Fire ratings impact insurance rates -

Fire ratings impact insurance rates

A single flame that ignites a fire can become a costly repair or a homeowner's catastrophe.

"A couple [of] seconds on our end could mean the difference between life and death for you," according to Charlotte Fire Department Deputy Chief Rob Kinniburgh.

A couple seconds can also mean anywhere from a 10- to 15-percent savings on your insurance premium.

The ISO rating is a measure of your level of fire protection by the Insurance Services Office which is the standard for homeowners' policies nationwide.

"The lower your ISO rating, the less you pay on homeowner's insurance," says Kinniburgh.

The ISO gauges your fire department's ability to get you help.

A Fire Class 1 rating is the best, and a Fire Class 10 rating is the worst. If you fall in the latter group, Kinniburgh says you essentially have no fire protection. 

These ratings can also have an impact on your wallet if you ever have a fire in your home.

For example, if you live in an area with a Fire Class 9 rating, the cost of a fire is 65 percent higher than if you live in an area with a Fire Class 5 rating.

Your ISO rating depends on three factors.  

Ten percent is based on how well 911 fields your call and finds the right help.  

Fifty percent depends on how fast firefighters are able to get to your home. This includes how much gear, how much training, and how many engine companies must be used to connect to the closest fire hydrant.

The remaining 40 percent of your ISO rating depends on the available water supply in your area.

The lower your ISO rating, the less you pay for homeowner's insurance.

Only your local fire department can lower the ISO rating for your area, but it is up to you to know the specifics of your address in order to qualify for additional fire protection discounts on your premium.

It is important you know how close your home is to the nearest fire hydrant. If your house is more than a thousand feet, you'll likely pay a higher insurance premium.

If you live less than five miles from a fire station, that can also add some savings.

You should also know how well your home is equipped with alarms, fire/smoke detectors and extinguishers. They all make a difference in how much you pay for fire protection.

Keep in touch with your insurance agent and your local fire department because what you pay changes if your ISO rating changes.

For example, a new neighborhood hydrant can often mean a new ISO rating which could mean a lower premium for you.

"They know they have to have it [insurance], but until they really need it, they don't really understand what they have," said AAA Insurance Agent Derwin Long.  

Indeed, no one thinks they need fire protection until they hear a crackle and pop signaling a fire.

Thinking ahead about your nearest hydrant, your ISO rating, and your policy can also save homeowners hundreds of dollars annually.

Click here for more information about ISO ratings. 

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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