Insurance commissioner talks fire ratings

By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi used to have the highest per capita fire death rate in the nation, but recent efforts have begun to improve that standing, the state’s insurance commissioner says.
Mike Chaney, who as insurance commissioner is also state fire marshal, told the Tupelo Luncheon Civitan Club on Thursday that the state developed a plan to improve the fire death rate “and now we are something like number 41.”
Chaney said the state did this by applying for and receiving grants for programs, including purchasing fire alarms, while increasing the number of volunteer fire departments by five times.
“We now have at least five in almost every county, except three of them that have three,” Chaney said. “It has been one of the great pleasures of the job.”
As insurance commissioner, he has also helped establish laws to regulate what insurance companies can do. One example involves a device he called a locator, which can hurt residents who may not benefit fully from Tupelo’s new, improved Class 4 fire rating.
“Companies have come up with a new device that is about as big as a cell phone,” Chaney said. “You punch a button and it gives you a GPS location. Companies will say, ‘you are not in a Class 4, this isn’t the city, it is a Class 8.'”
Chaney said if you go from a Class 5 to a Class 7, the insurance rate doubles. With the law, companies aren’t able to use the locator to raise rates by more than 1, and the insurance rate increase can be no more than 15 percent.
“My job is to protect the consumer from undue rate increases,” Chaney said.
Chaney also spoke about his other duties, including managing the fire marshal’s office, an arson unit, burial and other forms of insurance.
Chaney, a Vicksburg resident who is originally from Tupelo, is running for re-election to a second term. He has no opposition in the Aug. 2 Republican primary and faces Democrat Louis Fondren in the Nov. 2 general election.
Contact Cain Madden at (662) 678-1582 or cain.madden@journalinc.com.