Cherokee County Fire and Emergency has been notified that it's improved on its ability to provide adequate fire protection to Cherokee residents.
The agency learned late last week that its Insurance Service Office, or ISO, rating has been lowered from a 5/9 to a 3/3Y.
The ISO system is used to rate how well fire departments serve their area. The scale runs from one to 10, with one being the best fire service. The ratings are used to calculate homeowners’ insurance costs.
Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson said the agency's store was 79.04, adding the agency missed a rating of 2 by less than a point.
"Cherokee County has great firefighters who work hard to protect our citizens," he added. "This news confirms the dedication that this fire department has to be the best it can be for the people that we serve."
The agency announced the news during the Cherokee County Commission's meeting on Tuesday. Robinson added that a typical homeowner would save around $150 per year on insurance with the new rate.
Cherokee Fire credits the "dramatic" improvement of its services to the leadership of Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens, County Manager Jerry Cooper, Cherokee Fire Chief Tim Prather and the combined efforts of the agency, Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority and Cherokee County E-911.
The ISO review is divided into three sections: 911 center, which accounts for 10 percent of the rating; the fire department, which makes up 50 percent; and the county's water supply system, which makes up the remaining 40 percent.
“This is another great milestone in the history of the Cherokee County Fire Service,” said Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather. “We began striving to improve our fire protection class several years ago under (former) Chief Raymond Gunnin's administration, as well as enhance the emergency service delivery to our citizens. We have continued to work hard with improvements to achieve the success we have received."
Commissioner Harry Johnston also praised the results.
"It's amazing how far Cherokee's fire service has come," he stated. "Today, among counties that still have large rural areas, we're one of the best. And we're within striking distance of the very best fire service in the nation."
Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services cover approximately 410 square miles of the county with fire coverage. Collectively, the cities of Canton and Woodstock cover roughly 23 square miles, Cherokee fire stated.
In comparison, Woodstock Fire and Rescue's ISO rating is currently a 3 while the Canton Fire Department's rating stands at a 4.
The split classification of a 3/3Y for Cherokee County deals with the location of a creditable water supply source.
The first number is the class that applies to properties within 5 road miles of the responding fire station and 1,000 feet of a creditable water supply, such as a fire hydrant, suction point or dry hydrant.
The second number is the class that applies to properties within 5 road miles of a fire station but beyond 1,000 feet of a creditable water supply.
In 2013, the ISO's Public Protection Classifications published the new classifications as “X” and “Y” — formerly the “9” and “8B” portion of the split classification. For example: Cherokee's previous rating was a 5/9. If the fire department had the same previous score, we would have been rated a 5/5Y.
However, the new rate is now a 3/3Y.
Business and property owners should contact their insurance agents to determine whether they qualify for any change in their insurance rates from the new ratings, which will go into effect on Sept. 1.