Summit County fire safety efforts pay off

Improved ratings could lower insurance rates

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Firefighters responding to a June, 2011 wildfire in Keystone Gulch. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ongoing efforts to improve fire safety in Summit County have paid off, as local communities saw their fire-insurance ratings improve, according to the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District.

Firefighter training, fire-prevention efforts and community outreach and education all helped improve the scores from the Insurance Services Office, an industry data-collection group that assigns a public-protection classification from 1 to 10 for more than 48,000 communities nationwide.

The improvements in the ISO ratings, which officially take effect Sept. 1 and are recognized by most major insurance companies, potentially mean reductions in insurance rates for property owners.

The district earned a Class 2 rating for most residential areas, improving from a Class 4 for the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne and Class 5 for Frisco and the unincorporated communities of Keystone, Summit Cove, Wildernest and Dillon Valley.

“We are very pleased that our continual efforts to improve the fire safety of our residents and visitors were recognized by ISO, and we anticipate that many property owners should pay lower insurance rates as a result,” said outgoing Lake Dillon Fire Chief Dave Parmley.

The Lake Dillon Fire Protection District now is one of about 900 communities in the United States rated at Class 2; fewer than 100 have achieved Class 1 ratings, according to the ISO. (Some areas in the district, such as Bill’s Ranch and Ptarmigan received a “2X” rating, meaning that they are farther than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. And outlying areas such as Montezuma and the lower Blue River valley remain a Class 10 because they are farther than five miles from a fire station.)

The ISO ratings primarily are based on:

  • Emergency communications, including 9-1-1 dispatch;
  • Water supply, including the volume of water available and the distribution of fire hydrants;
  • Fire department staffing, training, equipment and apparatus, station location and operations; and
  • Community risk-reduction efforts, including public education and fire-prevention programs.

“We obviously could not have achieved this solid rating without the excellent work of the Summit County 9-1-1 dispatch center and the cooperation of the water districts throughout our area, which have embraced efforts to ensure reliable, adequate water supplies for emergencies,” Parmley said. “We also are pleased that ISO recognized our efforts to keep our firefighting crews well trained and equipped as well as the success of our fire-prevention efforts.”

For the first time, ISO has taken into account the fire-prevention and public-education efforts – programs offered by Lake Dillon Fire for years and bolstered in recent years with efforts such as the department’s free defensible-space reviews for property owners and HOAs.

“A community’s investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predictor of future fire losses,” according to the ISO report produced for the department. “Statistical data on insurance losses bear out the relationship between excellent fire protection … and low fire losses.”

Additionally, Lake Dillon Fire’s efforts to document commercial structures in the district with fire-safety systems such as sprinklers and monitored smoke alarms bolstered the overall ratings.

Residential property owners generally do not need to do anything to gain credit for improved ISO ratings, however it is not a bad idea for them to check with their insurance agents. Insurance companies use many factors in determining rates – and some don’t rely on ISO at all – so potential savings vary and cannot be generalized.

Owners of commercial properties, meanwhile, should check with their insurance companies to ensure that their buildings are properly credited for fire-safety systems.

“We take great pride in providing Summit County residents, businesses and visitors with a professional, well-trained, well-equipped, all-hazards emergency-response agency, and this ISO rating validates our efforts,” Parmley said.

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