To determine ISO rating for fire departments, the organization conducts a field survey and scores your department across four key areas using the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS).
These areas include Emergency Communication Systems (10 points); Fire Departments, covering personnel, capabilities, training, equipment, etc. (50 points); Water Supply (40 points); and Community Risk Reduction (extra credit of up to 5.5 points).
It uses a 100-point scale (with the potential of 105.5 with the Community Risk Reduction extra credit), and the more points you score, the better your ISO fire rating.
Rest assured, not all of this responsibility falls on the fire department even though, ultimately, it’s your station that gets assigned the score. But, understand that this is a community ranking. Therefore, the community might need to step up and get involved in many aspects of this PPC process.
A good ISO fire rating brings value to your community, so it makes sense to try to improve your score.
Lower insurance premiums
While it’s a common perception that homeowner’s insurance premiums are directly tied to the ISO fire rating, this isn’t necessarily true. Many insurers do provide discounts for lower PPC scores, but their rating structure is complex and constantly changing. And in some states, the score is not even a factor at all.
So, it’s good for you to understand how the ISO fire rating works in your community before assuming this is completely true in your circumstance.
As the parent company of ISO, Verisk estimates insurers representing 75% of the residential and commercial market access PPC information when determining their prices. In many states, according to Verisk, the better the ISO score the lower the homeowner insurance premiums. But exactly how much weight is placed on the score is unclear.
Badge of honor
Ultimately, a lower score reflects well on a fire department. Like accreditation, a good ISO fire rating demonstrates a commitment to excellence as verified by a third-party reviewal.
Plus, it really is an honor to be able to claim an ISO Fire Protection Class 1 rating. You all work hard as a team, so to come out on top with a high ISO score is something you want to shout from the top of your fire truck.
This coveted ISO rating clearly demonstrates that you are doing what you need to be doing to help protect your community. Why keep it a secret?
Review against best practices
Unlike fire department accreditation, which is handled through the nonprofit Commission on Fire Accreditation International, the ISO rating is assigned by a for-profit company.
Nevertheless, the results are tangible and valuable, regardless of the source. Why? The ISO is still compiling industry best practices and giving your department a review of how you are doing compared to those independent standards.
Even though this is a community score, your department can take the reins in some areas to help improve your ISO fire rating.
Community water supply
While this isn’t totally on the fire department, you will need to advocate to your city or county’s leaders in order to make community water supply a priority.
Water supply is the single biggest contributor to lower scores. So, if you want to improve your ISO score and you have an inadequate water supply, your fire department needs to get the issue onto the radar of city officials.
Having said that, you will need a better reason for that infrastructure project other than wanting to improve the ISO score. You can help community leaders put the request into context if you can tie your reason to a specific problem in the community.
For example, if the problem is X, and an adequate water supply will help you reduce X by a certain amount each year or month or week, that is an easier sell. Do some research and arm yourself with statistics to show how the community would benefit from improving the water supply.