Fire district could affect insurance premium

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The fire district you live in could determine how much you are paying on your insurance premium.

It's all determined by the insurance service office rating, or ISO rating.

Richmond County is due for another evaluation this year, and that evaluation could make a difference in how much you pay.

Bryan Smith has lived in the same house on Brown Road in South Augusta for 6 years, in a part of the county that had limited fire service until now.

"I woke up one morning and they were clearing land," he says.

Bryan says nearly two years ago, Fire Station 19 moved in, and his new neighbor could save him money on his insurance premiums.

"I called the other day and they couldn't believe how close I was, so they are supposed to be sending someone out to measure to give me a correct price," Bryan says.

Deputy Fire Chief Mike Rogers says it's all determined by the ISO rating.

The Insurance Service Office rates a community's fire preparedness on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the best and 10 having no fire protection at all.

Several factors come into play: the location of the actual fire department from the home, the distance from a fire hydrant, and the existence of 911 communications.

"All these total together to come up with a rating which gives you your service premium rating for the particular area of the city you live in," Deputy Chief Rogers says.

Right now, Augusta-Richmond County has two fire districts.

The old city is rated as 2, and the Augusta consolidated government, which includes much of the county, has ratings ranging from 5 to 9.

For the first time, this year there will only be one rating for the county.

That's one reason why the fire department has relocated some stations from the city to the county, giving them more protection and better ratings.

"That's why we've been working diligently toward trying to equalize fire protection throughout the city itself," Deputy Chief Rogers says.

"We have added hydrants all through here," says Lt. Michael Beckham of the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

Richmond County has not had an ISO evaluation in 20 years.

Bryan Smith hopes that when it comes this year, the rating will save him money.

"Should almost cut a pretty good bit off," he says.

Richmond County just received a grant for Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, to go in all of the fire trucks.

It's a mapping system that will tell firefighters exactly where they are going.

You don't have to wait for the re-evaluation to see if you can save money.

Contact your insurance provider and ask them to see if the ISO rating has changed since you moved in, especially if you live in an area that now has more fire hydrants and fire departments.

To get more details on how the ratings are determined, click here.