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Fire insurance premiums going up in New Kent County?

Committee forms to review ISO ratings

By Amy Jo Martin, amartin@tidewaterreview.com

3:01 PM EDT, September 27, 2013

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NEW KENT – New Kent County officials are planning to take a closer look at the county's Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the development of an ISO committee at its September 25 work session.

The committee was recomended by New Kent Fire Chief Rick Opett and will consist of representatives from the Board of Supervisors, Public Utilities, Building/Zoning, Sheriff's Office, and Fire and Rescue, as well as an insurance agency.

"[Supervisor Ron] Stiers approached me regarding some calls he got from some of his constituents regarding the home insurance rates," said Opett. "Some residents have noticed that their insurance premiums are going up."

The ISO helps establish fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties by evaluating the community fire stations' capability to suppress structure fires.

"Basically, the evaluation takes a look at where your home is located in regards to a fire hydrant or fire station, as well as the county's entire water-supply system, and the fire stations," Opett said.

The fire department evaluation includes criteria for apparatus, equipment, staffing, training, and the geographical distribution of the fire companies, as well as the need for more fire stations.

Following the evaluation, each county is given a Public Protection Classification (PCC), or ISO rating, which helps determine fire insurance premiums.

According to Opett, the water supply accounts for 40 percent of the total classification, while the fire department/fire alarm/communications systems account for 60 percent of the classification.

New Kent County currently operates on a split rating (7/10) on a classification scale of 1-10; those rated 10 have do not meet certain criteria and have the least fire protection according to the ISO.

King William County operates with a split rating of 9/3; the upper and central portion of the county, which include the Mangohick Volunteer Fire Department and the King William Volunteer Fire & Rescue, are classified as a nine, while the lower end of the county, which includes West Point Volunteer Fire & Rescue, receives a three. The difference in ratings is because of the availability of s municipal water system in the Town, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Travis Lindsey.

King and Queen County operates with a 9/10 county-wide split, according to Zoning Administrator Thomas J. Swartzwelder. The majority of fire and rescue calls come from the upper portion of the county, including Stephensville and Newtown, and the lower portion of the county, including Shacklefords and Mattaponi.

"In essence the only thing we can do is get more public water hydrants or add additional firehouses," he said of the ISO ratings. "It probably won't happen in the near future because our fire stations are all staffed with volunteers."

Generally, the first class applies to properties within five road miles of a fire station or within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. The second class applies to properties with five road miles of a fire station but beyond 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.

"What it comes down to is our ISO rating has been the same for a very long time, and we have a split rating…because where our hydrants are is a lower rating than where we don't have fire hydrants," Opett told the Board.

The county currently has four fire stations: Providence Forge, Quinton, Eltham, and Lanexa. The Farms of New Kent proffered land for a fifth fire station on Route 106 (Emmaus Church Road) in Talleysville. However, the project has not been submitted to the county.

Opett hopes that further construction in the Bottoms Bridge area will result in another proffered fire station, especially since the highest call volume comes from Providence Forge through Bottom's Bridge.

According to Opett, the need for more fire stations is just one concern that the ISO committee will review.

"We will be looking at the fire department's equipment, apparatus, training and staff. After all that, we will see if we need to be reclassified," Opett said.

"We will be taking a hard look at the rating and ensure that the county gets the most protection possible."

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.