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Berkeley Co. Fire charging insurance companies for emergency responses

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) – A new ordinance approved in Berkeley County will allow fire departments to implement and charge mitigation rates to insurance companies.

This means if you get in a car crash or your house burns down, your insurance company could be charged hundreds of additional dollars.

Berkeley County Government says the ordinance was added due to the increasing volume of responses by fire departments and hazardous material teams, with the new charges covering any supplies used in responding to emergency calls.

Goose Creek Rural Fire Department Chief, Robert Maibach, says the department has gone from responding to 10,000 to 15,000 emergency responses countywide 10 years ago to now responding to 30,000.

“I think it’s important to note, especially in motor vehicle accidents, a lot of the folks that are involved in the accidents aren’t from Berkeley County,” he adds. “Those expenses, without this supplement, the folks at Berkeley County are absorbing that full cost.”

In the ordinance, the county recognizes that additional funding is needed for fire departments where the costs are not taken on exclusively by residents.

Some charges include a level one motor vehicle crash costing your insurance company $487, which is the most common billing level and occurs every time a fire department responds to an accident.

Another example in the ordinance is if the fire chief responds to an accident, an insurance company will be billed $280 per hour.

Maibach says the money collected in insurance premiums should cover these costs, and many insurance companies will put a cap on how much they pay out to fire departments.

“There is a fee structure that the vendor establishes and sets for us that’s included in the ordinance, but if what the insurance company pays out doesn’t cover that, there’s no additional burden to the taxpayers,” he says.

Some departments in the county were already implementing mitigation rates, but Maibach says the ordinance will give other fire departments who were not participating in the recovery program, to receive more relief.

“This ordinance sort of gives us a little bit of structure a little bit of a little bit more of support when we seek to be reimbursed for expenses.

Multiple insurance agents in the area said the ordinance will affect people and policies on a case-by-case basis, or depending on your specific policy.

“This is a small fraction of what fire departments utilize to operate day to day,” Maibach says.

Nearby counties were asked if they have a similar ordinance in place, and Charleston County says they do not.

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