Earlier this month, leaders from Orange County fire departments attended a class taught in Hillsborough by the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal. The sessions focused on the requirements for improving the fire insurance ratings for fire departments, which, in turn, could potentially reduce the cost of fire insurance premiums for property owners. Several volunteer fire departments have submitted requests to OSFM to be graded to improve the insurance rating of their respective fire districts.
Few people understand the complexity of fire insurance costs and the Insurance Services Office ratings of their local fire department. Insurance premiums—both residential and commercial—can be impacted by multiple variables, including installation of smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, construction material, square footage, number of stories and floors, distance from a fire station, etc. Insurance costs are also impacted by the ISO rating of the primary fire department covering a home or business.
The OSFM training session covered a multitude of details and requirements involved in improving ratings. More than 20 types of forms are potentially required for evaluating each fire department. As a sampling, form content ranges from water source—such as a pond—volume, signed by a certified soil and water engineer to the North Carolina Department of Transporation certified weight rating of each fire truck.
Each requirement comes with a price tag and at times requires prioritization. Certified personal protective equipment or turnout gear with air pack runs about $5,000 per firefighter. OSFM requires a minimum of 20 members older than 18 for a single station and 28 members for a two-station department. Some departments have a junior program for high school age volunteers.
Orange County has 12 rural fire districts. Efland, Eno, New Hope, Orange Grove, Cedar Grove, Caldwell and White Cross fire departments cover rural districts. Orange Rural (Hillsborough), Chapel Hill and Carrboro fire departments cover municipal and rural areas. Mebane and North Chatham fire departments are located outside of Orange County but cover areas within Orange County.
The chiefs of these departments meet on a regular basis and continually strive to improve fire protection services for the residents and businesses in Orange County.