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La Habra's Fire Services' Rating Knocked Down a Peg

Insurance costs for businesses could go up 10% to 12%. Homes less affected.

August 06, 2000|TARIQ MALIK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The cost of fire insurance could climb for residents and businesses in La Habra, based on the latest study of the city's firefighting capabilities.

The Chicago-based Insurance Services Office, which sets the national standard for community fire departments, rated the city's fire-protection service as a Class 4 operation--on a scale of one to 10, with Class 1 being the best.

The standard in Orange County is a Class 3 rating, and this year's assessment is a one-point drop for the city's Fire Department.

It could increase fire insurance rates between 10% and 12% for businesses, fire officials said.

"For homeowners, the difference wouldn't really be of note," Fire Chief Mike McGroarty said. "But businesses have bills, employees and overhead, and it could increase their costs."

McGroarty and other city officials have been discussing the implications of the fire-protection study, which took about six months to complete. He expects to meet with City Council members this month to discuss ways to improve the Fire Department's effectiveness.

The fire-protection assessment took into account the entire firefighting process, including manpower, equipment, training, response times, the performance and water pressure of city pipelines and the number of gallons fire hydrants can release per minute, city officials said.

"Insurance is the business of risk," said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California. "What the study does is determine that risk for fire protection."

Companies such as State Farm Insurance and Allstate Insurance Co. use the study to help determine fire insurance rates.

The city has 90 days to come up with an improvement plan to correct some of the problems the assessment found, among them the need for more dispatchers, department staff and training. The city then may be able to regain points for the rating, fire officials said.

"There are several no-cost things we can do, like start using computer programs to better document training sessions," McGroarty said. "But as for the staffing or equipment, it's a budget matter to choose what's important."

Once completed, the plan will be submitted to the Insurance Services Office, which will not apply the new class rating until city officials finish enhancing La Habra's fire-protection capabilities.

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