Home Local News Insurance commissioner presents Rockingham Fire Department with improved rating

Insurance commissioner presents Rockingham Fire Department with improved rating

Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler accepts the department's new rating from state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey on April 14. See more photos at the RO's Facebook page.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Fire Chief Harold Isler said he could finally relax Thursday morning after N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey announced the Rockingham Fire Department’s Insurance Services Office rating had increased from 3 to 2.

“It’s been a long ninety days,” Isler said, adding that the department was rated on Jan. 10. “So we didn’t know what our fate was.”

Causey and members from the Office of the State Fire Marshal were in town to deliver the news personally.

“These ISO safety ratings inspections are very important,” said Causey, who also serves as the state fire marshal. “As I travel across the state a lot of people, chief, don’t realize the importance of the fire departments’ class rating and what people pay for homeowner’s insurance in that fire district.”

Departments are rated on a scale of 10, being the lowest, and 1, being the best.

“If somebody’s in a class 10 … they’re going to pay the highest homeowner’s insurance rates of anybody,” Causey said. “So the lower the number … the better protected the people in that fire district are.”

Of the 1,200-plus fire departments in the state, Causey said there are only 60 that have a rating of 2 or higher.

“That is a huge honor, not only for Rockingham, but for Richmond County and the surrounding area,” Causey said. 

Regional inspector Brian Cox The commissioner added that not only does the rating improve home insurance rates, it also helps both the city and the county with economic development and recruiting new industry to the area.

“It’s a sign that this is a safe place to live, the response time is good, so it encourages more people to move to this fire district,” Causey said.

Causey told Isler that the new rating isn’t effective until July 1  — “… but you can start bragging rights right now.”

“I know what it takes to get there, and I thank you and your team for all that they did,” Causey said.

Brian Cox is the regional inspector, whose district also includes Anson, Montgomery, Moore, Harnett, Lee, Chatham, Alamance, Orange, Durham, Rockingham, Caswell, Person, Vance and Granville counties.

He told the RO that, on average, the majority of rural departments’ ratings are between 4 and 6.

The Hamlet Fire Department’s rating increased from a 5 to a 4 last year.

“When you go to a department that has all their stuff together and they’re glad to see you  — ‘cause everybody is not glad to see us when we come in — and they don’t have a chip on their shoulder … they know you want to help them, it makes our job a whole lot better and makes it enjoyable,” Cox said. “And that’s what I got here … From day one, it’s been a pleasure interacting with the chief and the staff here, giving me all I need to do this inspection.”

The inspector said training was one of the main factors that led to the rating improvement.

Cox said there were six categories that firefighters train in and the department tried to maximize every category.

“That’s what really helped them get to that next level,” Cox said.

Other factors included the department’s equipment, as well as its response to calls — how many firefighters are sent to structure fires — and testing of hydrants and the city’s water system.

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Cox said there was a lot more than just the department that goes into the inspection.

Brian Taylor, chief state fire marshal and assistant commissioner, said the county’s 911 center is also looked at for how calls are handled. He added that the utilities department and mutual aid agreements with surrounding departments are also factored in.

“I do want to recognize that it’s a team effort, community effort to get to this point, especially at a 2,” Taylor said, before addressing the City Council members who were present: Mayor John Hutchinson, and Councilmembers Bennett Deane, Denise Sullivan and Steve Morris.

“Your support to the fire department is crucial,” Taylor said. “At the person’s darkest hour is when they’re calling 911 for the fire department to assist.”

Hutchinson credited Isler for being very thorough.

“We’re very proud of his work, we’re very proud of the firefighters in our community,” Hutchinson said. “They do a phenomenal job. We look at the save rate every year, we look at the training hours every year. And this crowd is on it.”

Read about the department’s recent annual report here.

Isler, reiterating that the achievement is a team effort, addressed the staff.

“You all are the ones that put in the work to make that happen,” Isler said, adding that he and the command staff, including Assistant Chief Vernon McKinnon, put the strategic plan together, but the rest of the department carried it out. “I’m tickled that y’all got this rating.” 

Since being hired as chief in 2014, Isler thanked the City Council and City Manager Monty Crump for the value they place on public safety.

“Without their support, I can guarantee this day here wouldn’t be possible,” Isler said. “It took us all to do it. It’s not one person put in one thing to make this happen today. It took every one of us.”

The chief added that it was challenging to get the higher rating, “ … and now we’ve got to do the same work in order to maintain it.”

“Once you’re down, you don’t want to go back up, we want to keep it there,” Isler continued. “If anything else, we still have room for improvement.”

 

 

 

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.