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An ISO fire rating is an indication of your local fire department’s ability to put out fires, and it may impact your homeowners insurance premiums.
Published June 22, 2020
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The cost of homeowners insurance is largely determined by the risks your home is exposed to, including its susceptibility to fire and the reliability of the fire department in your area. Most insurance companies measure the dependability of fire departments by looking up their Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire rating, also known as a Public Protection Classification (PPC).
Your fire department’s ISO rating could impact how much you pay for homeowners insurance, but this will vary by insurance company and your home’s location. If you live in a high fire risk area in the suburbs, your insurance company may emphasize your fire department’s ISO rating when setting your premiums.
The Insurance Services Office (ISO) creates ratings for over 50,000 fire departments across the country
The ISO fire score is a number between 1 and 10, with 1 being the highest score and 10 being the lowest
If your fire department has a good ISO score, it could lower your community’s home insurance rates
A New Jersey-based statistical and actuarial company called the Insurance Services Office provides frequent fire department ratings for more than 50,000 communities around the country through their ISO Public Protection Classification Program.
The rating is based on the program’s Fire Suppression Schedule (FSRS), which is the criteria the company measures to generate a score for each locality. The score indicates how good or bad a fire department is at suppressing fires. The FSRS evaluates four primary categories of fire suppression:
Emergency communications - The quality of your community’s emergency response systems (911) accounts for 10 points of the total classification
Fire department - The quality of your local fire department, including their equipment, pump capacity, engine companies, ladder companies, training, and personnel, accounts for 50 points of the total classification
Water supply - Your community's water supply system accounts for 40 points of the total classification. The FSRS considers hydrant size, type, and installation, as well as the quality and frequency of hydrant inspections and testing
Community risk reduction - Your community’s ability to prevent fires, enforce codes, and implement fire safety educational accounts for 5.5 points of the total classification
After evaluating these four categories, ISO then evaluates the data, totals the points, and assigns a score between 1 and 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Scoring 90 or more earns a Class 1 rating, 80 to 89.99 earns a Class 2 rating, and so on. Most municipalities want to aim for a score between 1 and 3.
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An ISO fire rating can provide municipalities with invaluable feedback about their fire protection services and the program also provides incentives for communities with good fire departments, like lower insurance costs.
Many insurance companies utilize ISO’s fire rating to calculate homeowners insurance premiums. The cost of coverage in a community with a good ISO fire rating is generally going to be lower than a community with a bad ISO fire rating, assuming all other factors are equal.
However, your community’s good ISO fire rating might not have as big of an effect on your insurance premiums as you may think. In fact, when evaluating your fire risk, underwriters will likely consider other factors to be of greater importance, including:
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
If you live in a community with a subpar ISO fire rating and you sense that it’s negatively impacting your rates, try re-shopping your homeowners insurance and find a company that might not factor in the PPC as much. Re-shopping your coverage with Policygenius can save you up to $690 on homeowners insurance.
The Insurance Information Office releases fire ratings to municipal governments, insurance companies, and insurance agents. If your fire department has a decent ISO fire rating, it’s likely your local government will make that information public.
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
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