Enquirer Herald

Fire rating drops

YORK -- Insurance premiums for property owners in much of York County could be dropping soon because an improved Insurance Services Office rating earned by the York Fire Department.

The department improved its rating from a split 4/6 ISO in 2005 to a full 4 ISO effective in June. The ratings run on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best and 10 meaning there is no fire protection in an area. The split rating signified a better fire response for the areas of the fire district within a 1,000-foot radius of the existing hydrant network.

Now, with the full 4 rating all property within the York Fire District has equally good fire protection.

"In 2005 we had our first ISO evaluation in 20 years," Chief Domenic Manera said. "We purchased a new truck in 2006 and got re-evaluated last year. Now, we're rated a 4 districtwide."

Insurance companies use ISO ratings, among other factors, to determine premiums for homeowners insurance and other property insurance. In most cases, a lower ISO translates into lower insurance premiums.

ISO ratings are affected by major investments such as new fire engines and ladder trucks, but the ratings also are affected by smaller purchases, such as new, better equipment.

Also, the more full-time firefighters a department has on staff and the more training its firefighters undergo, the better its ISO rating is likely to be. That's because the ratings are designed to measure a department's effectiveness in fighting fires, and protecting lives and property. A firefighter at the station when an alarm sounds has better response time than someone who may be driving from home to the station before heading to the scene.

The York Fire District covers a large swath of the county surrounding the city of York. It is one of six departments of 18 in York County with an ISO rating of 4 or lower. Bethesda, Flint Hill, Fort Mill and Newport fire districts also have 4 ratings. Rock Hill is the only department in the county with a lower rating of 2.