Commercial and residential insurance premiums will likely go down in the Hermiston and Stanfield area after Umatilla County Fire District’s Insurance Services Office rating improved.
Both cities, as well as most of the rural area UCFD covers, have been upgraded to a class three. Previously, Hermiston was a class four and Stanfield was a class five.
The ISO gives fire districts ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 based on factors, such as a fire district’s response times, station proximity, equipment quality, training hours, water infrastructure and dispatch call-handling times. Dick Ferranti of Ferranti Graybeal Insurance Agency in Hermiston said the lower the number, the less risky insurance companies consider an area.
“A lower number indicates a quicker response, better equipment, better vehicles, etc. so that if we do have a fire they can put it out more quickly,” he said.
He said the ISO class is one of several things insurance companies look at while setting premiums, but the lowered number is a “very positive thing” for the Hermiston-Stanfield area. The ISO is an independent actuarial financed by dues from insurance companies, and those companies use data gathered by the ISO — including the fire district ratings — when calculating premiums for homeowners and business insurance. The new class three rating should reflect in lower premiums as people renew or purchase policies.
“The lower the rates, the lower the protection class, the more attractive this area becomes,” he said.
In an announcement about the lowered ISO rating Thursday, the fire district said the new class three rating puts UCFD in the top 8 percent of the nation.
“The ISO change here is huge for the communities and those areas within five miles of a fire station,” Chief Scott Stanton said in a statement. “It really shows a lot of the hard work that the water departments, county 911 dispatch and the fire district have put into this accomplishment.”
He credited the 2016 merger between Stanfield and Hermiston fire districts with making the improvements that led to the ratings change possible.
Further class changes could be in UCFD’s future. Operations chief Jim Forquer said there are still areas the district could improve upon, particularly when it comes to prevention items, such as building inspections.
Forquer said the UCFD administration and board are also looking at how they could add a fifth fire station to UCFD’s properties. Right now, he said, it’s just in the talking stage, but they are looking for property or an existing building on the east side of Hermiston, somewhere toward Highway 37 and Walls Road. Being able to put personnel and equipment out there would put almost all of the fire district within 5 miles of a station.
Forquer said there are many factors that help UCFD achieve a good ISO rating. The merger strengthened their staffing, training and equipment scores and they have strong working relationships with neighboring fire districts. He said the district is helped by having a five water tenders, which benefits rural areas where fire hydrants aren’t plentiful.
“We have a fairly robust water tender support system, so we can have a lot of water on the road,” he said.