Oil Trough fire department lowers ISO rating

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

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

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

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

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

"We were trying for a six, possibly even a five," McDanielsaid. "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 newsbecause the lower the rating, the better a community's fire-protection servicesare. Some insurance companies even use this rating to determine home insurancerates, so people should check with their provider to find out how the change inOil Trough will affect them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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