Businesses and homeowners in the city could see a 2 percent reduction in their property insurance because of news announced on Monday.
The Gulfport Fire Department has been named first in the state to receive a Class 2 rating since the Mississippi State Rating Bureau was formed in 1924.
“This is a big deal. A really big deal,” State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said in a press conference on the steps of City Hall.
“The rate reductions will be variable depending on your particular insurance company,” Chaney told the Sun Herald.
For example, a homeowner can receive a 50 percent reduction in insurance costs if a city’s fire rating increases from an 8 to a 5, Chaney said. It’s an additional 20 percent discount if the fire rating increases from 4 to 3, which is what Gulfport had before the new rating.
The Class 2 rating places the fire department in the top 2 percent nationwide.
Mayor Billy Hewes and Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt commended every member of the fire department for their efforts to increase the rating, improve public safety and lure commercial developers.
Insurance companies use fire ratings to set their premiums.
"This is an economic development enhancement for the city as many larger corporations demand certain fire protection ratings before they will consider locating to a community," Hewes said.
"Everywhere (in the state), a 3 is as good as it gets," Hewes told the city council later Monday.
Reduced rates will have a larger benefit on commercial developers and multi-family businesses, but homeowners also can benefit, officials said.
"I can't give you a yard stick and measure what the reduced insurance rates will be, because there are many variables insurance companies consider, such as building size, the type of construction and fire safety precautions — such as sprinklers," Beyerstedt said.
The rating bureau considers all aspects of fire department operations, water supply, emergency communications through dispatchers, fire prevention codes and public safety education programs.
The city's emergency dispatchers handled 13,000 calls for fire service last year, Beyerstedt said.
"We are able to handle more complex fires than other cities," he said.
Officials said the fire department's "morale is great" after hearing of the rating, effective June 18.
"I want to thank every firefighter and every employee of the Gulfport Fire Department for the roles they played in getting this fire classification," Beyerstedt said. "It's the product of a lot of hard work."
Hewes said the public protection classification applies to all buildings that need a fire flow of 3,500 gallons per minute or less, are located in the city limits, are within five road miles of the nearest fire station and within 1,000 feet of a public fire hydrant.
Attaining the higher rating involved help from the public works and engineering departments, fire dispatch center, geographical information systems and Utility Partners, which handles the city's water system, Beyerstedt said.
"This Class 2 rating is a further example of the efforts toward excellence by all our departments who seek the highest level of service and response for our residents," Hewes said.
The city's administration and fire department have been working to earn a Class 2 rating for three years, he said.