Fire service in Columbia County’s two cities is improving and residents are reaping the benefits.
It’s been more than a decade since the Insurance Service Office (ISO) inspected the fire services in Grovetown and Harlem. The ISO rating has a range from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.
Both cities held a Class 5 ISO rating, which is what most insurance companies use as a factor in computing premiums for homeowners in the area the city fire departments serve.
After an inspection in May, Grovetown Department of Public Safety’s rating dropped to a Class 3, according to Grovetown Department of Public Safety Capt. Wayne Kent, who oversees the Fire-Rescue Division.
“Grovetown has long had an excellent fire service program,” said Allstate insurance agent Van Land, of the Grovetown office. “It was long overdue.”
Land said homeowners can expect lower premiums as a result of the better rating.
Though calculating premiums includes many factors and variables, all city homeowners should see some savings.
“(The change) should reflect as savings of 5-7 percent on the low side,” Land said.
Of the 700 ISO-rated fire departments in Georgia, Grovetown is one of 56 rated as Class 3. Fewer than 25 departments are rated Class 1 or 2, Kent said.
The Grovetown department spent the past decade beefing up city fire service to improve the rating. ISO ratings are based on points gathered in a few primary areas – equipment, personnel and training and water supply.
The department has made major upgrades since the last inspection, Kent said, including relocating a station from Robinson Avenue to Harlem-Grovetown Road.
ISO rules changed recently, taking away the easier ways to get points but allowing more opportunities to earn points. The city’s water system, which has been slowly upgraded in recent years, garnered nearly as many points as possible, Kent said.
“It takes a lot to get points with them,” Kent said. “Unfortunately, we only missed a (Class) 2 by 3.5 points. Our goal before the next evaluation is try to, of course, keep our 3, but shoot for the 2.”
The Harlem Fire Depart-ment is preparing for its first inspection in 10 years.
The department, currently rated a Class 5, recently purchased a 2005 Ford F550 service truck from a fire department in Social Circle, Ga., for $25,000. The truck, which could have easily sold for $75,000-$80,000 on a Web site for surplus fire equipment, replaces a ¾-ton work truck, Chief Tripp Lonergan said. The truck will be relettered and re-equipped. Lonergan expects it will go into service before the end of the month.
“It’s a big enough vehicle that we can put several tools that won’t fit on a normal-size vehicle and it makes this truck to where we can get (ISO) points for a service truck,” Lonergan said.
Lonergan said he expects the department’s ISO inspection in the fall. The department is preparing by outfitting a woods truck that went into service several months ago, updating map books, recording fire pre-plans from local businesses and keeping up with training and fire hydrant maintenance. Lonergan said the department also has been purchasing hose nozzles and other equipment needed to satisfy ISO standards.
“We’d like to drop two classes if we could,” Lonergan said.