Improved rating could impact fire premiums

The Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services’ insurance rating has improved from a six to a four, which can translate to lower insurance premiums for businesses and homeowners.

The Insurance Service Organization, an advisory organization providing data and analytic for the the property and casualty insurance industry, whose Protection Classification Program rating provides a benchmark for many insurance companies when determining fire insurance rates.

Pahrump Fire Chief Scott Lewis said the findings reflect a community’s local fire protection and suppression ability for the Pahrump area. The program evaluates the capacity of the fire department to respond to and fight structure fires.

“The primary objective is to provide insurance companies with information so they can create through their underwriting process, relevant premiums for risk,” Lewis said. “It determines what rates should be or how they assign their individual premiums for residential, commercial and industrial.”

Lewis said the evaluations go well beyond a local fire department’s staffing and resources in order to determine the capacity of handling fire-related emergencies within a community. Nearly every aspect of a community and fire department is evaluated to determine the ISO rating.

“It’s not just the fire department that they are evaluating even though it’s a big piece of it,” he said. “It goes into water distribution systems, emergency communications, infrastructure and of course fire.”

Lewis also said the Public Protection Classification is broken down into a 1-10 classification scale, with 10 providing the least amount of fire protection.

The department’s most recent rating showed a positive trend.

“We have historically been on the upper end of the scale,” he said. “Ten is like having no fire service at all and one is the premier, stellar group and that is very difficult to attain. We had been a six in the hydrant areas and an 8-B in the non-hydrant areas because we had to take the water with us because there was no infrastructure. We have now dropped to a four.”

Last year, several local firefighters resigned their positions to accept employment within the Las Vegas area. Due to budget issues, the department has not rehired personnel to fill the void. As a result, Lewis noted the department has since been doing more with fewer resources.

“We haven’t been able to add staffing which would have further reduced our ISO ratings,” he said. “By working together so closely, we’ve been able to reduce our ISO ratings just by refining our overall operations.”

Union President Justin Snow said organization and leadership within the department’s ranks also contributed to the better ISO rating.

“Our crew really, really works hard and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Snow said. “A lot of it was the training but I really do wish we would have hired those extra guys that we asked for. If that had bumped us up to a three, Pahrump would have a fire department rated one below the Clark County Fire Department. That could have been a reality.”

Lewis, meanwhile, noted that the new rating could equate to a reduction of insurance rates for the community.

“When they are evaluated for their premiums, they could possibly have a reduction in their insurance costs,” he said. “But it’s not just for the residents, it’s also for the commercial investor, so it’s part of economic development. Companies looking to come into Pahrump want to know what they will be paying for such things.”

“If I’m going to come in looking to build a new chain store, one of the things I’m going to be looking at is the insurance costs,” Snow said. “They may be more willing to build knowing they won’t have to spend large amounts of money on insurance.”

Lewis said insurance providers are now taking notice of the new ISO rating.

“This is available now as we speak,” he said. “It’s available to any insurance company that looks at the material and I can tell you that we are already getting questions on the locations of houses under the new ISO rating.”

Local insurance agent Brian Strain said the new rating could have a favorable impact on businesses and homeowners.

“Only time will tell,” he said. “You could expect to see favorable loss ratios for insurance companies and therefore, lower premiums. How much it will be is unknown right now.”

Lewis plans to make a presentation regarding the designation to county officials at an upcoming Board of County Commissioners meeting.