Improved insurance rating could mean lower rates for SH residents

Sean C. Morgan

Many Sweet Home area property owners outside the city limits may see lower property insurance rates when they renew their policies after June 1.

The Insurance Services Office recently completed a review of the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District, and the score for Sweet Home improved from 4 to 3. Until now, that score applied only to properties within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.

That improvement will result in small decreases, said Farmers insurance agent Craig Fentiman last week.

David Hyland, an ISO field representative, told the Sweet Home City Council last week that about 90 percent of insurance providers rely on ISO ratings to set rates. ISO evaluates some 46,000 fire protection areas across the country.

The score in the evaluation is based on a variety of factors: 9-1-1 centers, 10 percent; water departments, 40 percent; and fire departments, 50 percent, Hyland said. The water department in Sweet Home has improved since the last evaluation 10 years ago.

Because the fire district has been able to prove an adequate alternate water supply, available at various locations throughout the district, the distance for the best rate has increased to five road miles from any of the district’s four stations and two of Lebanon’s automatic aid stations located just north of the Sweet Home district, said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. It will include areas around Crawfordsville, Cascadia, Sweet Home and Berlin, McDowell Creek, North River and Pleasant Valley roads.

Among alternate water supply imoprovements are pump stations in area rivers and streams installed over the past couple of years. The district also has provided tenders at stations capable of maintaining at least 4,000 gallons per minute with mutual aid agreements with Marcola, Brownsville and Lebanon fire districts.

“When we go to a rural water supply, we’re able to get our tenders there, and we have the potential to maintain a tender flow without any interruptions in water flow,” Barringer said. The district has the equipment and water available. “We can get water from an alternate water supply, appropriate amounts of water, to effectively put out a structure fire; and we can maintain that water flow.”

This means that a large amount of property previously rated 8B, property within five miles of a station, changes to a rating of 3.

“That’s going to be huge,” Fentiman said. That’s a large improvement for areas like Crawfordsville and Cascadia.

When the historic Cascadia school building and the adjacent post office, situated in a mobile home structure, burned down in 2011, tankers had to haul water from Foster, a distance of 10 miles and the supply was inadequate to save the buildings and their contents.

Property between five and seven miles from a station will be rated 10W, an improvement from a rating of 10.

That’s like being rated at 9, Barringer said. It improved because the district is capable of getting water to those areas as well.

Beyond seven miles, property remains rated at 10.

When insurance providers calculate rates, the ISO rating is just one part of the equation, Barringer said, and its impact will differ among different providers.

Any adjustments will be automatic when a policy is renewed, Fentiman said.