The latest state rating for a volunteer fire unit in Surry County is allowing property owners in its district to reap rewards.
It involves the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department moving from a split ISO (Insurance Service Office) designation for its coverage area to a 5/9E rural rating that covers the entire district, according to the department’s assistant chief, Jason Burkholder.
The previous split-reduced rating only pertained to any structure within 1,000 feet of a hydrant.
“So now all our taxpayers are receiving a reduction in their homeowner’s insurance,” Burkholder explained. “Since our rating reduction we have heard several people say they are saving hundreds of dollars on their insurance, which is a lot more than they pay in fire tax.”
The rating resulted from an on-site survey by representatives of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, a routine inspection to determine the fire-suppression rating for use in calculating property insurance premiums. They checked for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and water source availability as part of the evaluation.
The Bannertown department, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, is made up of 33 men and women.
Its district contains 5,122 residents and covers an area of 23.40 square miles. The area’s makeup is 49.16 percent residential, 4.30 percent commercial and 46.55 percent agricultural.
One of the factors behind the latest fire rating for the Bannertown department is water availability, which comprises a big portion of the grade, Burkholder mentioned.
Only 11.2 percent of its territory is served by hydrants, with the remaining areas covered by tanker shuttles and the use of water points such as creeks and ponds.
The location and number of water points available to Bannertown firefighters “helped tremendously” in obtaining the rating, Burkholder says.
He added that the fire department is thankful to owners of the water points for allowing it permission to get each certified by an engineer and to use those sources in case of an emergency.
Thanks also are due to the Four-Way Volunteer Fire Department for its pump truck that is used by Bannertown personnel at all water points to pump water and fill their tankers, Burkholder related. Tankers have been used from other departments as well, including the Franklin, Pilot Knob, Ararat, White Plains and Westfield volunteer units.
Another area on which Bannertown was graded was the amount of training that department members attended. Most of the training was held in conjunction with Surry Community College and was cost-free due to a state tuition waiver they received. The members attended thousands of hours of training during the 12-month period on which they were graded.
In addition, the communication center for Surry County helped with the rating, Burkholder pointed out, with credit received for the handling and dispatching of alarms and its training of telecommunicators. The Surry Fire Marshal’s Office also was graded, with credit received for its work in inspections, investigations and public education.
“Overall, the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department would like to say ‘thank you’ to all people who helped us in receiving this grade and it’s our way of helping our citizens and giving back to them,” the assistant chief commented.
Mike Causey, state fire marshal and insurance commissioner, congratulated Bannertown for its hard work, dedication and commitment leading to the rating achievement he said reflects a desire to make the community safer.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.