Oil Trough fire department lowers ISO rating - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Oil Trough fire department lowers ISO rating

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OIL TROUGH, AR (KAIT) – The New Year may bring new savings for people living in Oil Trough.

Residents there could pay less homeowners' insurance in 2014 because the town's fire department has successfully lowered its ISO, or Insurance Services Office, rating.

Starting on March 1, 2014, Oil Trough will have its ISO rating lowered from a class seven to a class four. That drop may not seem like a big deal to some, but Fire Chief Jimmy McDaniel says it could help homeowners save hundreds each year in insurance payments.

"Come March 1, we will go from a class seven to a class four inside city limits," McDaniel explained. "Outside city limits within five miles of one of our fire stations and within a thousand feet of a fire plug, [the ISO] will stay a class four as well. If [a home] is within five miles of one of the fire stations and not within a thousand feet of a fire plug, it will go to a class six."

McDaniel said he has spent more than a decade working with his firefighters to get the fire department's ISO rating below a class seven rating, and they found out they achieved that goal just a few short weeks ago.

"We were trying for a six, possibly even a five," McDaniel said. "When we got the Christmas present of actually being a four, I [almost] fainted."

He said lowering the ISO from seven to four is good news because the lower the rating, the better a community's fire-protection services are. Some insurance companies even use this rating to determine home insurance rates, so people should check with their provider to find out how the change in Oil Trough will affect them.

"Whenever we got the four, that was just outstanding," he said. "There are very few fire departments in the whole state that is as low as a four especially being volunteer."

The fire chief said he has already spoken with at least one insurance company that told him a home worth $60,000 in town could see its insurance rates go down $150 to $200 next year because of the lowered ISO.

"That's a huge difference whenever you calculate how many people are actually inside our fire district, and then you drop their insurance by that much every year," he said. "It doesn't seem like a whole lot, but it is a whole lot."

To make that change happen, the Oil Trough Volunteer Fire Department has made a lot of upgrades. The department has purchased new equipment like air packs and turnout gear. They have also converted four former forestry trucks into pumper trucks that can haul water to a fire. They have also built a new substation in Maple Springs and now plan to construct another one in the Blackland area in the next few months.

"By allowing us to build a substation outside the city, it's actually brought more members into our facility where we've got better coverage now," McDaniel said. "By opening it up and say hey, look we're going to try and better serve our community, we've got a lot more people involved and in here if we can just retain them."

The department has been able to make all these upgrades thanks to revenue collected from a half-cent sales tax passed in November 2012. The revenue is split evenly among all the fire departments in Independence County, resulting in an average payment of approximately $13,000 each month.

Mark Hightower, the fire chief of the Union Hill-Thida fire department, led the effort to approve the sales tax and said the revenue has already created an "unbelievable" amount of progress.

"[The revenue] will greatly assist the fire departments to help service the county," Hightower said, "but the county is going to be the one who benefits from it more than anyone."

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