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Banner Elk Fire District Higher Rating Means Lower Home Insurance

Some of the 25 Banner Elk Fire & Rescue volunteers in front of Station One. Photo by Mark File

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey announced that the Banner Elk Fire District completed their inspection and received the ISO (Insurance Services Office) Class 5 Rating. According to Banner Elk Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tyler Burr, the district has had the lower rating of Class 6 for the past two decades.

“Last year, Banner Elk Fire Rescue participated in the state fire district rating inspection, in hopes to bring a better score for our district,” says Burr. “An ISO fire rating is a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies by the Insurance Services Office. The score reflects how prepared a community and area is for fires.”

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). 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.

“Finding, testing and documenting water sources took a long time and includes ponds in the more rural areas we cover,” says Burr. “Plus, we have many hydrants to maintain in the two towns we cover.”

The NCRRS rating system determines how well the fire department protects the community and ranges from one (highest) to 10 (not recognized as a certified fire department by the state). 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. Insurance companies use the score to help set property insurance rates, as a home or business that is less likely to be severely damaged or destroyed by fire is cheaper to insure.

“I’d like to congratulate Chief Burr for the department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Commissioner Causey. “The citizens in the Banner Elk Fire District should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency.”

State law requires OSFM officials to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but 12 of the state’s fire districts.

“We cannot express enough gratitude to our staff and volunteers who put in an incredible amount of extra work and training to achieve this goal”, says Chief Burr. The Banner Elk Volunteer Fire Department is supported by citizens, volunteers, public servants, and donors; we could not operate without such a gracious community.

Banner Elk Volunteer Fire & Rescue Station One is located in downtown Banner Elk, with Station Two in Sugar Mountain. The district includes the two towns and the surrounding neighborhoods in Avery County.

Erik Burr leads rope training with volunteers in preparation for the busy summer season of hiker rescues. Photo by Mark File