Improved ISO Ratings Benefit the Community Economically

Douglas County Fire District No.2 (DCFD2) recently received news about ISO Public Protection Class ratings, and they are looking better than ever before for the fire district.
After the latest review in November 2011, DCFD2 received an improved split ISO Public Protection Class 4/7 rating (the prior rating awarded in 2001 was 4/8B). Following that review district staff felt that the improved rating did not reflect with accuracy the improvements in fire protection infrastructure like fire hydrants, and emergency response capabilities, that the district had acquired since 2001. Therefore, a request for re-grading was filed with the Insurance Services Office (ISO). District staff met on several occasions with the ISO’s Pacific Northwest representative based in Portland, and provided evidentiary documentation about the district capabilities referenced above. ISO notified the district of its final decision in the matter based on the new grading standards, and awarded the new ratings that will be effective July 01, 2014:

• Class 3 – Applies to all structures within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.
• Class 5 – Applies to all structures more than 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant, but within 7 road miles of a DCFD2 fire station.
• Class 10 – (the highest classification, and the one that generates the highest fire insurance premiums) applies currently to all properties beyond 7 road miles of a fire station.

The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is an independent entity and its Public Protection Classification (PPC) service rates fire districts throughout the U.S. gauging their fire protection capability to respond to structure fires in the communities they serve. ISO rates fire districts in three categories and assigns points. Ten percent of the score is based on how well alarms are received and dispatched by the County 911 Center. Fifty percent of the score is based on a fire district’s station distribution, personnel, equipment, training, and fire code building inspections. Forty percent of the overall score focuses on water delivery. At the end of the rating process ISO assigns a PPC from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents the best public protection, and class 10 indicates no recognized fire protection.

DCFD2 Fire Chief Greg Marlar shares the importance of this latest ISO rating “The achievement of this latest rating is a significant accomplishment for DCFD2, and reflects years of diligent efforts to improve the fire protection we provide to our residents” “An ISO Class 3 rating is a very good rating especially for a fire district that has both paid and volunteer staff. Conversely, most fire districts receive a Class 8 or 9 for homes within 7 road miles of a fire station because of extended response times and lack of water supply. We were able to demonstrate to ISO how we could maintain the required water flow through a water tender shuttle and they lowered our rating from a 7 to a 5 because of that.”
According to ISO there are only 41 fire departments with a class 3 rating, and 158 with a class 5 rating in Oregon. Country wide there are only 2,410 fire departments with a class 3 rating, and 8,722 with a class 5 rating.

Chief Marlar explains “The ISO rating becomes significant when homeowners or business owners request insurance coverage, or when changes to existing policies occur.”
Whether we like it or not, paying for insurance is a fact of life. Homeowner and business insurance companies use many factors when determining the cost of insurance premiums. One major factor is the level of fire protection available to a community. Most insurance carriers rely on the information provided by ISO to determine the quality of fire protection available to a community when establishing insurance rates.

“Improving our ISO Class ratings is an ongoing goal for DCFD2” says Chief Marlar. “The community protected by the district is constantly growing, and the demand for fire and other emergency and non-emergency services is increasing. In recent years the District has upgraded its fleet, relocated a fire station, and implemented a series of measures to contain costs, while continuing to meet the needs of the community. Chief Marlar further states “We want to provide a consistent, high level of service for our taxpayers in the community and the PPC rating lets us know what the district needs are to do just that.”

Chief Marlar encourages DCFD2 taxpayers to contact their insurance agents as they might have the opportunity to reduce their insurance rates with the newly established (lower) ISO ratings. DCFD2 recognizes the importance of those changes and improvements within its service area and is planning to make home and business owners aware of them. It is also planning to send out a letter to all insurance carriers in the area outlining the new ISO ratings for the district. Property owners that reside within DCFD2 service area boundaries but are not district taxpayers will have an ISO Public Protection Classification of 10 due to the fact that they do not have fire protection.

“We have worked hard at improving DCFD2 and the services it provides,” said Chief Marlar. “Those improvements have made us a more efficient fire agency; therefore we have been able to lower our previous ISO ratings to possibly achieve lower insurance rates for our taxpayers.”