ISO bumps district rating to a 4
Property owners could see lower insurance premiums after June 1
SAN ANDREAS – Insurance Services Office, a private firm that rates the ability of fire agencies to protect property, will soon boost the rating for much of San Andreas Fire Protection District. Effective June 1, the rating for the central part of the district will be a 4 rather than the lesser 5 rating the district has had for some years, said San Andreas Fire Chief Don Young. Young said the improved rating comes, in part, because “We have station coverage now.” At any given time, most of the district’s volunteer firefighters are at home or at jobs elsewhere. By paying a small stipend to volunteers who work 24-hour shifts at the station, the district can shave minutes off the time it takes to respond to structure fires. At one time, the district often had only one firefighter at the station. For the past several years, however, the district has always had at least two. “For safety reasons we went to two,” Young said. In 2017, the district board increased the stipends paid for station shifts. Now, firefighters get $75 for a 24-hour shift. Engineers, who are responsible to drive and operate engines, are paid $100 per 24-hour shift. That works out to just under $3.13 an hour for the firefighters and just under $4.17 an hour for the engineers. Captains get paid $125 per 24-hour shift. Still, it is a stretch for the district to pay even such modest stipends. The district has an annual budget of only about $260,000 a year and two paid regular employees – Young and an office manager. “We are struggling right now to maintain that staffing level due to economic factors,” Young said. Young also said that often volunteer firefighters leave the district to take jobs elsewhere. Insurance Services Office sells its fire protection rating information to insurance companies that then use the data to help set rates. The ratings are based on factors such as the location of fire hydrants and the flow from the hydrants, the equipment an agency has, and the agency’s staffing level and training program. The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 typically a well-funded city agency with stations only minutes away from all the structures it protects. A 10 rating is typically a rural location more than five miles from a fire station and without a water source adequate to fight fires. Young said that representatives of ISO visited San Andreas to review the fire district’s operation and check the fire hydrants serving the community. Young said the district’s rating is actually expressed as a 4/10, with the 4 applying only to areas within five miles of the station. The 10 applies to outlying rural areas. Fred Girard, the owner of Gerard Insurance Services in San Andreas said that the rating change might reduce fire insurance premiums by “a few dollars.” He said the biggest drop in premiums is between areas rated 10 and areas rated 9. More important, Girard said, is that the improved rating shows “We’ve got a great fire department.” The ISO rating only considers the district’s ability to protect property. In fact, firefighters in the district respond much more frequently to medical emergencies than to fires. In January, they responded to 77 calls for medical service and five structure fires. Firefighters say that the same two-person staffing that improves safety during their initial attack on a structure fire also enhances their ability to serve people with medical emergencies. Often, firefighters are the first on the scene of a medical emergency and are charged with stabilizing patients until ambulance personnel can get them to a hospital.