PLAINS TWP. — Twenty years ago an organization that sets fire insurance rates gave Plains Township a “10,” the worst grade available on a 1-10 scale. Since then, the township has taken actions to improve the fire department and the ratings have improved.
Starting Sept. 1, the rate will drop to a 4.
Additional training, the purchase of a new aerial truck and other measures have contributed to the ratings improvement, Plains Township Fire Chief Carl Baker said on Friday.
“Give the credit to the board (of township commissioners),” said Baker, who has been chief since 2010. “Without them being so proactive this would never have happened.”
Township Commissioner Brigid O’Connor said all the advances have been made with the safety of residents and businesses in mind. “This is something that didn’t happen overnight,” she said.
From 1993 until 2011 the township was rated a 7 by the Insurance Services Office, or ISO, the organization that sets most fire insurance rates. The township, believing it had made improvements with its fire protection services, asked ISO to re-evaluate the rating, and in 2011 the rate was changed from a 7 to a 5. This year the township, fresh with a new aerial truck, asked for another review and was informed the new rate, effective Sept. 1, would be a 4.
Len Podrasky, an Allstate Insurance agent in Wilkes-Barre, said the lower rating will have a positive impact on homeowner and commercial business insurance premiums.
When the rate dropped from a 7 to a 5, many premiums were reduced by about $40, he said. The new drop will mean an additional decrease of about $10 to $20 annually per household.
“They’re not going to do cartwheels over it, but they’ll see a slight reduction,” Podrasky said, adding that township residents should contact their insurance agents and let them know about the new ISO rating to start the ball rolling on premium reductions.
Baker said that while the department is pleased with two rating changes in less than three years, he’s hopeful that increased training and more apparatus will lead to more rating changes in the future.
One of the most recent hires is Mike Gillott, a Plains Township resident, who is also a certified paramedic, the first on the staff of 16 full-timers and six part-timers with that designation. “Some of the stuff we do is more EMS-related so this is a very valuable addition,” Baker said.
Baker said being at a 4 puts the township among the best in the state, along with cities such as Scranton, Erie and Bethlehem. Wilkes-Barre has the best rating in the county with a 3, he said.