The Guntersville Fire Department works a wreck on the highway.

Last month marked 20 years since the Guntersville Fire Department obtained a new ISO fire rating of a Class 4, moving up from a Class 6.

Two decades later, they have now achieved a Class 2 rating, which not only demonstrates a marked improvement in safety and protection, but also significantly impacts Guntersville residents for the better.

The new Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire rating went into effect on Dec.1 for Guntersville homeowners. The class 2 rating, up from a class 3, is significant to residents because the improvement in rating could lower homeowners insurance rates, depending on the provider.

For residents north of the bridge – or within five road miles from the nearest fire station – the potential savings could be huge, as they rose from a Class 10 to a Class 2 after the closure of Fire Station 3 during the last round of ISO ratings.

While technically closed, Fire Station 3 still houses equipment and is able to run an engine and any on- or off-duty personnel needed out of the facility.

“We have assets available there and different response units to pull from,” Fire Chief Brian Waldrop said. “That’s why ISO was able to revert back to the current grading. As of December 1, they are now a Class 2 fire rating.”

The more equipped a fire department is to put out a house fire, the less risky the house is to insure. Insurance companies use the score -- which determines how well a local fire department can protect its community -- to set home insurance rates, although the impact on homeowners insurance varies by provider.

The ISO uses four main criteria to determine a fire rating and grades each department out of a possible 105.5 points. 50 points come from the quality of the local fire department, including staffing levels, training and proximity of the firehouse. 40 points come from the availability of the water supply, including the amount of fire hydrants and how much water is used to put out fires. 10 points come from the emergency communications systems (911). An additional 5.5 points comes from community outreach, including fire prevention and safety courses. The Public Protection Classification (PPC) is then determined from a numerical score of 1-10, with one being the best score possible and 10 being the worst.

After the rigorous series of testing, GFD was given their newly improved Class 2 rating, scoring a total of 85.74; a significant improvement over their 76.36 in 2015.

“This new classification will definitely help the homeowners in the area, particularly those north of the bridge, they should all see a nice savings,” said Randy Jones with Nationwide Insurance. “We have already changed some customers out in Gunters Landing and they have seen tremendous savings. Every citizen in Guntersville owes a thank you to our firefighters in working to achieve this lower rating.”

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