County looking to lower fire insurance

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 5, 2007

County supervisors hope to put out the fire of county homeowner’s insurance costs by lowering the county’s fire ratings.

The supervisors have arranged a meeting to discuss how to lower county residents’ fire ratings and thus lower insurance costs.

Fire ratings can make a big difference in the amount residents pay for insurance.

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The ratings for areas are based on a number of factors, including proximity to a fire station and being located inside city limits.

In recent years, many insurance companies have used zip codes to classify residences and set prices, said Larry Carr, superintendent of the public protection department of the Mississippi State Rating Bureau.

More recently, they’ve started using the rating bureau’s rates to set prices, as they had done in years past.

Because of that, the market is self-correcting, and insurance prices are going up, Carr said.

The rating bureau uses a scale of one to 10 to reflect the amount of fire protection a certain area has.

This depends on how close to a station the area is and if they are within a city or a legally created fire district.

“For example, Natchez rates a four, very good for our state,” Carr said. “All (in the county) are a class 10, except for Kingston Fire Protection District, which is a class nine.”

A class 10 rating means the residence has virtually no outside fire protection, and this can skyrocket insurance prices.

“Going from a 10 to a nine may save you up to 16 or 20 percent a year on your insurance,” Carr said.

One way to lower rates is to create legal fire districts, he said. To do that, county supervisors could start a petition, get it signed by property owners and pass a law creating the district.

Another way to lower ratings is to increase the volunteer fire stations’ ability to respond, County Civil Defense Director George Souderes said.

“They need to be able to prove they can respond to a fire within a certain time,” Souderes said. “To reduce the ratings takes equipment, it takes a water supply and it takes volunteers.”

Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said he hoped the supervisors would together with Carr in the near future to get instructions.

“We’re going to get him down here and talk with him to see what we need to do,” Felter said. “We’ve got populated areas like LaGrange that could become lower rated. Insurance is high enough as it is.”