By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Some Milton residents may get a break of up to 40 percent on their homeowners insurance this year, thanks to a new safety rating announced recently.
The Insurance Services Organization, an independent rating firm that serves the insurance industry, gave the city an improved safety rating of 4 based on its fire protection program.
This was the city's first evaluation since incorporating four years ago. Previously, it held north Fulton County's split Public Protection Classification rating of 4/9, meaning some areas of the city had exceptional fire protection while others were lacking.
The numbers are used for marketing, underwriting and establishing premiums for homeowners and commercial fire insurance. Those sections of Milton with the 9 rating, mostly in more rural areas, were charged more for insurance coverage.
A PPC of 1 represents an exemplary fire suppression program. A PPC of 10 indicates the area's fire suppression program does not meet ISO's minimum criteria.
Milton Fire Marshal Matt Marietta said the evaluation looked at everything from training to the pumping capacity of trucks. Inspectors even examined pre-planning of businesses to make sure the fire department knows where fire hydrants are located.
"We really feel we have a high-quality fire service," Marietta said. "We're very well trained, progressive and proactive. This gave us an opportunity to quantify that."
By way of comparison, Cobb County has a PPC of 3. Most of Gwinnett County is Class 4. Marietta has a PPC rating of 4, and Alpharetta has a Class 2 rating.
Milton Fire Chief Robert Edgar said the substantial jump in rating was due to a number of factors, including smarter allocation of resources and Milton's automatic aid agreement with neighboring Alpharetta.
For those previously under Fulton County's rating of 9, the savings are likely to be between 30 percent and 40 percent, said David Colmans, executive director of the nonprofit Georgia Insurance Information Service.
The owner of a $250,000 home would see standard rates for a year of coverage drop from $2,238 to $1,342 -- just over 40 percent, Colmans said.
"[That] improvement in fire rating class is rather unusual and speaks well of the Milton Fire Department's efforts," Colmans said.
The number puts Milton in the top 13 percent of cities in the state and top 17 percent nationally.
"This was a lot of work, and it feels great to have it pay off," said Edgar. "It really gives us our own Milton identity."
Milton's new rating from the ISO will become official May 1.