Walker County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Randy Camp said about 35 percent of the county’s population will pay lower insurance premiums with a drop in the ISO rating, but improvements in his department help all residents.
Three local insurance companies quoted premiums for a $100,000 frame house with a $500 deductible as the example. Based on that research, estimated insurance for that house in a Class 10 area would be $1,038. The same house in a Class 9 zone only pays about $768. Residents in a Class 6 area pay about $458. If the ISO rating can be lowered to a Class 5 as Camp said he expects, the premium further drops to about $451.
Homeowners residing in a Class 9 area would see about a 40 percent decrease in their insurance premiums, or savings of $317. Camp said he estimates about 35 percent of the population lives in a Class 9 region.
Camp said he expects the ISO rating to drop to a low Class 5 by August after the ISO reassesses the county fire department, but his goal is to reach a Class 4.
Residents in Rossville already enjoy a Class 4 ISO rating, and Fort Oglethorpe has a Class 3 rating, Camp said. Both towns have their own fire departments. Fort Oglethorpe achieved its low rating by diligently following a 10-year plan, he said.
Homeowners in a Class 6 zone may not notice a significant drop in their insurance premiums, Camp said, but the Fire and Emergency Services fee paid by property owners helps all county residents.
Camp said new equipment improves service to his customers in Walker County.
“You want to know your truck isn’t going to break down on the way to a call,” Camp said.
Even with a bigger budget, Camp still faces difficulties maintaining his department. He compared a homeowner’s budget to a fire hall’s budget. A couple earning $70,000 with two children face increasing fuel costs, vehicle maintenance and insurance among other costs. Walker fire halls maintaining fire trucks and specialized equipment operate on about $84,000.
The fire fee has not only provided new equipment for the department, but also funded training, certification and hiring some full-time personnel, he said.
State-certified First Responders can be dispatched from two stations, Rock Spring in the center of the county and Cedar Grove in south Walker, Camp said. Those units are able to provide all of the advanced life support services an ambulance can provide and back up the emergency medical service provided by Angel Emergency Medical Service and Hutcheson Medical Center.
“The only difference in service is that responders can’t carry patients to the hospital,” he said.
Camp recalled an example of the service his volunteers can provide.
Firefighters were first on the scene to a call in Kensington where a man was unconscious and barely breathing, Camp said. The victim’s son was upset to see a fire truck rather than an ambulance, but was later relieved when those firefighters stabilized his father. By the time an ambulance arrived to transport the victim to the hospital, he was sitting up on his own and talking to his son.
Camp’s department also responds to “environmental calls.” After ferocious wind and rains slammed Walker last month, firefighters used their trucks to pump water away from buildings and to clear trees from roads and driveways.
Firefighters are trained to rescue victims from situations in all types of terrain, including cave and cliff rescue, swift water rescue and vehicular extrication, Camp said