White Hall officials are celebrating a drop in their fire rating, which will benefit both homeowners and commercial businesses through reduced insurance rates. White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said the city’s rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) dropped from a five to a three during a recent inspection.

By comparison, the ISO rating for Pine Bluff, which has a fully-paid fire department, is a two. The White Hall Fire Department is a volunteer department.

“Every homeowners’ insurance should go down, and insurance rates for large commercial customers should go down as well,” Foster said. “When businesses talk about coming here, one of the things they ask is about the ISO rating.”

Assistant White Hall Fire Chief Eddie Parsley said that the last time the city was rated by ISO was in 2002.

“The way the ratings were done then have changed, so there were a lot of things we had to do differently from the way they were done back then,” he said.

Parsley said one of the things inspectors look at is the dispatching system, which is handled by MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications System).

“They do a great job, and that really helped up with points,” he said.

According to Foster, the White Hall City Council invested in the department by approving additional equipment and the construction of a second station on Hospitality Drive, which cost $400,000.

“That second station really helped because one of the things they judge you on is the distance you have to travel in miles to reach a fire, and the second station cut down that distance,” Parsley said.

Other factors that were considered included training records, business inspections and pre-fire plans, as well as submitting incident reports to the proper authorities.

An improved water system was also credited with a reduction in the rating, Parsley said.

“The chief and the command staff really did a good job of getting everything ready for this inspection,” Foster said. “It took the whole department working together to make it happen.”

Parsley said the department currently has nine trucks, including three pumpers and two ladder trucks, spread between the two stations.

“We have 25 members of the department and everybody pitched in,” said Parsley, who is retired from the Pine Bluff Fire Department. “We spent thousands of hours getting ready for this inspection.”

According to Parsley, the new rating becomes effective April 1, and insurance rates should see a decline after that.

“We’re very proud of what our volunteer department was able to accomplish,” Foster said. “We’ve got a great department, and we’re excited for them and for the city.”