2015 February

Basalt Fire Department improves critical rating

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By Scott Condon, Aspen Times


The Basalt Fire Department learned recently that it has improved its firefighting rating from the Insurance Services Office, based on factors such as staffing, training for volunteers, equipment, water supplies and preparation.

The department improved from an Insurance Services Office rating of Class 5 to Class 4 for parts of the sprawling district that are within 5 road miles of its stations in Basalt, El Jebel and Old Snowmass. That covers the heaviest-populated parts of the district. The Thomasville area rating of Class 9 remained unchanged.

The rating applies to structure fires only. The local fire departments also train for wildland fires.

“Everybody should talk to their insurance company because this takes effect March 1,” Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said.

The Insurance Services Office performs periodic assessments of fire departments using countrywide, objective standards on fire protection. It is a for-profit company that provides its fire-protection information to property-casualty providers.

“For commercial properties, this is going to be a big deal.”Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson

Insurance Services Office officials weren’t available to discuss if the Basalt Fire Department’s improved rating could alter individual property owners’ insurance premiums. Thompson said his research indicates the potential for savings is there.

“For commercial properties, this is going to be a big deal,” he said. “For residential, it’s a minuscule difference.”

Thompson advised property owners to consult with their insurance agents on what, if anything, the rating means to them.

Basalt Fire Department improved its rating from 54.68 in the last assessment in 2001 to 63.57 this year. Operations and prevention improved by nearly 6 points. Water systems improved by 3 points. Community risk reduction improved by nearly 4 points.

Thompson said an overall rating of Class 4 is superb for a department that relies heavily on volunteers. Of 49,010 fire departments that were rated by the insurance office, only 17 percent have a rating of Class 4 or better. Another 40,574 are rated Class 5 to 10.

Basalt Fire Department has two paid firefighters and medics per shift through the week at its station in El Jebel. It also has 46 volunteers after adding 15 in the past two years, Thompson said. The strong Insurance Services Office rating reflects the paid staffing and training for the volunteers, according to Thompson.


Driving Home the Message on Distracted Driving by Central Insurance

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Distracted_300CMYKWhile driving to work this morning, I am sure you witnessed more than one distracted driver looking down at their smartphone, applying makeup, or wolfing down breakfast instead of keeping their eyes on the road. This dangerous activity has become commonplace and has reached epidemic levels. Due to the influx in distracted driving, April has been officially named “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

According to www.distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or toying with other electronic devices while driving. Despite the increase in awareness campaigns nationwide, this number has held steady since 2010. While the number of distracted driving-related crashes appears to have come down a bit from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012 (the most up-to-date information provided), it appears that the number of people driving distracted has not decreased during this time.

So what is “distracted driving” you ask? According to the aforementioned website, “distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Some prime examples include texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, discussions with passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, and adjusting a radio/CD player/MP3 player.

Distraction.gov states that:

  • 25 percent of teens respond to at least one text message every time they get behind the wheel
  • 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of adults admit to having multi-message text correspondence while driving
  • 10 percent of all fatal crashes involving drivers under the age of 20 are a result of distracted driving. This is the largest proportion of distracted drivers among all age groups.

As if that were not bad enough, drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. Considering the amount of information available regarding the dangers of distracted driving, these figures are startling.

When texting, a driver’s eyes are off the road for an estimated 5.5 seconds. If they are traveling at 55 mph, then they have just driven the length of a football field without looking at what’s in front of them. When viewing driving while texting in this light it illustrates just how dangerous this activity can be. A lot can happen in that stretch of time, and if drivers are not looking at the road it could end with disastrous results. If you combine this illustration with the percentage of people texting multiple times during the course of a drive, the amount of road being driven “blindly” by distracted drivers is enough to make you never get behind the wheel again.

There is a large push by the government to curb this issue, and as a result there have been a series of graphic ads showcasing the dangers of distracted driving. These ads pull no punches, and with figures like those listed above, the time for sugar-coating the problem appears to be over.

I strongly suggest taking a look at these ads to get a better idea of the dangers of distracted driving. The next time someone feels the urge to pull out their cell phone to text a friend, scroll through their iPod for that perfect song, or take that last sip of their Big Gulp while behind the wheel, perhaps this information will make them think twice.

What precautions do you take to prevent distracted driving?

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Awaiting Information from Anthem Regarding Attack

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Be Aware of Phishing Emails

Unfortunately, at a time when we are all awaiting for information from Anthem regarding the sophisticated cyber breach, devious professional hackers have started sending out emails purporting to be Anthem and branded with the Anthem logo.

These scams, designed to capture personal information (known as “phishing”) are designed to appear as if they are from Anthem and the emails include a “click here” link for credit monitoring. These emails are NOT from Anthem.

These phishing emails ask recipients to provide personal information (social security number, banking information) under the guise of monitoring for identity theft.


  • DO NOT click on any links in email.
  • DO NOT reply to the email or reach out to the senders in any way.
  • DO NOT supply any information on the website that may open, if you have clicked on a link in email.
  • DO NOT open any attachments that arrive with email.

Anthem is NOT calling members regarding the cyber attack and is NOT asking for credit card information or social security numbers over the phone.


This outreach is from scam artists who are trying to trick consumers into sharing personal data. There is no indication that the scam email campaigns are being conducted by those that committed the cyber attack, or that the information accessed in the attack is being used by the scammers.

Anthem will be contacting current and former affected members via mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service about the cyber attack with specific information on how to enroll in credit monitoring. Affected members will receive free credit monitoring and ID protection services.
For more information, check www.AnthemFacts.com frequently.



Consider Filing Your Tax Returns Sooner Rather Than Later

One of the major concerns that can come from this type of data breach is that professional hackers may have information to file false tax returns for impacted individuals and reroute the refunds to their bank accounts.  One way to prevent this and protect yourself further is to file your tax return before the hackers can.

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