Basalt firefighters saving money for some homeowners | AspenTimes.com

Basalt firefighters saving money for some homeowners

Hard work on the part of the Basalt fire department volunteers could save a little pocket money for midvalley business and home owners.

The fire department recently lowered the rating it received from Insurance Services Office Inc., a consortium of insurance companies that tests and rates the fire suppression capabilities of departments in many parts of the country.

The Basalt fire department lowered its ranking from six to five for areas that are within 5 miles of a fire station or sub-station, according to the ISO. The rating for areas 5 miles and farther from a station remained at nine – which an ISO letter to the department indicated is standard.

Departments are given a rating between 1 and 10. The lower the rating the better.

Information provided by ISO shows that only 10.3 percent of departments it rates around the country receive a rating better than five. Another 12.4 percent receive a rating of five, so the Basalt department is within the top 22.7 percent in the country.

Fire chief Scott Thompson said he was proud of the department’s personnel for achieving the improved rating. He noted that the department lost points in areas that it cannot easily influence. ISO’s system awards substantial points for full-time firefighters and for permanent training facilities, which the department doesn’t possess.

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The condition of water supplies in isolated subdivisions in places like Missouri Heights and Snowmass Creek Road also affected the department’s rating.

However, the department’s demonstration of its ability to shuttle water lowered the rating significantly in places like Holland Hills and other subdivisions. The department had to transport water 200 feet, stop and use portable storage tanks and pumps, then resume driving while the effort was reviewed by ISO personnel, according to Thompson.

The chief said the department spent $10,000 over the last year to purchase appliances for trucks and equipment to bring its rating up. ISO awards points to departments that own things like fire hose jackets.

“To spend $10,000 for the public to lower their insurance rates, the board thought was worth it,” Thompson said.

The taxpayers’ investment could pay off. ISO says it is the leading supplier of statistical, underwriting, and actuarial information for the property and casualty insurance industry.

“Most insurers use the [ISO] classifications for underwriting and calculating premiums for residential, commercial and industrial properties,” said an ISO letter to the Basalt fire department.

So the improved rating could influence premiums paid by property owners in the district, particularly those within 5 miles of a station or substation. Thompson estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the district is within that 5-mile distance.

Thompson said it would be wise for property owners to inform their insurance agents about the improved ISO rating, which went into effect March 1.

ISO typically only updates ratings for departments every 15 years, so departments take the scores seriously.