Long Beach fire rating dropped; impacts fire insurance premiums

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - At a time when you hear everything seems to be going up, there is good news for the people of Long Beach. The city recently learned that its fire rating has dropped. This change will affect fire insurance premiums, mainly for businesses.

Changes made by the city of Long Beach and its fire department caught the attention of the State Fire Rating Bureau. The city's fire rating just dropped from a class six to a five.

"It's a great benefit to us. It's a great accomplishment to us. There's a lot of work involved in it," said Long Beach Fire Chief George Bass.

The city replaced the underground water system with larger pipes to improve water flow. It also built a new water tower on the west end of town and put in some 400 hydrants and cut-off valves on the south side of the railroad tracks. Most of the improvements came about following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

"We received all this funding that the city would never have been able to float a bond issue that could have done this amount of work in the amount of money that was involved. It's a blessing on one side. There's certainly a great heartache and loss on the other side," said Bass.

The fire department also updated its dispatch and computer systems, improved training for firefighters, and bought new equipment. Chief Bass said while homeowners won't see a significant reduction in their fire insurance premiums, businesses can expect about a five-percent drop.

That's a benefit for companies like J. Levens Builders, which owns six commercial buildings in Long Beach.

"One property in particular will save about $2,200 a year because of this five-percent reduction. So during these times of rising rates across the board, a five-percent reduction is truly welcome," said Bruce Nourse, J. Levens Environmental President.

Chief Bass said his department is already making some adjustments in hopes of getting a lower fire rating next time.

"In our review of the State Fire Rating Bureau representative, he said you are close to a four," said Bass.

And that drop will mean bigger savings for homeowners and even better fire protection.

"We've got fire hydrants every 500 feet, with the cutoff valves. So the homeowners, they'll see a fire hydrant close to their house. They know we've got a workable fire hydrant within their area," said Bass. "We've got more men on the engine than we've had before, because we've taken them off the rescue unit. So it's a benefit to the citizens."

The next evaluation is in four years, however, the city can request an earlier inspection.

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