Some Wendell area property owners could see some drastic cuts in the cost of their property insurance this fall as changes to the town’s insurance ratings take place.
That word came to Wendell commissioners Monday night from fire Chief Brian Staples who said the department’s insurance ratings improved for both in-town and out-of-town areas of the jurisdiction. The department officially gets two ratings – one for the department’s Wendell municipal district and one for the rural Wendell-Holmes district.
The difference in the two districts is that municipal areas are served by fire hyrdants, while the department has to bring water to the scene of fires in the rural district.
For areas served by hydrants, which includes the entirety of the town limits, the departments rating improved from a 4 to a 2. For areas not served by the hydrants, the departments rating skyrocketed from a 9 (10 is the lowest rating possible) to a 3.
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Staples said the improvement in the ratings is a sign that his firefighters took the inspection process seriously. “We’ve done a lot of training over the past year and we’ve really worked with our neighboring departments to make sure that we were being efficient when we respond to a fire,” Staples said. “Everybody bought in to this process, from the paid staff to the volunteers.”
Wendell’s department is considered a hybrid department because it includes both paid staff and volunteers. Staples said the department relies on both groups to respond when the alarm sounds.
The Wendell Fire Department has two stations, one on Wendell Boulevard and a second on Bethany Church Road, just off Rolesville Road north of East Wake High School. The station that serves most of the rural areas in the department’s jurisdiction is Station 2, on Bethany Church Road. Staples said the department has been fortunate to work with property owners to establish water points throughout the rural portion of the jurisdiction. Those are privately-owned ponds which the owner has allowed the fire department to use when it needs to replenish its water supply while fighting a fire.
“We have five water points spread throughout that area north of Wendell where we can go get water if we need it,” Staples said. Most of the department’s non-hydranted areas are north of town, including the Riley Hill community and along areas served by roads such as Edgemont Road, Lizard Lick Road and Seimens Road.
The improved ratings could be significant for some property owners. Insurance companies use ISO ratings to set guidelines when they establish the cost of homeowners insurance policies. The better the rating, the lower the insurance costs are. For residential properties, the insurance rates don’t change once the ISO ratings reach six. That means for residential property owners in the district’s hydranted areas, there won’t be change to the cost of insurance.
But for homeowners who live in the rural parts of the district, insurance rates could be cut by half.
The improved ratings also will help commercial property owners in both the municipal and rural areas, Staples said. “They should see reductions. Those reductions are all going to vary based on what kind of building it is, how large it is, what’s in the building... things like that.”
Regardless of who sees the benefits of lower insurance costs, Staples said the department must still continue to work to maintain the higher ratings. Each fire department undergoes an annual inspection, but ratings inspections, like the one Wendell completed in April, happen only once every 5 to 7 years.
“We want to maintain what we’ve done,” Staples said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a group of people who were very committed to the work we do. We’ve had very little turnover, which is unusual for a department like ours where they could go out and get paid more money by working for Raleigh or Cary. But these are people who have been here, many of them their whole lives, and they feel like they are helping their friends and families and neighbors.”
Town Commissioner Jason Joyner praised Staples’ department at Monday night’s town board meeting. “He spoiled half the fun of this meeting by giving his report before I got the chance to tell you, but this is really big for Wendell,” Joyner said.