CONYERS -- Rockdale County has maintained its ISO fire rating of 4/9 following a recent analysis by the Insurance Services Office, despite a 22 percent increase in population since the last rating was done. The rating plays a role in helping insurance companies determine what premiums homeowners will pay for fire insurance.
Rockdale Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan said maintaining the rating is a plus, but it won't necessarily mean a homeowner's insurance rates will stay the same.
"It's great that we kept (the 4/9 rating), but even if we hadn't been graded this year insurance companies are looking at it much more closely," he said.
Morgan said Fire and Rescue hears from homeowners regularly who say that their insurance premiums have gone up, but their property hasn't changed. The key, he said, is that in the current economic climate, insurance companies aren't just looking at a county's ISO rating or at properties in a general area; they are also looking at properties on an individual basis in assessing their risk.
According to Fire and Rescue, the ISO fire rating is based on a collection of data through meetings between ISO field representatives, communications supervisors, fire officials and water system officials in conjunction with a comprehensive questionnaire. The data include the department's fire alarm and communication system, engine companies and personnel, training, apparatus and skills, and the water supply within the county. The rating is based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.
According to Fire and Rescue, the class 4 rating applies to properties that are within a 5-mile road distance of a fire station and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. The class 9 rating applies to properties beyond 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant but within a 5-mile road distance of a fire station. Though a majority of Rockdale County will fall under the 4/9 rating, there are a few exceptions in the county that will classify at a class 10. A class 10 rating applies to properties over a 5-mile road distance to a fire station. The percentage of the county's population living within those parameters is also taken into account.
According to Fire and Rescue, the construction of two new fire stations, hiring of more personnel, and the purchase of equipment for the engines enabled the county to maintain its ISO rating despite the population increase. The ratings are done about every 10 years.
Morgan said the county's 911 system and Rockdale Water Resources played a key role in maintaining the rating. He said ISO likes to see the three components providing a balanced level of service and counts off points if one component is rated above the others. Rockdale had a divergent rating of 3 or 4 points, he said, because the water department was rated higher than the other two.
"The water department in the ISO rating was rated very, very highly," said Morgan. "They are an excellent water source," adding that the hydrant system throughout the county has made it unnecessary for Fire and Rescue to operate tanker trucks.