Residents of the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District could see their home insurance premiums rise because of a proposed downgrade of their fire protection classification by the Insurance Services Office.
The district's board of trustees will meet Monday night to discuss how to avoid the potential downgrade, brought about largely by changes to the ISO's methods, not the department's ongoing dispute with the village of Barrington, fire district President Tom Rowan said.
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The last time the district's classification was updated was 20 years ago, when ISO officials relied on paper maps and tours of the area to rank fire protection. Today, a much more detailed overview of the area is available through global imaging systems, Rowan said.
Insurance companies use data compiled by the ISO to help set their rates.
Some parts of the district -- which surrounds Barrington and contracts the village for fire protection -- will actually see rating upgrades, Rowan said.
The addition of fire stations in Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington over the past 20 years means that no part of the district is now more than five miles from a fire station. Being more than five miles from a station automatically earns a property a 10 rating, the worst possible score on the ISO's 1 to 10 scale. The district's current classification is a split number -- 5 for properties within five miles of a station and 10 for those outside a five-mile radius.
With two more fire stations on the map, the ISO is proposing a rating of 6 for the whole district.
Different insurers may have different interpretations of how significant the one-point shift is, Rowan said. Some companies, he noted, treat ratings of 4, 5 and 6 equally when it comes to establishing rates.
Barrington Fire Chief Jim Arie explained some measures that can be taken to move the rating back to 5 before the proposed change becomes official in March. Those measures include group training and multi-company drills with surrounding departments, he said.
"We're not far from a 5," Rowan added. "We want to get back to where we were."
The village of Barrington has an ISO rating of 4. Aiming for the top position of 1 is neither practical nor cost-effective for the district, most of which has no fire hydrants, Rowan said.
The fire district recently announced its intent to terminate a long-running contract with the village of Barrington at the end of 2013 under which the district pays Barrington to provide fire protection for its residents.
At the heart of their dispute is the district's request that the village provide additional staffing and a new water tanker at the district's expense.
"That's kind of our main issue -- water delivery and personnel," Rowan said. "The more you have, the better your rating is."
Though a barn fire in Barrington Hills last week brought mutual aid from 33 surrounding departments -- including 10 tankers -- Rowan said the district would still prefer to buy another of its own.
"That's the whole thing -- how long is it taking to get there?" he asked. "And if someone else's tanker is out on something, mutual aid doesn't really help you."
Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said the village sees its mutual-aid agreements and the encouragement of sprinkler systems in homes and buildings as of greater value during a fire than one more tanker.