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The Semora Fire Department – and the people who live in that district – got some good news from the state of North Carolina Monday.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey recognized the Semora VFD along with all nine other Caswell fire departments for improving their insurance ratings.
The new ratings mean property owners within five miles of one of the Semora fire stations will see a reduction in the cost of property insurance.
Semora VFD’s fire district crosses the county line. Roughly 40 percent of the company’s district lies within Person County. Those residents who live within the distance limit will also see reductions in the cost of their property insurance.
Semora Fire Chief Bobby Dodson said the new ratings – from a 9 to a 4/9E – are the result of fire departments learning to work together.
“Hurdle Mills and Ceffo helped us earn this as much as anybody,” Dodson said. State rules require, among other things, that neighboring fire departments practice together at least four times per year to gain improved insurance ratings.
For Semora, that meant setting up firefighting practice sessions with Leasburg and Milton in Caswell County as well as Hurdle Mills and Ceffo in Person.
Dodson said the effort to improve the insurance ratings would have been a win for the members of his department even if the insurance ratings had not changed. “We learned so much about the value of working together,” Dodson said. “When you do that, you get to know your neighbor a little bit better and that helps when we get ready to fight a fire together.”
The achievements in Caswell County are sure to draw the attention of Person County residents. After county commissioners raised the tax rate by a penny last year to help increase funding for Person County’s fire departments, commissioners said they expected to see improvements in the local departments.
Improving a fire district’s insurance rating is the most tangible way departments can show improvement.
At a ceremony Monday in Yanceyville, Causey, the insurance commissioner, said the accomplishment in Caswell were notable. “It’s not often we see an entire county increase it’s insurance rating like this,” Causey said. “This is really important because it has such a direct impact on what people pay for their insurance.”
The new ratings take effect on April 1. The savings for insurance customers will vary from provider to provider.
Dodson says the inspection process his fire department went through not only helped improve the insurance rating, it also provided a road map for things the department can continue to improve.
“You know, we’re never going to be able to do all the things it would take to be a one,” Dodson said. “That’s just not practical in a volunteer setting. But it’s good to be able to look at this and start working on what we can do better.”
Dodson says there’s a lesson for Person County chiefs in what the Caswell County departments accomplished.
“You really are going to have to work together to accomplish something like this. When I first looked at these requirements three years ago, I had that deer-in-the-headlights look. It was like eating an elephant,” Dodson said. But that didn’t stop Dodson and the rest of the Semora VFD members from trying to improve. “You know how you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We simply had to take different parts of this and give it to different people and expect them to do what needed to be done.”
Already some Person County fire departments are taking notice. Dodson said he met Tuesday morning with Ceffo Fire Chief Blake Whitt to explain how Semora achieved the lower rate.