SEBRING — Some home and business owners may see a reduction in their insurance rates after Aug. 1, city officials said.
Aug. 1 is when an improvement in the city’s fire rating will occur.
At a City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor John Shoop congratulated the Sebring Fire Department for achieving the improvement, which resulted in the Insurance Services Office, based in New Jersey, upgrading the city’s fire rating from 5 to 3.
City Administrator Scott Noethlich said said the Fire Department worked hard during the past several years to get the rating increased.
Noethlich and Fire Chief Brad Batz said its not possible to estimate how much less home or business owners pay for insurance, as each property had a lot of individual factors that determine the rate.
This will be the first time since 1995 that the Sebring ratings will change. At that time, Batz said, the ISO assigned the 5 rating to the Sebring Fire Department.
Batz said areas are rated from 1 to 10, with 10 having virtually no fire protection. Those are called public protection classifications.
As of this year nationwide, 8,722 communities had the 5 rating, while 5,216 had the Class 4 rating, 2,410 had the Class 3 rating, 750 had the Class 2 rating and 60 had the Class 1 rating.
J.C. Shoop, a commercial lines producer for Heacock Insurance, wrote to Noethlich that“The class PPC designation speaks volumes for the quality and service of our city’s fire department. This improvement definitely makes the properties within our community more attractive to insurance carriers operating in the state of Florida.”
Expressing similar views, Jason Andrews, the owner of a Sebring insurance agency, said that the rating improvement “is a huge benefit for our community by making the insurance market more competitive, attracting new businesses and making our community safer.”
He added “the enhanced rating could even lead to more competitive insurance rates for the residents of the city of Sebring.”
Since he became fire chief, Batz said, he’s been working gradually to find ways to upgrade the fire service.
“We want to make ourselves the best of the best,” he said.
Batz said the rating based 10 percent on how calls for service are handled, 50 percent on training and response, which include equipment, the number of firefighters guaranteed to respond on first alarm and 40 percent relating to water supply, which includes how water is obtained, whether through regular fire hydrants, dry hydrants and tanker trucks.
Ultimately, he said, the ISO determines whether the Fire Department has the ability to provide the amount of of water to meet the needs within the community.
Batz said the Fire Department has purchased new trucks since 1995 and has backup capability if one is out of service.
That’s one factor that helped in upgrading the rating, he said.
The Fire Department got points taken off in the training section because of the lack of having a facilities where the firefighters could train fighting a real house fire, he said.
Batz said the Fire Department will be continuing to look for ways to improve, He noted that if the Fire Department received another visit from the ISO, the rating would likely increase because of a new truck.
The department had the truck, but it was not in service at the time, he said.
Batz said the department has tried to find other ways to improve without a lot of cost.
Whether the city would increase its number of firefighters or add another station if that was required to achieve a higher rating has not been determined, Noethlich said.