The cost of homeowners insurance is largely determined by the risks your home is exposed to, including its likelihood of catching fire and the reliability of your local fire department to put it out.
To help insurance companies gauge this risk, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) gives ratings to every community based on the dependability of their fire departments and water supply. The lower your community’s ISO fire rating, the cheaper your home insurance premiums will be.
What is an ISO fire rating?
ISO fire ratings are scores given to individual communities that are based on how equipped the area is to respond to fire emergencies. The two biggest factors the ISO takes into consideration are the reliability of your area’s fire department and the local water supply.
How are ISO fire ratings determined?
Each community’s ISO fire rating is determined by looking at the four key components that play a role in your town’s ability to both prevent and respond to fire emergencies:
ISO fire rating component
What it means
Fire department (50%)
Measures the quality of your local fire departments, including their equipment, pump capacity, engine companies, ladder companies, training, and personnel.
Water supply (40%)
Looks at the average size, type, and installation of fire hydrants in your area, plus the quality and frequency of hydrant inspections and testing.
Emergency communications systems (10%)
Measures the quality of your community emergency response (911) systems.
Community risk reduction (5.5%)
To win bonus points, the ISO looks at anything extra your community is doing to combat fires, including fire safety education, prevention, and investigation programs.
After evaluating these four categories, the ISO totals the points and assigns a classification score between 1 and 10 — with Class 1 being the best and Class 10 being the worst.
Most communities aim for an ISO fire rating between Class 1 and Class 3. Here’s how the different ratings and points break down:
ISO fire rating
80 to 89.99
70 to 79.99
60 to 69.99
50 to 59.99
40 to 49.99
30 to 39.99
20 to 29.99
10 to 19.99
Less than 10
How ISO fire ratings affect homeowners insurance rates
ISO fire ratings can provide communities with invaluable feedback about their fire protection services. And they also give communities incentives for having good fire departments — like lower home insurance costs. The cost of coverage in a community with a good ISO fire rating is generally lower than in a community with a bad ISO fire rating.
Just keep in mind your ISO fire rating is only one of several factors your insurance company considers when deciding whether to cover you and determining your rates. Others include:
Your home’s proximity to brushfire areas
The area surrounding your home and whether or not it’s clear of dry foliage
Your home’s proximity to fire hydrants
Whether your home is heated by gas or electricity
Protective devices like fire sprinklers and centralized fire alarms
Other non-fire-related factors insurance companies look at when calculating your rates include whether you’re located in areas at high risk for:
Crime or vandalism
How do I find my home’s ISO fire rating?
Your home doesn’t have its own individual ISO fire rating — your community does. And unfortunately, the Insurance Services Office isn’t required to release these ratings to the public.
If your fire department has a decent ISO fire rating, it’s likely your local government will announce this to the public as a PR win. But otherwise, you’ll need to ask your local fire department. Just keep in mind they’re not required by law to tell you the rating — so they may or may not release this information.
Don’t have any luck? Do your own research by looking at the National Park Service’s interactive wildfire history timeline or the National Interagency Coordination Center’s wildland fire potential outlook. While these tools won’t tell you your area’s specific ISO rating, they can help give you an idea of how at risk your community is of wildfires.