Last updated: June 01. 2013 7:58AM - 476 Views
James Howell
Staff Writer

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After an intense state insurance inspection, the Todd Volunteer Fire Department earned a better ISO rating, and in the process, now has two paid staff positions.

“I am very happy with our new rating,” said Todd VFD Chief Chris Welch.

The new rating will save money on insurance premiums for property owners in the district.

An official release from the North Carolina Department of Insurance acknowledged and congratulated the Todd VFD for this accomplishment.

“North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin announced today that the Todd Fire District completed its routine inspection and received a 6/9E rating, effective Wednesday, May 1, 2013,” read the release.

“The inspection, conducted by officials with the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), is required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS),” read the release.

The release also read “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. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners insurance rates in that fire district.”

“I’d like to congratulate Chief Welch for his department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Commissioner Goodwin in the release.

Goodwin also said “the citizens in the Todd Fire District should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

The inspection was a three-day process, totaling about 32 hours, according to Chief Welch. Preparing for the inspection was a long and stressful process, but Welch had help along the way.

“I would like to give a humongous thanks to Anthony Farmer (the assistant chief of Pond Mountain VFD),” said Welch. Farmer assisted Welch in understanding the ISO rating system.

The ISO rating system is a point-based system, where a department earns more points based on their equipment, and among other things, how many paid personnel the department has on staff.

The recent addition of two new paid personnel (Chief Welch and Assistant Chief Joe Worley) aided the Todd VFD in its mission to grasp a 6E ISO rating.

In addition to the higher rating, having two paid personnel at the fire house allows for a quicker response time to EMS calls. Before the paid personnel had a continued presence at the fire house, some EMS calls went unanswered.

“I decided that wasn’t acceptable… it really bothered me because we have all sorts of medical equipment, but it’s useless if no one is there to use it,” said Welch.

Welch also said because of state statutes, “the days of volunteer fire chiefs is going away.” He later said “I think Ashe will see more and more paid fire chiefs in the years to come.”

According to Welch, the state wants paid fire chiefs because of the amount of paper work and responsibility that corresponds to the job.

In order to finance the two paid positions and purchase new equipment, the Todd Fire District raised fire taxes by two cents per $100 in the past two years.

This fire tax increase will cost the average taxpayer $48 annually, but the average taxpayer will save $148 in home owner’s insurance thanks to the Todd VFD’s new rating, putting $100 back into the taxpayer’s pockets. Also, having a constant presence at the fire house will give citizens better protection.

Chief Welch called the move “a complete win for taxpayers.” According to Welch, he hasn’t received any negative feedback from the community about the new paid personnel.

Welch said he has “an excellent staff.”

“We really do care,” said Welch, “there’s no one here that doesn’t really care about the community.”

Along with his own staff, Welch also expressed appreciation for Todd’s mutual aid departments, which include Fleetwood, Creston, Deep Gap, Meat Camp, Boone, West Jefferson and Warrenville VFD’s.

State law requires OSFM officials to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but six of the state’s fire districts.

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