A national rating system used to determine home insurance rates has moved in the wrong direction for some parts of Graham but shouldn’t impact local rates significantly, city officials said.

The Insurance Services Office is an advisory organization for the insurance industry that offers information for companies to use as they see fit. It assigns a rating for municipalities, from one to 10, to rate how fast a structure fire could be responded to, minimizing damage. 

A score of one is perfect and is carried by cities such as Frisco, and insurance agencies use the rating to help set local insurance rates. 

Factors examined for assigning the ISO rating include numbers of firefighting personnel, how many trucks they use, the age of those trucks and even length of hose on the trucks. A home’s proximity to a fire station is a big factor, explained Bryan Insurance Agency LTD. agent Joe Schweighofer, as well as the home’s proximity to a fire hydrant. 

Graham’s ISO score went from five to seven about 18 months ago, Graham Building Official Jason Cottongame said. Graham’s City Manager at the time, Larry Fields, was prepared to fight the rating change, he added, until he called around to local insurers and found the change would not have a significant impact on insurance rates in Graham, he said. 

According to Cottongame, rates shouldn’t be impacted significantly with the drop from a five to a seven, and for insurance rates to go any lower the ISO rating would have to be improved to four. This would require the addition of firefighting personnel, which would in turn increase the tax burden for citizens, he added. 

“We are doing an exceptional job (fighting fires) already,” Cottongame said.   

The main reason the rating got worse is because the City of Graham and Graham Fire Rescue are using the 2006 version of the International Fire and Building Codes, not the most recent version released in 2012, said GFR Chief Dennie Covey. The addition of a new primary fire truck requested in next year’s pending budget would have no impact on the rating, he added.

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.