Chattanooga residents and local businesses alike could see reduced property insurance premiums next year after the fire department's attainment of the Insurance Services Office's top rating for public protection.
Fire departments across America are rated for their ability to respond to and suppress structure fires, and Chattanooga is now the first of Tennessee's four largest cities to earn a top rating. It is only the fourth city in Tennessee to achieve that rating.
"Our fire department protects life and property every day in Chattanooga and has gone above and beyond in attaining this classification," Mayor Andy Berke said at a news conference Thursday morning. "This classification not only benefits business owners in Chattanooga who may see a decrease in their premiums, but it is also a great recruiting tool to attract new companies, which contribute to the local economy."
Four main areas are evaluated to determine a fire department's classification on the 1-5 scale: the fire department itself, emergency communications, water supply, and aspects of community risk including code inspections and public education activities.
Authorities couldn't project what the premium savings for businesses and homeowners might add up to, but fire department Chief Philip Hyman said the new classification is set to go into effect on Jan. 1.
"This process started with my predecessor, Fire Chief Chris Adams," Hyman said. "We've had a team of officers working on this for a couple of years and their efforts have paid off.
"Hamilton County 911 and the three water utility districts we work with all scored high with this ISO evaluation," Hyman said. "Without their excellent service, we would not be a Class 1 department."
Christopher Hackett, senior director of personal lines policy at Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said he's seen communities save on premiums after similar classification upgrades.
"Generally speaking, an improvement to the public protection class rating will positively impact the overall premiums in a community. Going from a 2 to a 1, I would expect that in general you might see a decrease in premiums," he said.
"Each respective insurance company will view a public protection class rating a little differently. There may be some companies that weigh that factor in the calculation of rates and premiums more so than other companies, so it's always good to periodically shop around if you're a home or business owner."
Berke said the achievement "reflects the excellence of the department and the organizations that supported them in this goal."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at email@example.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.