Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services found out late Friday afternoon the county’s score from the Insurance Services Office had dropped two full points, giving the department a ranking of 3, just two points shy of the best rating given, a 1.
The announcement was made Tuesday at the Cherokee Board of Commissioners meeting.
The ISO rates communities on how well they are protected from fire, focusing mainly on the fire department, but also taking into account the 911 call center and the water department, according to a news release. Insurance companies use communities’ ratings to determine premium costs.
“Our score was a 79.04, which means we missed a rating of 2 by less than a point,” explained Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson. “This news confirms the dedication that this fire department has to be the best it can be for the people that we serve.”
According to Robinson, the improved rating means about $150 in savings a year for a $150,000 house, or $267 for a $300,000 house.
Fire Chief Tim Prather said the fire department began working to improve the county’s ISO rating several years ago, under the leadership of Chief Ray Gunnin, now a county commissioner. While Prather praised the work of his team, he was also floored with the results.
“As chief, I’m always anxious and concerned awaiting ISO results because of possibly missing our goal and some expectations,” Prather said. “This time, we were well past our goal which is great news for our department and the citizens of Cherokee County.”
Fire department officials credited Prather, Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens, County Manager Jerry Cooper, Cherokee E-911, the county water department and the fire department’s ISO review team with the success.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said the county is “in striking distance of the very best fire service in the nation.”
“It’s amazing how far Cherokee’s fire service has come,” Johnston said. “Today, among counties that still have large rural areas, we’re one of the best.”
Cooper said the county fire department is committed to “superior fire protection.
“I am especially pleased that the high level of service this county provides has the potential to result in real savings for businesses in terms of lower insurance premiums,” he added.
The savings for businesses could be vital in bringing new industry to Cherokee, said Marshall Day, chairman of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development.
“Public safety is crucial in the recruitment of new industry and the retention and expansion of existing industries,” Day said. “This accomplishment of lowering the fire rating will not only help us in our business recruitment, but it will also save our existing industries on their insurance.”