Haines Public Safety Commission Chair Jim Stanford did a little digging last month. He was looking for answers into why exactly the Klehini Valley Fire Department was downgraded to the lowest possible rating by a national insurance services company.
“In a nutshell, what I think this comes down to is just a lack of paperwork,” Stanford said at a commission meeting this week.
After weeks of phone calls and tracking down the paper trail, Stanford found that requests for more information from mitigation specialists at the Insurance Services Office, or ISO, went unanswered by Klehini Fire Department board or staff. That was back in 2012.
The fire department was downgraded to a 10, the lowest possible rating, from an eight.
“After a couple years went by, they just downgraded it to a 10, because they couldn’t do anything else. They didn’t have any proof coming from Klehini Valley.”
Stanford assured that board members Robert Venables and Shaun McLaughlin are working to resolve the issues that caused the demotion in the first place. According to Venables, the main factors in the downgrade were that the department’s capacity to carry water and the flow-per-minute rate were not up to snuff.
And while the concern first arose nearly four years ago and the actual downgrade happened in 2013, residents were only made aware this summer when insurance rates soared.
Insurance companies large and small use the ISO’s assessments when determining rates on personal and commercial properties. A meeting between members of the fire department’s board and the Public Safety Commission was slated for last month but, Stanford says, was cancelled by those representing the fire department. Stanford adds that he’s confident that the board will follow through with the needed maintenance to boost the department’s rating.
“I don’t think this is a case of negligence,” Stanford said. “I think this is a group of volunteers and there’s only about seven or eight of them.”
As for the department, they hope to have the issues resolved and the department’s status restored by the spring.
“We can probably address most of those concerns with a reevaluation of our water supplies and perhaps some incremental changes with our carrying capacity,” said Venebles. “The department is going through that process now with the intention of requesting a new inspection this spring. We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to get that rating captured back, which will be a benefit to that service area.”
Venables and Stanford encouraged more people to get involved in the department as volunteers.
“The more we can support our public safety personnel both in town and in our fire district up the highway, the better these departments can function,” Venebles said.
The next Public Safety Commission meeting in Jan. 4.