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St. Augustine's fire protection rating improves

6:48 PM, Dec 10, 2013   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The City of St. Augustine's fire protection rating has improved.  The recent improvement could impact insurance premiums.

Matt Cafiso and his wife, Susan, own Christe Blue in St. Augustine.

The news sounds good to him.

"We have items that are one of a kind," Matt explained. "That's what makes us different and that's why we're so happy about this report with the local fire department."

Christe Blue is a high-end consignment store and art business.

Last week, the St. Augustine Fire Department received its latest review from the Insurance Services Office or ISO.

The class 2 is something Arnold smiles about.  The ISO rating is on a scale of 1 - 10. The lower, the better.

St. Augustine Fire Chief Mike Arnold said, "We just went to a 2. We were a 3 for seven to 10 years."

"It's a great accomplishment for us," Arnold noted.

He said the ISO rating places St. Augustine in the top 1.3 percent of fire departments in the nation. Arnold explained the rating is based on "the staffing the fire department has, response times to calls, dispatch capabilities, and water supply" among other things.

Arnold credited other city departments in addition to his own for the improvement.  He added, "A lot of the things the county does for us helped us improve."

An inter-local agreement with St. Johns County means the city and county both use a new radio system. It also means more manpower. 

"I'm putting more firefighters on the scene than I have employees because the county backs me up," Arnold noted.

The ISO rating impacts what insurance companies will charge homeowners, but the fire chief thinks business owners will see more of an impact with this improvement.

Doug Wiles, President of Herbie Wiles Insurance in St. Augustine said it's too early to tell how much premiums will change. 

"It will likely take 90-120 days for insurance companies to recognize the change and incorporate it into individual policy premiums," Wiles said. 

Wiles also predicts the "premium savings will be small. The cost of insuring against the peril of fire is so much less than that of a hurricane or windstorm, and will likely take effect when insurance policies renew in March-April."

Based on Wiles' research, other Florida cities have protection classes of 1 or 2, but not in North Florida. He said, "By comparison, here are the classes for other area cities in your viewing area:

Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach - 3
Green Cove Springs, Orange Park, Gainesville and Palm Coast - 4
Palatka, St Augustine Beach, Unincorporated areas of St. Johns County - 5
Hastings - 6"

Certainly Cafiso is happy about the new protection class in St. Augustine.

"The fact I can keep some costs down in some areas such as my fire insurance and insurance on the building allows me to be more generous in other areas of the business," he nodded.

He even called the possibility of a lower insurance bill "a great Christmas present!"

----To connect with Jessica Clark, follow her on Twitter at@JessicaFCN or Like her on Facebook.

First Coast News

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