Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 2, 2013

Home insurance rates could see drop

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Property owners within the City of Corsicana could be looking at an insurance break in the coming year, since the city’s fire rating from the state dropped from a five to a four.

The Public Protection Classification system, which was adopted by Texas in 1998, is a rating that relies on the Insurance Services Office (ISO) to determine how safe a community is based on water supply, fire equipment and training, and communications. It is used by insurance companies to help set rates for home and business owners.

An ideal ISO rating is a one, while the worst is a 10. Corsicana was never properly surveyed before this past year, but when Texas finally adopted the ISO, Corsicana was given a five.

This past September, state officials visited Corsicana and did an inspection and determined that there were some significant improvements in the city’s fire protection, so gave the city a four on the scale.

The four, however, is qualified. Property five miles away from a fire station would go to a 10, according to Jerry Hagins, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Insurance.

“For more people, it’s going to see a reduction because they’re going from a five to a four, but a few people are going to see an increase because they’re going from five to 10,” Hagins explained. “Ten is for folks who live beyond five miles from a fire station.”

The average homeowner going from a five rating to a four rating should see a reduction of about 5 percent, specifically 4.8 percent, according to the state’s insurance schedules.

“It’s not a certainty, because in addition to having a regular policy you may have endorsements,” Hagins said. “So you really should talk to your agent to see what it means to go from a five to a four with your policy and your endorsements.”

Homeowners going from a five to a 10, however, may see an increase of 57 percent in their insurance costs.

“It may not be that exactly, talk to your agent to get a more precise number for the impact,” Hagins said.

The state couldn’t say who fell into the 10 category, except to say that there are properties more than five miles from a station.

“There may not be any houses or property, it could be undeveloped land,” said Jesse Williams, Public Protection Classification Officer for the Texas Department of Insurance. “It could be it was always there but it wasn’t in the last survey.”

Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan doesn’t know of any homes farther than five miles from a station within the city limits, although there may be some out in the county, outside the city limits.

“If you’re outside the city, but within a five mile radius of our fire stations you can get some credit for us responding out there,” he said. “So if it’s a 4/9, or a 4/10, the 10 means you’re unprotected. That means you’re not within that distance to one of our fire stations or no water supply.”

“It’s basically for people outside the city limits,” he added.

For the vast majority of people, the new rating is going to be a boon. It is the result of a new dispatch system within the city’s police department, improvements in the city’s water department, and upgrades in the fire department, McMullan said.

“It’s locations of stations, number of engines, the new ladder truck, staffing, training, type of equipment, and the conditions of all these things,” he said. “Adding personnel for EMS helped with staffing. We got our new ladder truck. We’ve replaced an engine. We’ve improved our training quite a bit over the last 10 years.”

The state has been catching up on its inspections recently, and is getting between 20 and 30 communities a month being recommended for lower ratings, according to Williams.

“We’re getting busy out there,” he said. “It means a reduction of rates and better fire protection. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com