VERNON - Vernon's Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) recently received the lowest Insurance Service Office Rating (ISO) the community has seen in more than a decade.

The rating ranks fire protection districts based on factors such as availability of fire department resources, water systems in the area, and connectivity to emergency communication centers.

Because insurance companies typically use a community’s ISO rating as risk evaluation criteria when setting premiums, home and business owners in the VFD district could see some savings on their policies.

The VFD district rating decreased from seven to five on the ISO 1-10 scale, which ranks one as the lowest risk and ten as the highest.

Nationwide, only 241 departments boast a one rating.

Vernon Fire Chief Mike Owens says the newest rating is partly a result of improvements made to training classes, equipment, and fire hydrants, as well as Vernon's participation in the and of Washington County's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant.

The SAFER grant provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help increase or maintain the number of trained, "frontline" firefighters available in the community.

Washington County fire services has 15 firefighters certified through the SAFER grant, five of whom are assigned to VFD.

Owens says he proud of the job his department has done to earn the new rating.

"We have worked hard to improve the department for our community," said Owens. "Thanks to our community and my firefighters, we have become the department we are."

Vernon is one of two departments in Washington County along with Orange Hill VFD to have a rating of five.

Washington County Fire Coordinator Rick Kerr says other stations will soon be re-evaluated and will likely also experience a rating change.

"Reviews happen every three to four years," said Kerr. "Some of these stations have reviews in the near future. With improvements being made all the time, scores could very well change.