Claremore Daily Progress

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June 17, 2010

City’s ISO rating improves

Upgraded classification reflects higher protection, safety for residents

CLAREMORE — Sometimes in life, less can be more.

Such is the case when it comes to a fire department’s ISO rating, and Claremore Fire Department recently got good “less is more” news with the changing of its ISO rating from a 4 to a 3.

“This is very good news for us — we’re very pleased, but I can’t say we’re surprised, because the department has been making strides towards improved fire protection over the past few years,” said Matt Wilson, Claremore Fire Department interim deputy chief and training officer. “In the last couple of years, the department has bought a new pumper to allow us to have one in reserve, as well as a tower or ladder truck with more capabilities, and some other new equipment which has only helped us improve what we were already doing in terms of fire protection efficiency. The (improved) ISO rating is only a reflection of what we’ve been doing for years now.”

ISO (formerly Insurance Services Office) ratings assign numeric designations to fire departments which mirror their effectiveness in the communities they service, ranging from a 10 (the worst rating) to a 1 (the best).

As the ISO ratings within the city have gone from a 4 to a 3, a similar upgrade has been made for areas outside the city but which are covered by the Claremore Fire Department, from an 8 to a 3, indicating a dramatically improved indicator of fire protection.

Not only does an improve ISO rating give a city’s residents increased assurance that they are well-protected in the event of a fire, but it can also save them money on their homeowner’s insurance — another “less is more.”

“ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program (PPC) plays an important role in the underwriting process of insurance companies,” said Cassie Woods, public relations spokesperson, City of Claremore. “In fact, most U.S. insurers, including the largest ones, use PPC information as part of their decision-making when deciding on what business to write.

“Each (insurance) company independently determines the premiums it charges policy holders,” she continued. “The way an insurer uses ISO’s information on (public) fire protection can depend on several things, so it’s a good idea for people to contact their insurers to inform them of this (ISO rating) change as a possible way to save them money on their insurance.”

“The (ISO) improvement is great for those our department serves in terms of safety — it means we’re improving our equipment, infrastructure and training, which drastically improves our chances of saving lives and property in the event of a house fire,” said Tim Miller, interim city manager, City of Claremore.

To quantify a city’s fire department’s ISO rating, the Chicago-based company grades fire departments based on a variety of factors that contribute to its fire-fighting capabilities, designating a numeric grading system to areas that include fire alarms, engine companies, and water supply.

Ten percent of the overall grading is based on how well the fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its fire-fighting resources. Field representatives evaluate the communications center, looking at the number of operators at the center; the telephone service, including the number of telephone lines coming into the center, and the listing of emergency numbers in the telephone book. Field representatives also look at the dispatch circuits and how the center notifies firefighters about the location of the emergency.

Fifty percent of the overall grading is based on the number of engine companies and the amount of water a community needs to fight a fire. ISO reviews the distribution of fire companies throughout the area and checks that the fire department tests its pumps regularly and inventories each engine company’s nozzles, hoses, breathing apparatus, and other equipment.

ISO also reviews the fire-company records to determine the type and extent of training provided to fire-company personnel, number of people who participate in training, firefighter response to emergencies, and maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment.

Forty percent of the grading is based on the community’s water supply. This part of the survey focuses on whether the community has sufficient water supply for fire suppression beyond daily maximum consumption. ISO surveys all components of the water supply system, including pumps, storage, and filtration. To determine the rate of flow the water mains provide, we observe fire-flow tests at representative locations in the community.

Lastly, ISO representatives evaluate the distribution of fire hydrants.

“In addition to the safety benefits, this has the potential for financial benefits as well with the reduction of homeowners insurance premiums,” Miller said,. “Since our entire run area has been improved to a 3 ISO rating, this is a great thing for citizens living inside Claremore City limits, but it’s even better for homeowners who live outside of city limits but still fall in the Claremore Fire Department’s run area.  

“Where city limits ISO rating improved from a 4 to a 3, the rest of our run area went from an 8 to a 3,” he said. “Homeowners there should definitely see a decrease in their insurance costs.”

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