Planned training tower could help lower insurance rates, fire chief says

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 29, 2000

City officials plan to build a training tower, taking a step toward what the fire chief says might lower Vicksburg’s fire rating one level and moving property owners closer to lower insurance premiums.

The four-story concrete building will be a tool to train Vicksburg firefighters. “Each floor is a different level of training,” Chief Kevin Westbrook said.

The city has had a fire rating of 5 since 1965. Some insurance companies use the numbers as factors in setting premiums.

Westbrook said he hopes the tower will help the city reach a 4. The rating scale runs from 1 to 10, with one being the best.

The fire rating classification is one of many factors used in determining individual property insurance rates. Vicksburg has been in an aggressive posture, buying virtually all-new equipment and building or expanding stations over the past seven years.

The tower, which Westbrook said he hopes will be completed in the next two to three months will be built next to Station No. 9 in Kings.

Training uses for the building will include dragging hoses, rappelling off the building and climbing ladders.

“This will allow us to train people before they go to the State Fire Academy,” he said.

The tower is a step the city must take before the Mississippi State Rating Bureau will consider changing the city’s rating.

One step the city already took, is the completion of Memorial Firehouse Station No. 2 on Indiana Ave., the city’s seventh firehouse. The state had long suggested a station in the eastern part of the city to serve areas annexed in 1990.

“We took that step and now we need to take this one,” Westbrook said.

The city has already taken some of the steps needed to lower the rating, including, adding more firefighters, maintaining records on hose tests and annual service tests on all pumpers. The department now has 117 firefighters.

Westbrook said the 4 rating would lower insurance for industry and not residential customers, but would still benefit the city.

“We would need to get to a 3 rating for residentials to see a drop in their insurance,” he said. “Attracting industry here will bring families and that will help the economy, so really it helps everyone.”

Westbrook said the blueprints for the tower are being drawn up now and the project could be brought in for $20,000.

“I really feel that once we do this we can get the lower rating,” he said.