Island Free Press: Chicamacomico Banks VFD gains better rating, better insurance rate for homeowners

Story by Joy Crist,
Results from a state insurance rating inspection conducted in November of the Chicamacomico Banks Volunteer Fire Department were recently released, and the department received a stellar “4” rating which could positively impact homeowners’ insurance rates in the Tri-villages.

The inspection, formally known as an “evaluation of the fire insurance classification,” is required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System.

Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.

The NCRRS rating system ranges from one (highest) to 10 (not recognized as a certified fire department by the state), with most rural departments falling into the 9S category.

While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district, and higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners insurance rates in that fire district.

“This is the culmination of much work by the fire department over the past four years,” said Dare County Fire Marshall Steve Kovacs. “The previous rating was a ‘6’ for the villages of Rodanthe and Waves, [and] prior to the merge of the Chicamacomico and Salvo departments, Salvo’s rate was a ‘9’.”

The two departments merged in 2017 primarily as an effort to obtain a better rating.

At the May 2017 Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting where the merger was approved by the Board, Mike Daugherty, Chief of the Chicamacomico VFD, noted how combining the two departments could have an impact on local insurance rates.

“With our combined equipment and resources, we should be able to drop our rating down hopefully one more slot, which would be lower insurance payments in all three villages,” he said at the 2017 meeting. “A lot of people’s wallets would feel much better about that.”

But instead of dropping just a point as predicted, the new rating signifies up to a 5-point adjustment for tri-village residents.

“Through hard work and support of the Fire Departments, community, and the Board, we were able to get the merge completed,” said Kovacs. “Then came the work of the members of the fire department, the Sheriff’s Office Communications Division, and the Water Department, and [through these efforts] we were able to reduce the fire insurance rate for all of our property owners.”

“…I congratulate [the Chicamacomico Banks VFD] for their dedicated service to the community.”

The regular inspections are conducted by officials from the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM.) State law requires OSFM officials to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but twelve of the state’s fire districts.

Rates on dwellings, (including those insured under homeowners policies), are established by the North Carolina Rate Bureau, and the bureau is being notified of the status change for the Tri-villages region.

The rate change will be officially effective on Saturday, June 1, 2019.

“I’d like to congratulate Chief Daugherty for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey. “The citizens in [this community] should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”