West earns better fire rating

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‘That’s something we’re real proud of,’ chief says

By Damon Lawrence

The ISO rating system for fire protection isn’t complicated.

“The lower the number, the better you are,” said West Roane County Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charlie Redwine.

West Roane County got better recently, lowering its rating from a 6/9 to a 5/8B.

“That’s something we’re real proud of,” Redwine said. “That’s how a lot of people look at their fire department.

“The first thing they ask is, what’s your fire protection rating?”

Redwine said ISO, an acronym for Insurance Services Office, evaluated the department in November.

“They go through your maintenance records and training records,” Redwine said.

“They look at the number of people on each structure fire call. They look at your pre-plans,” he added.

“Another big thing they look at is your response times.”

The county was notified about West Roane’s improved rating in February.

“It took a lot of work,” Redwine said. “It’s not something that you just do right then. It’s work you do year after year.”

The new rating went into effect on June 1.

Redwine said West Roane County residents could see a reduction on their homeowner’s insurance because of the improved classification.

“ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program (PPC) plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies,” ISO’s Dominic Santanna said in a Feb. 24 letter to Roane County Executive Ron Woody.

“In fact, most U.S. insurers – including the largest ones – use PPC information as part of their decision-making when deciding what business to write, coverage’s to offer or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance.”

Redwine suggests people shop around and get different prices.

“We’ve had some insurance companies say that ISO doesn’t matter, but I’m saying it does,” he said.

“They need to get at least three quotes on their homeowner’s insurance.”

Like other volunteer fire departments, West Roane County depends heavily on donations from the community.

“Our contributions from the private citizens, donations from them, make up about 50 percent of our total funding,” Redwine said.

Department officials said twice a year they send out 3,200 letters asking for donations.

Redwine said a recent department analysis showed that the participation rate is only about 10 percent. Department officials said they came to that conclusion based on the 320 thank-you letters they send out.

“We’re at 10 percent where some of our neighboring districts are at 24 percent,” Redwine said. “That can be a big difference in dollars.”

Department officials said they hope more in the community will start donating.

“I don’t think people are aware about how much money it takes to run the department,” West Roane Battalion Chief/Chaplain John McNeely said. “Just the turnout gear for one firefighter is right at around $3,000.”

Redwine said he believes some may be confusing his organization with other groups.

“Some organizations will go door to door asking for donations, and I’ve had numerous people call me and say, ‘Hey, was that your group?’” Redwine said. “We say no because we don’t go door to door and they say, ‘Well we donated to them intending on donating to you.’”

Redwine said his department does not go door to door or solicit donations by phone.

“The last two or three years we’ve gotten a lot of calls from people thinking they were donating to us,” he said. “That’s some of it.”