Clarendon homeowners may see reduced insurance bills from fire rating

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A new fire suppression rating for parts of Clarendon County should lead to lower insurance bills for many homeowners in the county, County Administrator David Epperson said at the Nov. 13 Clarendon County Council meeting.

Epperson said Clarendon County Fire Department recently received new International Organization for Standards ratings. The fire department received a Class 4 rating for property within five road miles of a fire station. Previously, such ratings varied from Class 4 to Class 5 in different parts of the county, he said.

"This new rating will lower insurance premiums for a large segment of the county," Epperson said.

According to the ISO website, www.isomitigation.com, ISO collects information on municipal fire-protection capabilities from 47,000 communities throughout the country. ISO analyzes the relevant data using its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule and then assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that an area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet ISO's minimum criteria.

The program provides an "objective, countrywide standard that helps fire departments in planning and budgeting for facilities, equipment and training," according to the website. By securing lower fire insurance premiums for communities with better fire protection, the program provides an incentive for communities to improve their firefighting services. However, Epperson said some parts of the county will still receive a Class 10 rating.

"Unfortunately, in areas where homes are more than five road miles from a fire station, they will still be rated as a 10," he said. "There is a small pocket of that area, and we are trying to reduce that number as well."

Epperson said the county and municipalities will continue working to improve the ISO fire protection ratings.

"We have been proactive not only in the county, but also in municipalities in providing water to areas outside of their limits and being able to put hydrants in areas that haven't had them before," he said. "The water infrastructure has helped out tremendously."

The new ratings will go into effect Feb. 1, 2018, Epperson said.