Insurance rates for home and business owners could go up in Pullman

PULLMAN, WA - The Pullman Fire Department's latest grade from the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau could mean higher insurance rates for home and business owners.

Rachel Dubrovin explains why the department's rating went down, and how much insurance could go up.

The Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau prepares a "Protection Class Report" for the Pullman Fire Department every ten years.

"The rating bureau is there for insurance companies," said Pioneer Insurance of Pullman Owner Al Sorenson.

The bureau rates fire departments on a scale of one to ten, with "one" being the best rating possible. Pullman Fire Department's rating for 2013 was a "five" which is a step below the "four" they received in 2003.

"It definitely shows we have some deficiencies in our department and things we need to work towards and work on," said Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston.

The bureau evaluates a long list of fire department features, focusing primarily on department operations and water supply.

"A very good department would be in the three range, if they had plenty of resources," said Heston. "Most departments are in the 4, 5 and 6 of a city our size, with our makeup."

Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said the drop is not surprising because Washington State University had its own fire station in 2003. Heston explains the Pullman Fire Department is now responsible for the city and the campus, yet their resources and budget are limited.

"It added quite a bit to our area, of course," said Heston. "They have several high rise buildings up on campus. Lots of chemicals and hazards, confined space issues."

The lower rating went into effect for insurance companies at the beginning of March... And Pioneer Insurance Owner Al Sorenson says homeowners could see an increase in their rates.

"You could be anywhere from a zero to six percent increase on your insurance premium for property," said Sorenson.

Sorenson said it'll also affect commercial rates.

"I'm finding that increase could be even a little bit higher, anywhere up to eight percent," said Sorenson.

Sorenson said the increase isn't alarming, but consumers should keep a closer eye on their rates in case they need to re-evaluate their policies.

"It doesn't seem like a lot but when you get into the thousands of dollars of premium, then it is a pretty good little rate increase," said Sorenson.

Heston said the department is already finding ways to improve that rating, such as better record maintenance and more employee certifications.

A Protection Class Report is mandatory once every ten years, but the department can invite the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau back sooner if they feel they've made enough improvements to earn an upgrade.

Chief Heston will present a list of improvements to the city council and allow them to decide which ones are cost-effective.