A New Era of ISO-Fire Service Collaboration

Published: 12/17/2009
Author: Jeffrey D. Johnson, Executive Director, Western Fire Chiefs Association

One of the great things about the fire and emergency service is the many common threads that connect us to each other and to our communities. One such connection is Insurance Services Office, Inc., whose fire service role is to evaluate individual fire departments on behalf of property insurers.

Another connection is the spectrum of emotions the company can evoke from chiefs regardless of their department type, size or location. Unless you have lived in a cave for your entire career, you have likely known the stress, frustration, relief or pride that can swell up when this private corporation based in Jersey City, N.J., rates your department so insurance companies can use the advisory rating to determine the fire-insurance premiums for businesses and homeowners in your community.

ISO, as it’s commonly called, has recently set the stage for a new era of connection to the fire and emergency service and the communities it serves by completing a much-needed upgrade of its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. Frankly, it had been too many years since the rating system had been revised, and many fire departments—especially accredited departments—had outpaced the old rating schedule.

I had the opportunity to meet with the full team from ISO and receive an overview of the new rating system, which was impressive. The new rating system recognizes accredited departments and will include recognition of a science-based standard of cover measuring a department’s operational performance in time-based fractile percentages, where sufficient data exists, or use of the traditional distance-based method of coverage. The system also provides points of credit for fire prevention, an updated technology section and many other meaningful improvements.

My favorable impressions went beyond the new rating system to the leadership of ISO and a new level of commitment and cooperation with today’s fire and emergency service leaders. Specifically, ISO has invited the IAFC and other key stakeholders to review and provide feedback on the draft of the new rating schedule, will conduct beta testing to ensure the changes can be practically implemented and are committed to improving and updating the rating system regularly. ISO has also invited the IAFC to work with them to maximize fire chiefs’ access to the immense ISO database to help the chiefs do their jobs in planning and response.

I encourage you to visit the ISO Mitigation website to learn more about the modifications to the rating schedule that are currently being explored, as well as other tools and resources ISO has for fire-department leaders.

The IAFC congratulates the leadership at ISO for this much-needed update and, more important, for their commitment to continuous quality improvement. The ISO thread will continue to link fire departments to each other and their communities. It''s evident that the goal is not to bind the fire service, but to work with the fire service to weave a stronger position of protection for our communities.

In reality, the fire and emergency service will be well served by having ISO lead the way with a progressive rating system that pulls our industry forward. The new rating system goes a long way toward these goals.

Chief Jeff Johnson, EFO, CFO, MIFireE
IAFC President and Chairman of the Board


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