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Fire insurance rates might fall
"Want to pay less to insure your home against fire? Go ahead -- Washington state says you can.For the first time since 1989, the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau is giving South Whidbey a break on its insurance rates -- indirectly. The bureau rates fire districts on how well they protect an areas buildings from fire, and insurance companies use that score to determine how much they will charge property owners for their fire insurance. Factors used in scoring districts on a 1-10 scale (1 being the best) include age and condition of fire equipment, the training level of firefighters, and the availability of water sources for firefighting.For the last 10 years, Fire Protection District 3 -- which ranges from Clinton to Lagoon Point -- has held a rating of 7. But after a thorough survey of the district early this month, it appears the bureau will drop South Whidbey to a 6 or, perhaps, a 5. District Chief Don Smith said FD3 deserves a 5. In the decade between evaluations, the district has replaced almost every vehicle and piece of equipment it owns, has required volunteer firefighters to be trained to the same level as professional firefighters, and has upgraded its communications through the countys ICOM system. Plus, said Smith, many of the small communities around the island have made substantial upgrades to their water systems, making them quite effective for fighting fires.Theyre infinitely better than they were, Smith said.District assistant chief Paul Bush was confident this week that the district has a 6 rating in the bag, but will have to wait another two weeks to hear whether a 5 is in the cards.Southend insurance agents agree that a jump down in fire ratings could put a few more dollars into their customers pockets. Could, that is. State Farm Insurance agent Sheila DeLong said her company would look at the criteria used by the rating bureau before deciding to lower rates. If those criteria meet the companys standards, she said she sees no reason why rates would not come down. Just across the water in Everett, State Farm insures property owners at a lower rate because the city has better fire protection than South Whidbey.The lower the rating, the lower the premiums would be, DeLong said.The place to live right now to take advantage of low Southend insurance rates, said Jim Porter of Porter Whidbey Insurance, is in Langley. The little Southend city is rated a full point better than FD3 thanks to its centralized water system. If FD3s rating came down to a 6 or a 5, Porter said the companies he sells insurance for would undoubtedly pass a savings onto customers.The rate would vary, but the impact should be the same with all of them, said Porter.To provide an example, Porter opened one of his rating manuals and calculated the premium for a $150,000 home for a 7 rating and for a 5 rating. The 7 rating would currently cost the owner of this home $354 a year. At a 5 rating, the premium falls to $319.Insurance companies are not required to make an adjustment in their rates when a fire district receives a better fire rating. If your company does not acknowledge South Whidbeys rating change, Chief Smith recommends shopping around for another policy provider."