Franklin’s fire insurance rating set to improve

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FRANKLIN—As the fire rating goes down, so too may your insurance costs.

And that applies to some residents of Southampton County near the city, Franklin Fire and Rescue and the Hunterdale Volunteer Fire Department serve a portion of the county.

The last time that Franklin’s Public Protection Classification rating was reviewed by the Insurance Services Office was in 1995.

Back then, Franklin carried a 5/9 rating. The class 5 rating applied to property located in the city limits and the class 9 rating applied to property located in Southampton County where Franklin’s stations are the primary responders.

In November, Franklin is set to drop to a 3/3Y rating from the ISO, and much like a pitcher’s earned run average, the lower the number the better. Fire and Rescue Chief Vince Holt said the Y modifier means that the city’s department would arrive in the county with a minimum of 4,000 gallons of water to pump into the structure.

“We were expecting that it would drop,” said Holt. “We were hoping for at least a 4, but we were excited to see a 3/3Y.”

City Manager Randy Martin said that the benefits of the insurance increase will vary based on type of property, and that premiums for commercial properties, institutional buildings, industrial facilities and large multifamily residential buildings and other business insurance would be affected more than homeowners insurance. Though homeowners should expect decreases as well.

The drop from 5 to 3 could net a 6.7 percent decrease in homes with brick veneer construction. Those in the county previously with a 9 rating and living in brick veneer homes could see a 20.3 percent reduction in premiums.

It may also decrease more or less depending on who is the insurer, as insurance companies are not required to factor in ISO’s PPC rating. Even if they do, the insurance rating factors may not apply in a multiplicative manner.

Contact your insurer to find out what the exact premium rate change will be for your home or business.

Holt said your insurer should have access to this automatically, but it wouldn’t hurt to talk about it specifically when it comes time to renew.

The rating improvement does put Franklin in good company in the commonwealth as well as nationally. Nationally, only 6 percent of fire departments have a rating of 3 or better. In Virginia, it puts Franklin in the top 2 percent of fire departments.

“Citizens should be able to rest a little easier, knowing that they are safer and better protected than the vast majority of their peers,” Martin said. “To join the elite communities in the region, state and nation in this classification makes it even more gratifying to be in public service.”

Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn was also pleased with the results.

“This is very good news,” she said. “Any savings that we as business owners can have during this economy is good news.”

Martin also said that this should bode well for Franklin-Southampton County Economic Development Inc. as a competitive advantage.

There’s three main areas for the evaluation, of course the fire department, the communications system and the water supply. Another factor is the risk reduction in the community, which is achieved by enforcing building fire codes.

Out of 50 points, the Fire Department received a score of 32.30, or about 65 percent. Out of 40 points, the water system received a score of 29.47, or 74 percent. The communications systems received 8.66 out of 10 points, or 86 percent. Community risk reduction scored 3.08 out of 5.5, or 56 percent. The city received a score of 71.7 out of 105.5.

To earn a 3, you have to score at least 70 points. A 5 must score at least 50 points and a 9 must score at least 10 points.

To increase to a 2, the city would have had to receive a minimum score of 80, and a score of 90 or better would net a PPC of 1.

Holt said this process began in March when ISO requested information from the department prior to arriving in May. The representative spent time with the leadership team of Holt, Steve Watson, the utility superintendent, Bruce Edwards of the E-911 Communications Center and Donald Goodwin from Community Development.

On July 28 they received the final results. Key enhancements included improved emergency communications systems, capabilities and reporting; significantly enhanced water utility infrastructure both within and in strategic locations outside the city; improved city code enforcement efforts and resources which help reduce risk; significantly upgraded firefighting apparatus and equipment; improved staff training facilities, equipment and development opportunities; and significantly expanding firefighting staff resources. The department has also become less reliant on volunteers.

On top of thanking the leadership on the department level for each area involved in the improved rating, Martin also thanked council for providing resources to make this goal a reality.

He thanked Southampton County for partnering on utility improvements outside of the city limits; for increased vigilance in code enforcement; and for providing funding for firefighting apparatus and equipment upgrades and purchases.

State and federal agencies plus local charities were also credited, as since 2012, Franklin has received $1.6 million in grants to upgrade communications system, training facilities, apparatus and firefighting staff increases.

Martin said the upgrades did not come without a cost to the local taxpayer, either.

“For that reason, credit also goes to the citizens and taxpayers for their support and confidence in city officials in pursuit of this quality of life enhancement,” he said.

Holt added that you would overflow council chambers if you really wanted to give credit to where it is due.

“It goes down to the pound of BBQ someone bought at a fundraiser,” he said. “Thank you so much for your support.”