07/12/06 — Fire district maps change to help insurance ratings

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Fire district maps change to help insurance ratings

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on July 12, 2006 1:49 PM

Wayne County is improving its fire district mapping system to help departments in their efforts to improve their insurance ratings.

The old maps are being converted to the county's geographic information system, or GIS, to make them more accurate, county Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley said.

Fire districts are evaluated every five years to determine their rating on a scale of 1 to 10. The better the score, the lower the insurance costs for homeowners and businesses in the district. Ratings are based on how well-prepared a fire department is, what type of equipment it has available and how well-trained its crew is.

The county has used hand-written descriptions of roads and their distances from the fire departments for years. The new computerized system will mean all maps and descriptions of property can be digitally produced, Gurley said.

Wayne County Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor said 27 of the county's 30 fire districts are rated by the state. The highest insurance rating a district can receive is a 1, with 10 the lowest score. Most of Wayne's fire districts rate from between 4 and 8, Taylor said.

The Dudley Volunteer Fire Department underwent an inspection by the state Fire Marshal's office, which determines the ratings. Inspectors found the department's maps and map descriptions to be out of compliance with state regulations that have changed since the last time the Dudley Fire District was mapped.

A new map and description, which must be approved by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, must be completed before the state office can make a decision on the department's insurance rating. To help the process of future fire department insurance ratings in the area, Gurley said the Dudley department's map will be the first to be updated.

The Office of Emergency Services and county officials expect all of the districts' maps and descriptions to be completed by the fall, Gurley said.

"It's going to make it easier in the long run to go ahead and do it," Gurley said.

Over the next five years, Taylor said, most of the county's fire districts will go through the rating process. He said that as improvements are made, property owners should see a decrease in insurance rates.

The highest rated district in the county is the Mar-Mac Fire District, which has a rating of 4. Several other districts in the county have ratings of 5,6 or 7, he pointed out.