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Monday, June 11, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY–While speaking at the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association (OSFA) Convention on Saturday, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak detailed a plan to improve the ratings of Oklahoma fire departments and reduce home insurance rates.
“Our local fire departments are amazing,” said Commissioner Doak. “Whether they get paid a salary or they do the job for free, these firefighters save lives and property every day. We want to help them do that and help them and their neighbors save money on homeowners insurance.”
Commissioner Doak wants to help fire departments lower their Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, which is a factor many insurance companies consider when determining premiums. Departments are rated from 1-10, with one being the best and ten being the worst. Of Oklahoma’s 1,600 fire districts, 52 percent have ISO ratings of 9 & 10, which results in higher home insurance premiums for people living in those areas.
“Many of these ratings are just overlooked,” said Doak. “Some fire departments haven’t had a review in ten years. They’ve made major improvements that aren’t being recognized. Others just aren’t aware of all that goes into the ratings and how they can improve them. Our state is full of great fire departments but the system doesn’t reflect that.”
The Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) will work closely with the ISO and local fire departments. The effort includes educating the public and fire departments about the importance of ISO ratings and increasing manpower. The plan calls for hiring professional firefighters to train volunteer departments. More inspectors will also be needed.
A critical player in the program will be Investigator Kevin Stoneking. The career firefighter brings to the OID in-depth knowledge, experience and training capabilities. Stoneking will teach fire departments all over the state how to understand and succeed in the ISO grading process.
Several volunteer firefighters at the OSFA Annual Conference expressed excitement over the plan.
“As a member of a rural fire department that has been through lowering its ISO rating, I can attest to the fact that having a consultant from the Oklahoma Insurance Department assist small and rural communities in lowering their ratings will do more than just expedite the lengthy and complicated process,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jimmy Blair of the Slaughterville Fire Department.
“It will also help small departments, which make up a significant portion of the state's fire coverage, navigate the guidelines for equipment requirements, which don't necessarily fit the needs of small and rural service areas. Providing this consultant who can work with departments statewide is a win-win for everyone. It will allow small and rural departments to provide better fire protection at a lower insurance cost to members of their communities,” Blair said.
The project also has the support of the State Fire Marshal.
“The State Fire Marshal’s Office and the State Fire Marshal’s Commission are just thrilled to see the fire departments and the Insurance Department start the ball rolling and doing what needs to be done to lower insurance rates for communities,” said State Fire Marshal Robert Doke.
“What’s happened over the last 12 months has been nothing short of outstanding. From the very initial meeting with fire departments, they saw what needed to be done. The partnerships the organizations formed in just 30 minutes were unbelievable.”
About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.
For more information contact:
Brain King, Public Information Manager