How the Quality of the Local Fire Department Impacts Your Insurance

Written by Jeffrey Steele on December 5, 2011 & Posted in Home Insurance

You've long known your community's fire department can help prevent your home from burning down. But did you know the quality of your fire department can impact your insurance premium costs?

The International Standards Organization (ISO) provides fire department ratings, called Public Protection Classifications, for more than 45,000 fire districts nationwide. The ISO assigns specific number grades to each department, says Pete Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California.

The Public Protection Classification helps insurance companies measure and evaluate the major elements of a community's fire suppression system, says Joseph Masington, ISO's assistant vice president of risk decision services.

A full 50 percent of the rating focuses on the fire department and such aspects as adequacy of equipment, training and sufficiency of staffing.

Another 40 percent of the rating focuses on the water supply, including the condition and maintenance of hydrants, existence of alternative sources, and evaluation of volume and pressure of available water.

Finally, 10 percent of the rating reflects the community's emergency communications capabilities, including 911 telephone systems, adequacy of telephone lines, and dispatching hardware and software.

Once this information is evaluated, each fire district given an "advisory number" from 1 and 10, Masington says. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection, while Class 10 indicates ISO's minimum criteria haven't been met.

ISO ratings are important to the insurance industry, but their impact varies from insurer to insurer, Moraga says.

At Allstate, quality of fire protection, including distance to the fire department, is one factor used when calculating risk to an insured property.

Allstate also considers factors such as construction type, age of home, roof type, whether it's a primary or secondary home, presence of extinguishers and smoke detectors, and previous claim history, says Allstate spokesperson Stephanie Sheppard.

You can determine PPC classifications for your community by contacting local fire officials or your insurance company, Masington says. If you feel your insurance carrier is overstating your risk, talk to a company supervisor. Be specific about where you feel the carrier has gone wrong.

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