day-to-day expenses such as fuel, maintenance, insurance and electrical bills.

“We hope we never get into a situation where we have the firemen and equipment but have no fuel.” Hudson said. “Continued financial support and fundraising by the community are essential.”

According to Blair, the Lowndesboro Fire Department is currently investigating the possibility of placing a second fire station north of Lowndesboro so that response time can be shortened and residents in that area can receive a lower ISO rating.

“The department is always looking for others to join their efforts,” Blair said. “A couple of hours a month to train and the desire to help others is all that is required.”

He said anyone wanting to make a tax-deductible donation or join the fire department should contact Blair at 334-278-4495or Hudson at 334-278-3337.