Citizens served by the Eubank Volunteer Fire Department can expect some good news the next time their home insurance comes due.

Effective October 1, Eubank Fire Department has improved its ISO rating to Class 3/3Y. The rating, provided by Insurance Services Office, can affect the cost of homeowners' and commercial insurance. A lower rating generally equates to lower premiums.

Fire departments are assigned a rating from 1 to 10, with Class 1 representing the best public protection and Class 10 a failure to meet ISO minimum requirements. The Class 3 rating puts the Eubank Volunteer Fire Department in the top tier of rural and/or volunteer departments across the country.

"It's a pretty substantial drop," Eubank Fire Chief Norman Rutheford noted, adding that the department's last rating five years ago had been 5/5Y. "I was tickled; not many volunteer departments can achieve that status."

According to Chief Rutheford, the 3/3Y rating is based in part on how many homes are within five miles of the fire station and/or 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant (or other substantial water source such as a pond or pool). He expressed appreciation to the Eubank City Commission as well as the water department for adding more hydrants and upgrading the water system to increase water pressure for firefighters.

The chief explained that fire hydrants are required to have a flow of 350 gallons per minute in order to count. "That's a big misconception. Many rural areas just have flush valves which can fill tankers but aren't good for actually fighting fires."

Chief Rutheford said the city government has been good to put in bigger lines as they upgrade so that the department has access to sufficient water flow. He also noted that the department is well equipped and well trained. Of its 22 members, all but two junior firefighters and two new recruits have their 150-certification.

"That's all Eubank, not joint members," the chief said, adding that there are also automatic aid agreements in place with Science Hill, Woodstock and Lincoln County. "We work well with other departments."

Insurance companies have 90 days to respond to the lowered rating, which resulted from the ISO's 2019 Public Protection Classification (PPC) survey, and the impact varies by insurer. Eubank residents and business owners should contact their insurance company to see how the rating could affect their premiums once the new rating goes into effect.

"Really the whole purpose is to save our people money," Chief Rutheford said. "It should be a big help to them."

ISO is a leading source of information about information about insurance risk -- collecting data on a community's public fire protection through its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. Ratings are based on many factors but the four key elements involve emergency communications, response times, water supply and community risk reduction.

"I've been doing this for a long time and this is the first time that they [the surveyors] went into detail with such a fine tooth comb," Rutheford, who has been Eubank's fire chief for 25 years, said. "They examined our records and equipment…even check our hydrant testing to make sure we were doing it correctly."

Besides the potential effect on insurance premiums, PPC surveys -- which are updated every three to five years -- are useful in strategic planning and budgeting.

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