Philadelphia’s fire insurance rating is now lower than any other surrounding city of comparable size, meaning a savings of seven to eleven percent on insurance premiums.

The drop from Class 6 to Class 5 is the first in 30 years. The last improvement was in September 1988 when the ranking improved from Class 7.

For comparison, Meridian is a Class 4, Jackson Class 3, Ridgeland Class 5, Madison Class 6, Natchez Class 5 and Biloxi Class 3.

Philadelphia’s lower ranking should bode well for economic development. It will cost a lot less to insure the Walmart and any other multi-million-dollar investment in town.

Surrounding departments don’t perform as well.  Louisville, Kosciusko, Forest and Union are all Class 7. Carthage is a Class 6. But, Choctaw is Class 5.

Fire insurance premiums dropping by seven to 11 percent is good news for homeowners in the city of Philadelphia as well.

What the ratings boil down to are manpower, equipment, availability of water, communications and training.

“They also look at training from the lowest ranking person to the chief,” said Fire Chief Pierce Clark. “Water supply is a big portion of it as well as communications.  They look at the time a 911 call is made until the units are back in service after completing the call.”

How many firefighters are on a truck matter, for example.

“They do a complete inventory of all the fire apparatus, from the ladder truck down to the engines and rescue companies,” Clark said.

The fire department now maintains mostly three-man engine company trucks, which has not always been the case.

Three firefighters on an engine are deemed necessary since two would ordinarily go in to fight a blaze with another firefighter at the truck.

Neshoba County is fortunate to have a network of volunteer fire departments. Arlington, County Line, Dixon, Fairview, Hope, House, Linwood, North Bend and Tucker rank lowest at Class 8. East Neshoba is a Class 9 and Longino and Stallo follow with a Class 10 rating.

“We get credit for it but it was actually with Philadelphia Utilities and with the dispatch center, which is the best in the state,” Chief Clark said. “It is unreal to think that a small town like this has these assets. It’s unbelievable.”

Going to Class 4 is going to take a larger budget and nine to 12 additional personnel and require a full-time training officer and a full-time inspector, among other things.

Still, much applause for the PFD and all those responsible for attaining Class 5.