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ISO ratings are the subject of Rotary Club discussion

The Elizabethtown Rotary Club had a very special visitor on Wednesday from Panama. Igdalia Cedeno was visiting Bladen Community College and was a guest for the Rotary Club’s luncheon meeting at Cape Fear Vineyard and Winery.  The Club also learned about fire insurance ratings and how fire departments are evaluated for those ratings. Rotarian Nick West, Fire Chief of the Elizabethtown Fire Department, told the group that the fire department is in the process of working to lower its insurance rating.

“I thought it would be good opportunity to get someone here that actually does this (performs evaluations for ISO ratings),” said West.

A C Daniels, who is retired from the North Carolina Fire Marshal’s office and now works for Code 3 Insurance, was chief West’s guest for the program.  He said basically, Daniels assists local fire department’s learn about insurance ratings and how they can lower their insurance ratings.

“I thought it was important for everyone to understand how ratings affect insurance,” said Chief West.

A C Daniels said his company, Code 3 Insurance, provides insurance for fire departments that covers such things as equipment.

“The fire service is a brotherhood, a group of men and women throughout North Carolina that depend on each other and support each other,” said Daniels.

He said the fire department is built by volunteers and about 60 percent of all fire fighters are volunteers made up of men and women who work in the factories, the J C Penny stores, etc.

Daniels said the fire service came about because of industry. He said when men began building buildings to house their businesses and homes, the most devastating thing that could happen was a fire because they had no way to control it. Daniels said they had bucket brigades and horse drawn wagons, but it wasn’t enough.

Daniels said people began to look for ways they could put equipment together and how it could be hauled from one location to the next to fight a fire.

Daniels said the insurance companies began to learn that if someone owned a horse barn, for example, they would pay a premium (for insurance) to be able to build it back if something happened to it. According to Daniels, that was the reason the insurance companies decided to come up with a way to rate the fire departments and they funded and established an insurance rating office.

Daniels said the insurance rating office personnel would go out and evaluate fire departments and assign them a number based on how well they performed on the evaluation.

He explained the number which was assigned to the fire department would be used to establish the premiums for the property owners served by that particular department. He said the evaluations process has changed as the fire service has changed.

North Carolina is unique because Insurance Commissioner Jim Long decided North Carolina could perform the evaluations better. Daniels said the The national ISO organization was not helping fire departments to understand the rating system and how it worked.

Daniels said when North Carolina began to perform the rating evaluations, the staff were not only evaluating the fire departments, but also talking to them about what they needed to do to perform better on the next evaluation.

Daniels said that when evaluating a fire department, there are certain things the inspectors are looking for:

* Inspectors always look at the county communications center.

* They review the water system to find if the system is able to flow the amount of water needed for any particular structure fire;

* Half of the grade is based on the fire department itself and such things as apparatuses (fire trucks) and the department’s response (number of personnel) to those fire trucks

* They look at the department’s personnel. He said inspectors are reviewing training. Daniels said they want to know what kind of training level does the fire department have and how much training does each individual member have. Inspectors want to know if each firefighter has met the criteria of 240 hours of training. Daniels said these firefighters are volunteers who have full-time jobs who are trying to meet those standards.

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