The Spartanburg Fire Department’s new fire protection rating is expected to reduce insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses in the city starting next year.
On Monday, city officials announced the department had improved its Public Protection Classification from Class 2 to Class 1 by the Insurance Services Office (ISO).
ISO assesses municipal fire protection in communities across the country and provides ratings from 1 through 10, 1 being the highest and 10 being the lowest, which are used by insurers to calculate rates. The better the rating, the lower the insurance premium.
Spartanburg Fire Chief Marion Blackwell said only 205 departments out of the 47,696 that ISO provides ratings for have a Class 1 rating.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime achievement,” Blackwell said. “We have been working on this for several years. Everyone here has contributed to making this possible. There is a sense of pride that comes with it. You’re recognized by an independent agency and now your peers as being the best of the best.”
Blackwell said there are 1,476 departments rated by ISO in South Carolina and only 17 have a Class 1 rating.
He said his department is also one of only 217 departments in the U.S. that are accredited. Of those departments, only 45 have a Class 1 rating. The only other department in South Carolina that is accredited and has a Class 1 rating is the Charleston Fire Department, he said.
Blackwell said the ISO rating evaluation is comprehensive. It analyzes a variety of functions and operations, ranging from its emergency communications system to water supply, training and equipment, as well as fire education, prevention and investigation.
“Our fire department has provided exceptional service for a long time and I want to commend Fire Chief Marion Blackwell and his entire team,” said Spartanburg Mayor Junie White, in a statement. “They have truly earned this designation.”
Blackwell said the new rates are expected to take effect on March 1, 2017.
Will Rothschild, a spokesman for the city, said officials have analyzed the cost savings for property owners when the Spartanburg Fire Department had its Class 2 rating.
In Spartanburg, city resident pay both city and county taxes, while county residents pay county taxes.
Rothschild said in some cases the yearly premium savings approached or almost equaled the city tax bill.
“Every situation is unique and different, but we’ve done a fair amount of comparison over the years and found that the difference in the city compared to other places in the county goes a long way, if not all the way, to erasing the city property tax bill.”
City residents also receive trash, recycling, yard waste and leaf collection services, he said.
“We pride ourselves at the city on providing the very best public services that you can find anywhere,” Rothschild said. “We have long been proud of the job that the fire department provides… We hope this is the kind of validation that that resonates with city residents… Even if the fire department is never called to your house or business, you’re going to benefit because it has a direct bearing on what you pay for your property insurance.”