Invest in Your Fire Department or Your Insurance Company, Warns Letter to the Editor

18 July 2020

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Are you aware that Arcata Fire District’s (AFD) Measure R failed in March 2020? Since the failure, AFD has reduced staffing by one third and is currently operating with rotational station closures. One of the impacts that is not immediately seen is how this affects our insurance premiums.

Communities can reduce or maintain their homeowners and/or business insurance premiums by investing in their local fire department and community? California uses the Insurance Services Office (ISO) to analyze and process data for the property and casualty insurance industry. Most insurance companies use ISO data and different algorithms to determine risk so they can set insurance premiums for each property they insure. Fire departments and communities are evaluated every five years to identify what level of fire protection they can provide. The ISO system rates fire department and communities on a scale of one to ten. L.A. City Fire Department has an ISO rating of one. Communities with no fire protection system or services have a rating of ten. The more well equipped your fire department is to put out a fire, the less likely your house or business is to burn down. This makes the property less risky and less expensive to insure.

Insurance companies use formulas to determine their insurance rates. The formulas are complex and always changing. For example, following the 2018 wildland fire season in California, the formulas changed significantly due to the extreme loss of property and life in our state. To keep things simple, the lower the fire departments rating/score, the lower the premiums.

If communities invest in their fire department and the water supply system in their community, they can have a positive impact on the fire departments ability to extinguish fires. Insurance companies understand that the capability of a fire department directly affects the risk they have when insuring property. If the community wants lower insurance premiums then they must invest in their fire department to ensure it is properly staffed, trained, and equipped.

If the District staffing does not return to a level where it can re-open all three stations, the ISO rating/score will be impacted negatively. Homeowners and businesses will likely see a significant increase in their insurance premiums when the District is evaluated again. The only way to maintain the Districts current rating and is to re-open all three fire stations and return District staffing to what is was.

The communities of McKinleyville, Arcata, Bayside, Jacoby Creek, and Manila can invest in their fire department and infrastructure, providing input on how their taxes are spent locally, or they can pay what their insurance company charges them without control of what the premiums are. Investing in your fire department allows you to have a say how your money is used and puts your fire department in a position to be successful.

For more information about how the ISO Rating System works, please contact Arcata Fire District, 707-825-2000.

Sean Campbell


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