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A fire department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) score holds a lot of weight. ISO scores started out as indicators of how much people in the department’s jurisdiction would have to pay for fire insurance, but they have come to serve as benchmarks to show how effectively a fire department is serving the people in its area.

ISO reviews score departments on factors like equipment, emergency response, training, water supplies and more, so boosting a department’s ISO score takes a lot of work. But it’s not impossible, and often, building and communicating effective policies and procedures is the best place to start. Here are a few ways to link firefighter policy to performance, keep up with ISO standards and make sure your department is functioning as effectively as possible:

Regularly update policies and procedures

Ten percent of a department’s ISO score comes from emergency communications—including the reporting system, response times and how the communication center notifies firefighters about the location of an incident. But even the most advanced technology won’t improve response times if firefighters don’t follow the proper procedures when they get the call.

Cutting down response times starts with having effective policies in place, both for the dispatchers and the suppression personnel. Consistently updating policies ensures that policies keep up with advances in technology and changing city layouts. And sending out the latest version to every staff member helps them know what is expected of them.

A policy management system like PowerDMS can help administrators securely collaborate on policies, send the most up-to-date versions out to the staff, track which staff members have signed off, and control who can access the documents so firefighters can easily review policies. Getting everyone on the same page can make the department run more smoothly, decrease firefighter liability and boost the department’s ISO score.

Link training with document management

ISO standards require departments to conduct hundreds of hours of training per person each year. With different requirements for each individual and changing shifts, it can get tricky to keep track of who has completed which training.

Instead of having to pay overtime or eating into valuable shift time sitting in a classroom, fire departments can create customized training courses for employees to complete at their own pace. A good document management software will also let the command staff create quizzes to test comprehension and retention, and automatically record the hours completed by each firefighter, simplifying the ISO review process.

Keep reports in one secure location

Good record keeping is essential for improving a department’s ISO score. Fire departments must document replacement schedules and maintenance reports for equipment, response times for emergencies, pre-planning inspections and much more. A document management system can help departments securely organize files, create reminders for equipment testing and fire hydrant inspection and create a report showing that all personnel has completed the required training.