Insurance rates in the city of Great Falls may be changing in the near future, according to recent updates from the Fire Department and a new evaluation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Fire Marshal Mike McIntosh said that the Fire Department recently went through an Insurance Services Office audit and said that the city dropped from a class two to a class three due in part to increased response times.
“That means that community members may see an increase in their homeowners insurance,” he said during a Council of Councils meeting Tuesday night.
Fire Chief Jeremy Jones told the Tribune Thursday that this change isn’t going to have as much of an impact on residential homeowners as it will on the commercial industry. He said insurance companies have different ways of determining their rates, giving the example of State Farm as a provider that doesn’t factor ISO in their private residential rates.
Rates range from one being the best to 10 meaning there is no fire protection in that area.
Jones said the change in class was due to the fact the department doesn’t have the resources to meet the response needs of the growing city. He said the department is currently two fire stations behind, with the growth in the north of the city and needed support in the “medical corridor” near Benefis’ main campus off of 10th Ave. S.
“Even with two additional fire stations, we’re not going to have 100% coverage within the four-minute marker for the city but it would eliminate a big portion of that,” Jones said.
When asked what ideal staffing would look like, Jones said it depended on whether additional funding would be available for there to be more hires and what was palatable by the commission and the public.
Fully staffing two additional fire houses would require at least 24 additional staff for 24/7 call availability. Jones said that data from call volume and population density suggests there needs to be more staff downtown, which wouldn’t require a new station but would mean adding another 12 for a total of 36 potential new hires.
During McIntosh’s update on Tuesday he said that the department has issued 49 new Safety Inspection Certificates this year, which he explained are very much like business licenses, a sign of the city’s growth.
This comes in the wake of City Manager Greg Doyon’s announcement during the last city commission meeting that the city’s flood insurance rates should be coming down after a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evaluation.
The city went from a class seven to a class six, meaning the total discount could be up to 20% on flood insurance premiums depending on whether or not the property resides in the designated FEMA flood hazard areas.
Great Falls is a participating community in FEMA’s Community Rating System, which per its website is “a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).” There are 12 other communities in Montana that participate in the program.
“We are the first community within the state of Montana to achieve that high rating, so it’s kind of cool,” Doyon said, commending staff on their efforts in submitting the necessary paperwork and “going above and beyond.”