Fire rating affects insurance premiums, City works to improve score

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Some homeowners living inside the city limits of Natchitoches will see a midterm increase in their insurance premiums if they have fire insurance or any kind of fire protection policy. The increase is due to a decrease in the City’s fire rating.

According to Farm Bureau Agent Don Brown, the amount and when the increase appears on customers premiums will depend on the company and the anniversary of the policy.

The Property Insurance Association of Louisiana (PIAL) reviews fire districts every 5 years. From 2011 to 2016 the City’s rating fell from a 2 to a 3. This change occurred by mere points. The rating is based on a grading scale, much like the ones in school systems. In 2011 the City’s total credit was 80.23. It fell to a 77.53 in 2016. The 100 points is comprised of 10 percent communications, 50 percent fire department and 40 percent water supply.

Points were gained on dispatch circuits, distribution and company personnel, while points were lost on operators, engine companies, ladder service, fire prevention and the water system.

Fire Chief Crit Miller said with the fire department expanding its services and taking more EMS calls, its rating for operators went down. This item on the review looks at the number of operators on duty at the communications center to handle fire calls. PIAL groups EMS calls in with fire calls, so as the department’s call volume increases, PIAL’s metrics require the number of operators increase to compensate. This is a manpower issue that Chief Miller says he’s working to improve.

PIAL’s rating structure also changed in January of this year. For its most recent review, the fire department was graded using the previous rating structure, so additional changes will need to be made before they call for a new review or before their next scheduled review in 2020.

The Fire Department is in the process of training toward these new standards and Training and Safety Officer Michael Sesvold said a 2 rating looks achievable for their next review if they prepare.

“It’s better to wait until some improvements can be made before calling for a review,” said Sesvold. “We want to be completely prepared before we get reviewed again.”

Changes that will benefit the City’s rating include:

New Fire Prevention Officer
Raising hydrants
Upgrading water lines
Completion of 911 Communications Center

911 Director Willis Carter said that while the new Communications Center itself won’t help improve the rating, it will facilitate its improvement. It will bring Natchitoches Parish forward to establish an emergency response system instead of how it’s currently operating as a collection of agencies responding to emergencies.

“There’s a complexity of things that PIAL looks at,” said Sesvold. “When it’s broken down, the water supply section is one of the biggest things the Fire Department doesn’t have control of.”

City Utility Director Charles Brossette says the City is making plans to upgrade its infrastructure in the near future. As streets get overlaid, they’re upgrading old water lines from 4-6 inch pipes to a minimum 8-inch. This will boost water volume and pressure in the future.

Another problem with the water supply is that dirt has built up on some hydrants over the years, making it hard to turn a wrench to get water flowing. The City plans to raise the hydrants up to solve this issue.

Putting $1 million into its budget annually just to upgrade infrastructure, the City also has plans to upgrade its water plants. Another upcoming project includes putting a new 12-inch feed across Cane River from Sibley Street to the north side of Keyser Avenue, where there’s an existing 16-inch line. This will increase flow to neighborhoods around Scarborough and Carver.

One thought on “Fire rating affects insurance premiums, City works to improve score

  1. I live on Patrick Road in the Point Place Subdivision. We have a Volunteer Fire Department which is located less than a 1/2 mile from my house. The problem is that our Department is considered a sub-station of District #1 which is 30 MILES AWAY IN CLOUTIERVILLE. We are at the mercy of that Department which lost its rating over two yeas ago. My homeowners insurance went from $1200 per year to $3400 per year because of that. Not only does Point Place have its own Volunteer Department, there is a state-of-the-art Department in Natchez, which is perhaps only 3 miles from Patrick Road, yet for some reason we are bound by the poor rating of Cloutierville’s VFD. Why is this the case? EVERYONE in the Point Place Subdivision had terrible rate increases because of this. Even if the District #1 VFD had a sterling rating and a crew was sitting in their trucks when my house caught on fire, do you think it would still be standing after they traveled 30 miles to get here? Now I take comfort in knowing that our Point Place VFD would respond as well as the Natchez VFD and my home would possibly be saved; however, we are forced to pay increased rates by being in Cloutierville VFW jurisdiction. I wonder what BAR this decision was made in because whoever did it must have been under the influence of something.

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