Holt Fire improves services classification

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HOLT, Fla., Feb. 10, 2017—The Holt Fire District has improved its rating for the protective service it provides.

In a letter from the Insurance Service Office dated Dec. 19, 2016, the ISO awarded the Holt Fire District with a 05/5x public protection classification, or PPC.

As a result, when the new rating takes effect April 1, homeowner insurance premiums could be reduced.

This classification is an improvement from a 7/9 rating from more than five years ago.

A lot has changed since the last survey, according to Scott Chestnut, Holt Fire District chief.

“The biggest change is to our record keeping,” he said. “And we’ve ramped up our training program. We have more Level 1 firefighters certified.”

According to an end-of-the-year newsletter, the chief said he has six Level 2 and Level 1 firefighters on board as well as 3 firefighting and four support vehicles. During 2016, the district responded to more than 325 calls.

What the numbers mean
The ISO classifications range from 10 to 1 with 1 being the best.

Approximately 20 percent of fire districts rated fall within the 5 classification range.

By contrast, only a very small elite—approximately .005—percent fall in the 1 classification range.

The 05/5x classification the Holt Fire District received means the majority of the community it serves lives within 5 miles of a station or 1,000 feet of a hydrant.

The PPC classification is only one factor used to determine insurance premiums. Building age, construction material, property value and credit ratings are just some of the other factors involved in the calculation.

“Some insurance companies have the same rates for a 7-8-9 rating,” said Time Heyde, Florida Farm Bureau insurance agent. “A 6 to a 5 doesn’t make a difference, but a 7 to a 5 probably would.”

Breaking it down
The ISO survey studied three areas: fire, water, and communications.

The fire district’s score accounts for 50 percent of the overall rating. The survey looked at training—the number of people and who participate; equipment such as apparatus (trucks), turn-out gear and personal protective equipment; and how dispatch notifies firefighter of the emergency location.

The fire district received an almost perfect score for equipment, but showed lower numbers in the area of training.

With 18 to 20 volunteer firefighters on the team, it’s sometimes challenging to get all the required training done and recorded, Chestnut said.

To achieve the highest classification in training means 18 hours of training per person per month. While challenging for a volunteer fire department, it isn’t out of the question, according to Chestnut.

“We’re using this report as a building tool to show where our weaknesses are,” he said. “It shows us where we can better ourselves.”

Holt’s water district accounts for 40 percent of the survey. It focuses on whether there is a sufficient water supply for fire suppression beyond daily maximum consumption. It also looks at water flow testing and hydrant inspections.

“The report can also help with the water board to help upgrade our water system,” Chestnut said.

The final 10 percent is scored on the emergency communications system. Okaloosa County is responsible for communications and a copy of the report was sent to the communications manager for the Okaloosa County Department of Public Safety.

A key piece of documentation provided to the ISO was a video showing was how Holt Fire works with other community fire districts through a mutual aid agreement. Working with Baker, Harold, Munson and other districts, Holt is able to provide sustained water support in rural areas beyond fire hydrants, Chestnut said.

What it means for homeowners
Homeowners can stop by the Fire District office or stop in the water office for a copy of the letter to provide their insurance companies.  A copy also can be downloaded here:  2017iso

While it’s not guaranteed insurance costs would be lowered, it’s possible individual insurance companies who factor in ISO survey results may adjust insurance premiums.

“Each insurance company handles ISO differently,” Heyde said. “I would call your insurance agent and talk to them about it.”

Even without a letter now showing a change, when ISO updates its system to reflect the new classification, those affected by the change should see a change in their insurance premiums, he said.

Needless to say, the fire district is pleased by the news.

“The Holt Fire District takes great pride in announcing this achievement, and exceeding a higher level of expectation in our district,” stated an announcement on its Facebook page.

“Our goal is to hit a 4, which is obtainable,” Chestnut said. “We’ve got a game plan to get the rating lower for the future.”

Stephanie Holcombe

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