Residents and businesses in the Cleveland area will soon get a chance to lower their insurance rates, possibly saving homeowners and business owners hundreds of dollars a year on their insurance bills.
The McLemore Fire District, which serves the area, recently competed its routine inspection and received a 4/9e rating, one grade lower than the previous inspection. For the past 14 years it had a 5/9e rating. The lower the grade is, the higher the rating.
The NCRRS rating system ranges from one to 10. The faster a fire department is at responding to a fire scene, the lower the score. A 10 means no service at all, and a 9 means basic service, said Cleveland Fire Chief Chris Ellington. Ratings are based on a fire department’s response time to a fire or emergency call, staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintanence equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.
Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners’ insurances rates in that fire district. Exactly how much insurance rates will decrease is unclear, but it depends on many factors including the type of insurance, home costs and area where people are living.
Officials with Allstate insurance and State Farm declined to comment for this story on how much people could save, citing competition of rates. Efforts to reach Nationwide insurance, were unsuccessful.
The 4/9e rating the Cleveland Fire Department received is a split score, meaning the district is rated a 9 in areas that are more than five miles from its fire station.
Ellington said the number of homes farther than five miles from one of the two fire stations in the Cleveland area is less than 50 homes. Every other home and business is rated a 4.
Assistant Fire Chief E.G. Burr said the change will also affect businesses greatly.
“A lot of time businesses are on the fence on whether (insurance companies) can insure them or not and that 4-rating can be the difference on whether they insure them or not,” Burr said. “It will open a lot of opportunities to get a cheaper rate on insurance and get insurance period.”
Some homeowners and businesses could save more money than others. Ellington said that with the 5 rating they had in previous years, those homes that didn’t have fire hydrants received a 9 rating. Now that the score is 4, even homes without a fire hydrant will receive a score of “4.”
The new grade takes effect March 1.
In 2000, the population in the Cleveland area was a little more than 5,000. Every member of the fire department was a volunteer and there was only one station. Today, the area serves more than 17,000 people. There are currently 35 part-time on call or volunteer members, seven full-time members and six part-time members. They also added another station since 2000.
Ellington said the response time has gotten a lot better because of the extra station and increase in staffing. There is now 24-hour staffing.
“Versus back in 2000, when everybody had to come from home or leave work and come and go to a fire,” Ellington said. “Now most of the time you have staffing in place to immediately get on a truck and head out.”