After unexpected insurance rate hikes, S. Fayette fire rating back to normal now

ISO ratings for fire districts have a direct impact on the insurance premium paid by property owners. The higher the rating, the more costly the premium.

And that is what residents of Brooks and south Fayette County saw after the fire district for Station 6 was recently rated with a score of 10 instead of the 4/8B rating designated for other unincorporated areas in Fayette.

The higher rating came with no warning and with no explanation by the ISO rating agency. The issue was resolved on March 9 and the Station 6 area will go back to the 4/8B rating.

Fayette County Administrator Jack Krakeel the most recent 10-year ISO rating survey came in 2010. It was the result of that survey that in early 2011 all the fire stations in unincorporated Fayette were assigned a rating of 4/8B. The designation means that properties are within five miles of a station and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.

“We got the report in early 2011 and we felt pretty good about it,” Krakeel said of the ISO report that gave the fire department the 4/8B rating. “Last fall residents (in south Fayette) started calling about getting doubled or tripled insurance rates because the insurance companies listed those properties as Class 10.”

Krakeel said county staff began questioning the rating since the ISO report showed the Station 6 fire district with a 4/8B rating.

“It took three months to get a response from ISO. In mid-February ISO said we didn’t get credit for Station 6. They said the station was more than five road miles from the next station. But that’s not what’s in the grading schedule as far as we can determine.”

Department spokesman Donnie Davis in a March 12 letter said that during follow-up conversations with ISO it was determined that Station 6 had been classified as an “unrecognized station.” No reference to the status of Station 6 was made in the document returned from ISO providing the reclassification as 4/8B, Davis said.

Bottom line, said Krakeel, “We didn’t get credit for Station 6. ISO said their reason dealt with a non-published regulation.”

And, as a result of the conversations with ISO, Davis said that as of March 9 the Station 6 fire district that includes Brooks and unincorporated south Fayette County would be recognized with the 4/8B classification.

“To the knowledge of the department no reference has ever been made of any unrecognized station within any grading conducted by ISO,” said Chief Allen McCullough. “This change and recognizing Station 6 is the right thing for ISO to do. There has been no change in staffing or equipment since the last review; in fact there have been several improvements.”

It had been noted during a conversation with ISO prior to the re-instatement of the 4/8B rating that the rating agency had stated that it would raise the rating if the county would run four firefighters per shift instead of the current two per shift.

Davis on Monday said that Station 6 has been outfitted with two firefighters per shift during his 26 years with the department. The ISO rating for the unincorporated areas, including Station 6, was 4/9 for the years 2000-2010 and was reduced somewhat to 4/8 after the 2010 review.