Business owners in this town will soon get a chance to lower their insurance rates, possibly saving them hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their insurance bills.
The Garner Fire Department recently completed its routine inspection and received a 2 rating for calls in the town and a 4/9 E rating for calls in the county.
The lower the grade is, the higher the rating.
The NCRRS rating system ranges from one to 10. Lower ratings don’t necessarily mean poor service, however, a higher rating suggests that a department is better prepared to respond to fires in its district. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners’ insurances rates in that fire district.
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But while insurance rates for businesses will decrease, it won’t for homeowners. Residential annual fire insurance reductions stop once the ratings reach a 6. Garner had previously had a 4 rating in town limits and a 6 rating in the county.
In other words, residential fire insurance rates do not go down any further after a fire department has improved to Class 6,” Nick Campasano, Wake County Fire Services director, said in an email. “Class 1 (the best) through Class 6 residential fire insurance rates are the same.”
The department has two scores because it responds to both calls in the town and county.
Prior to 2010, the town was rated a 4 in town limits and 9 in the county. After Fire Station 4 was built on Spaceway Court, which serves a large part of the county, that rating dropped to a six in 2010. Fire Chief Matt Poole said at the next inspection his goal was to drop the rating to a 3 and a 5/9 E. The department surpassed that goal.
“Chief (Tim) Herman worked tirelessly with his group over the last three years,” Poole said.
Only 60 departments in the country are rated a 1. Two of those – Cary’s and Raleigh’s fire departments – are in Wake County. The Garner Fire Department was pretty close to a one, Poole said. The department is one of 750 fire departments in the country rated a 2 in town limits. That means they are one of the highest rated departments in the country. There are 22 fire departments in Wake County alone. Wendell’s fire department and Garner’s were the only 2’s in the county.
When asked what he thought about that, Poole smiled wide.
“That’s pretty damn good,” he said. “It far exceeded the expectations we set out.”
In order to get to a 1 rating, Poole said the department would probably have to hire more firefighters and build more fire stations. But a rating of 1 remains the goal.
The town and county have had discussions on building a new station on U.S. 401 within the next three to five years, to address concerns on that side of town. That area also has the potential for a lot of growth for the town. That station would likely be shared with Wake County EMS.
“Adding station five and possibly down the road a station six or adding some additional companies would definitely improve our deployment that would help that out,” Deputy Chief Tim Herman said.
Herman said the department made sure firefighters and trucks had all the necessary equipment needed for a good inspection. The department also stepped up its training, implementing a new program.
Herman said the primary reason the rating in the county is lower is because there are no fire hydrants in the county, and it may take a little longer to address county residents. The Garner Fire Department serves about 50,000 residents in the county and town.
The new grade takes effect Jan. 1. Business owners with commercial properties in Garner can contact their insurance companies to let them know of the improvement and ask how much they will save.
“I’d like to congratulate Chief Poole for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Wayne Goodwin, commissioner of insurance for the State Department of Insurance. “The citizens in these districts should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”