New audit boosts fire rating

A quick phone call could put more money in your pocket if you own a Columbus Township home or business.

That’s because Columbus Township Fire & Rescue has joined the top 12 percent of fire departments in Indiana and top 24 percent in the country in overall quality and performance, according to a new audit.

After completing a new Public Protection Classification (PPC) audit, Columbus Township Fire & Rescue has achieved a new, higher rating of 4/4Y.

This represents a significant improvement from the department’s earlier 5/8-B rating, new fire chief Dave Thompson said.

The city-based Columbus Fire Department has maintained an almost identical 4/4x rating since the 1980s, spokesman Mike Wilson said.  

The first number in the rating refers to the classification of properties within five road miles of a fire station and within 1,000 feet of a creditable water supply, according to the Insurance Services Office, which created and maintains the system.

The second number applies to properties within five road miles of a fire station, but beyond 1,000 feet of a creditable water supply, the ISO website states.

The x/y factors also refers to whether or not water must be shuttled in or can be accessed through a hydrant through hoses, Wilson said.   

Departments are monitored and rated nationwide, because fire is the No. 1 reason for homeowner policy claims in the country, according to the International Risk Management Institute.

When smoke damage, water mold and temporary housing expenses are mixed with actual fire damage, individual claims can skyrocket, the institute’s website stated.

The traditional logic among insurance carriers is the better the fire protection, the lower the potential losses.

Accordingly, some companies will reduce premiums paid by a property owner when their rating improves.

Alternatively, the loss of a credible firefighting unit can raise both ratings and premiums.

That concern was frequently brought up by property owners in Flat Rock and Hawcreek townships last year when the future of the Hope Volunteer Fire Department was in doubt.

The rating also can play a role in bringing jobs to a community, Wilson said.   

“When we talk about economic growth and development, our rating can be appealing to businesses considering Columbus,” Wilson said.

But an improved audit does not automatically reduce property owner premiums.

The quality and performance of firefighters makes up about half of what is used to determine PPC ratings. Additionally, 40 percent is based on the availability of water to a property, while the remaining 10 percent is based on a community’s emergency communications capabilities.

In recent years, some carriers have also calculated in other factors such as credit scores and past claims, Thompson said.

But there is one thing all insurers serving Bartholomew County have in common: None of them have any way of knowing about rating changes unless property owners in Columbus Township notify their insurance agents, Thompson said.

“I’ve already talked to a few folks who said they will see a 5 to 10 percent decrease in their premiums,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely worth a phone call.”

Improved ratings are still good news for all Columbus Township residents because their lives and property are now at less risk, Thompson said.

Columbus Township Fire & Rescue officials credited the improvement to maintaining a paid day staff, adopting higher training standards, and updating firefighting equipment and keeping it in top working order.

What is the PPC?

The national Insurance Services Office collects information on municipal fire-protection efforts in 44,000 response jurisdictions all across the U.S. 

The ISO analyzes the relevant data using a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. They then assign a Public Protection Classification (PPC), also known as a ISO rating, ranging from 1 to 10. 

The best rating is Class 1, which represents exemplary public protection. In contrast, the worst rating, Class 10, indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet minimum national standards.

By classifying communities’ ability to suppress fires, ISO helps communities evaluate their public fire-protection services. The program provides an objective standard in all 50 states that helps fire departments in planning and budgeting for facilities, equipment and training.

And by securing lower fire insurance premiums, they also provide an incentive for communities to improve their firefighting services.

Source: Columbus Township Fire & Rescue

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.