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SILER CITY — Siler City’s fire department has been awarded one of the state’s best fire suppression ratings, an evaluation which represents the department’s general preparedness and can decrease property insurance costs across town.
The North Carolina Fire Insurance Services Office Rating ranks departments based on their staffing levels, access to and maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities, water source availability and more. Evaluations are conducted routinely; Siler City was previously rated in 2012 and 1992.
The rating system ranges from 1 — the highest caliber a municipality or district can achieve — to 10, at which point the state will not certify a department. Departments such as Siler City’s often fall within the second half of the spectrum.
“Most rural departments (fall) into the 9S category,” N.C. Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey said in a press release last month. “While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district.”
In the most recent evaluation, Siler City earned a 3 — the best ranking it has achieved in the last three decades. The town was previously ranked a 4 in 2012, according to Siler City Fire Chief Scott Murphy, and a 5 in 1992.
“A lot of the notable changes for this time between the 3 and the 4 are because of what you guys did for us a few years ago,” Murphy told the town board of commissioners in its regular meeting last week, “... with career staff being hired and our personnel ratio, which looks at the available firemen that are on duty at any given time.”
Improved water availability since 2012 also impressed inspectors and enhanced this year’s rating, he said.
Causey personally applauded Murphy and Siler City’s fire staff for their high-quality service.
“I commend you and your department for your dedication and commitment to making your community a safer place to live,” he said in a letter filed among Siler City’s public records.
Causey emphasized that town residents should be especially pleased, not only to know they have a responsive and capable fire department, but that property insurance premiums will likely decrease.
“(T)he majority of citizens may not be aware that the rating of their responding fire department directly impacts their property insurance calculations,” he said.
Siler City’s rating will officially go into effect on Dec. 1, according to the State Fire Marshal’s office, after which it could “significantly lower homeowners insurance rates.”
“You deserve to brag a little about the expertise of your personnel,” Causey told Murphy in his letter, “which saves homeowners money and, most importantly, makes their lives safer.”
Insurance companies use local fire department ratings to help set home insurance rates and sometimes offer lower rates because a well-prepared fire department should be able to put out a house fire more quickly, according to the N.C. Dept. of Insurance.
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dldolder.