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Posted: June 21, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Covington's fire ISO rating improves

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Yellow is fire department, red is water supply, blue is emergency communications system.

Covington residents could be seeing some savings on their homeowners insurance in coming years thanks to the city’s fire protection rating improving.

The Covington Fire Department’s ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating, a measure of a department’s ability to fight fires, improved from a Class 3 rating to a Class 2 rating on ISO’s scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing a community with very little fire protection and 1 representing a community with optimal fire protection.

The rating is one of the variables that insurance companies use when determining homeowners’ and business owners’ insurance premiums, said All State insurance agent Jim Dolvin. Fire protection is a standard part of most home and building protection policies, and residents and businesses located with the Covington city limits are likely to see at least some reductions, Dolvin said.

The new class will go into effect Aug. 1; residents should contact their insurance provider to find out if they’re eligible for savings now or the next time their policy renews, Dolvin said.

Covington Fire Chief John McNeil said this last bonus category was added in the years since ISO did their last evaluation in March 2007, and the category’s inclusion helped Covington because they have increased their emphasis on fire inspections, fire investigation and fire education.

McNeil said he’s encouraged that ISO is looking at efforts to prevent fires, not just fight the ones that occur.

“(The rating) isn’t just reactive anymore,” he said.

McNeil said the department has dedicated positions for a fire safety educator and a fire training officer, both of which have helped Covington improve their score.

In addition, he said all firefighters are now trained to do fire inspections for commercial buildings, which are now done annually. Firefighters will inspect smaller businesses, while the fire marshal’s office inspects the larger businesses and industries, McNeil said.

McNeil said ISO used to do re-evaluations of ratings every 10 years, but he said they are trying to do them once every three years now.

On ISO’s website, they have a graph that shows many total departments fall in each rating class. The graph doesn’t have a date listed, so it’s unclear if it’s up to date. However, here is the breakdown:

• Class 1 – 1
• Class 2 – 26
• Class 3 – 68
• Class 4 – 175
• Class 5 – 264
• Class 6 – 183
• Class 7 – 68
• Class 8 – 19
• Class 8B – 8
• Class 9 – 206
• Class 10 – 2

While the ISO reduction will reduce insurance premiums, McNeil said a lower rating is also a tool when communities are trying to attract businesses and industries.

“If you go to (another city) and their rating is a 4 and you come here and ours is a 2, big industries and commercial businesses know it’s going to impact how much they pay for insurance. Those guys are tuned into that,” McNeil said.

Newton County’s Fire Department received a Class 5/9 rating in 2012; the split rating reflects the ratings of people who do (5 rating) and don’t (9 rating) live within 1,000 feet and five road miles of a fire station.

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