Thread: ISO rating

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    Default ISO rating

    Our district is currently preparing for an ISO visit. In fact, the countdown clock has just about hit "0". The visit comes at the end of this month. We are trying to go from a 7 to a 5. Since the last rating, we have instituted a lot of major changes.

    Major Changes:
    3 new engines (class A) (1000 Gal / 1750 GPM)
    2 new stations (w/ live-in residents)
    1-1993 class A engine (1000 Gal / 1750 GPM)
    1-1997 Tanker (1500 Gal / 1250 GPM)
    Improved the training program (new equipment and teaching materials)
    Regular Live-burn training
    Mandatory in-house recruit training (90 hours)
    New SCOTT 50 SCBAs (18 w/ spare bottles)
    and the list goes on...

    The last ISO visit was 8 years ago. To get any better than a 5, we would have to have a ladder truck and a reserve ladder truck... Doesn't make a lot of sense when you condsider the area we protect. Half of the roads in the district are not wide enough to take a ladder truck.

    After spending months pouring over paperwork and records and conducting other activities for this visit, I've come to the conclusion that these people have no idea what constitutes good fire protection.

    Some of the equipment and supplies that ISO requires be carried on apparatus is a complete waste of taxpayer money. I think that it is time that they consult the fire service a bit more on what constitutes good practice and good fire protection.

    Anybody else been through this recently?

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    They will take a good look at your water/ hydrant system. As far as adding a tanker for non-hydranted area's you must be able to document that you can deliver a certain amount of water in several time frames. You must also have written mutual aid agreements to suppliment areas lacking addequate water systems and show that you have drilled and delivered the water per specs.

    They will also look at your communications and fire reporting systems ( Redundant radio systems and 911 systems etc...)

    There is a alot more, after your inspection look at the areas you can improve in and make the improvements. Use the report to your benefit. Use it to show your Town leaders how their constituants can save money on their fire insurence by making these improvements.

    Good Luck

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    Some of the equipment and supplies that ISO requires be carried on apparatus is a complete waste of taxpayer money.
    This I will agree on. I have yet to find anyone (including an ISO rep) explain to me how a Thermal Imaging Camera is equivalent to a Cutting Torch, but to ISO, that is equivalent equipment.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbcfpd
    To get any better than a 5, we would have to have a ladder truck and a reserve ladder truck... Doesn't make a lot of sense when you condsider the area we protect. Anybody else been through this recently?
    We just got re-evaluated in April after 15 years. It's a pain, but you can save property owners some money if you're willing to play the ISO game. You just need to look at insurance savings for a class improvement vs. the cost of making those improvements.

    It's not true that you can't make below a Class 5 without a ladder truck - we're a Class 4 and don't run our ladder on first alarms. We do get reserve credit for it though. (I'm working on the powers that be to get the thing out the door on first alarms.) Carry some extra "ladder equipment" on an engine, utility truck, or by some other means, and you'll get some ladder credit (if it rolls on a first alarm). The FSRS calls it a Service Company (basically a ladder truck without ladders).
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    This ISO thing was kind of a joke when we did it. If I remember correctly, a 10 means that you have no fire protection plan at all, and we ended up being a 9. A half dozen towns got together and organized a tanker task force to get to the next level. The idea was that all towns involved in the demostration would benefit, but in the end, only the town where the demonstration actually took place got the credit, and became an 8. Our town fathers put up a small fuss over it, but gave it up when residents of the other town were told by insurance companies that class 8 and 9 are charged the same premiums anyway. We were told that to get any better than an 8 would be damn near impossible for our rural setting with no water system in place. This was 10 years ago, and the whole idea has fallen to the way side. Perhaps things have changed, but back then, the dollars spent to improve would never have been able to be made up in any form.
    There goes the neighborhood.

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    Default play their game

    I found a great rescource at www.ISOSLAYER.com

    It clearly shows how to earn better ratings and beat ISO at their own game. They reference all volunteer departments with Class 1 and even a non-hydranted department that earned a Class 2.

    Does passing all of ISO requirements make you a great department? Not likely. We have not used a hose clamp in 15 years yet ISO wants it to be there.

    Who cares that a Thermal Camera is given the equivellant of an Oxy Torch? In my 17 years I have never used a torch on the scene, yet we use the Thermal almost daily. Im happy I can chose equipment I can use to get credit.

    Why improve your ISO? Because every state has insurance companies that use ISO ratings. Because it saves your citizens (AND YOU!) insurance premiums. Even a 10% reduction times the number of citizens in the community makes the numbers noticable and worthwhile. We are a 5/9 community striving for a Class 4 all over. The people near a hydrant will likely only see a 1-5% reduction while those in the non-hydranted portion of town will likely see 20-25%. That multiplied out is a savings of $2 million for the town. We are estimating it will take 3 years to plan and implements changes for the future so this is not any easy fix.

    Perhaps you can show your township officials the dollars of why they need provide greater funding, widen roads, install hydrants or buy a new rig to "improve the fire protection rating." Or is calling BINGO easier for your members?

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    hersheyaztec, I see your new and probably haven't looked around these boards much. There have been a lot of previous discussions on ISO and who (statewise) actually uses them. There are a few states that do not use/recognize ISO at all. Why? Because ISO is a business located in NJ. They have no power and no authority. They make sometimes poor decisions on people's fire safety based on some very outdated equipment standards that THEY dreamed up as necessary. Check your state and really research before putting lots of time and effort into ISO ratings. For example, in NJ, there is no difference in insurance premiums for Class 10 and class 9. There also is no difference in class 8 up through class 5. Same is true for class 4 through class 1. NJ only has 3 levels for residential insurance.

    www.isoslayer.com is a good site.
    www.isomitigation.com is the ISO's site with more good information.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    For example, in NJ, there is no difference in insurance premiums for Class 10 and class 9. There also is no difference in class 8 up through class 5. Same is true for class 4 through class 1. NJ only has 3 levels for residential insurance.
    You do have commercial occupancies in your jurisdiction, don't you? I'd expect that they employ at least some local residents, too, right? I think you should look at both sides of the equation.

    True, ISO has been used as a management tool (a crutch, actually) because the fire service has few, if any, scientifically validated measurable performance standards.

    Yes some of ISO's requirements and methodologies border on the ridiculous, but some things do not. Training and adequate staffing, for example, have serious implications at rating time, but aren't they also critical for your day to day work as well?

    I guess the lesson is to do the right thing operationally, but do it in such a way that your insurance goes down, too.
    Last edited by ullrichk; 08-19-2005 at 12:21 PM. Reason: HTML error
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    Ullrick, yes, we do have a few commercial properties, but not very many. Summer tourist town with lots of houses and rental properties. Yes, there are motels and some stores, but again, not too many. And yes, we do care about them. My point was, the hype about lower insurance premiums based on the ISO rating needs to be researched well by a department. A good rating is not a bad thing, but it shouldn't be the priority.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Default If not ISO, then who?

    If you don't start somewhere, then what are you doing to improve?

    If you don't like ISO, how about another organization? Oh I bet you don't like Not For Practical Applications (NFPA) either, another for profit group. How about the Federal Government creating the rules? Can we all say NIMS.

    The practical side of subscribing to some standard is to improve your service to the community. If following ISO (or any other organization) means you can present a need for better fire protection to city leaders and give weight to your suggestion with the backing of a national organization, is that a bad thing?

    If you look at the big picture goals of ISO (communications, water supply, training, preplans, apparatus and equipment), would we not be better off look at adopting the principles of these things, than blowing off the organization as a money mongering group? Can you agree with 70% of the criteria of ISO and 50% of NFPA? More? Are you doing something to meet those you do agree with? Do the departments/chiefs/code enforcers/city leaders/anyone in the area get together and discuss ways to improve service?

    Does your department have a long range plan no matter who the chief is? Do you hope to get by each year on the dwindling numbers at the yearly carnival?

    What is your departments plans for future stations? Is it like most of the country, we won't think about it until we kill a resident. Then we will look into fire protection, but by the time we have a suggestion, the public will have forgoten about the death, so we really don't need to do anything. Or do you gripe because the proposal for the $5millon super deluxe, multi-story station (so we can put in a fire pole) shot down in the last election?

    When do you buy apparatus, when they stop making parts for your current rig? Only when FEMA gives us a grant?

    The days of the pager and whistle going off and hoping someone will answer the call are over. If your department is not planning for the future, sooner or later, somone else will make the decisions for you.

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    Having worked with ISO for several years in Vermont, and now experienceing the joys of working with the Louisiana Property Insurance Rating system, I can honestly say that both of them really do need to get a grip on reality, especially in the area of equipment. An example: On our outlying stations, we carry our rotary saws and chainsaws on the engine rather than the service truck, which is required for each station (that's a whole other topic). Thier last time through, we forgot to switch the saws back to the service trucks from the engines. When they did the inspection, they deducted points off the service trucks "missing" saws. We then showed them the saws on the engines in the SAME station. Thier response was that they were service truck tools not engine tools, so no credit. We explained that the service trucks may not get out during the day and we switched them to the engines so they would arrive on scene for forcible entry and immediatte ventilation, if needed. Thier response: they need to be on the service truck to get credit. Morons.

    They also require that we have 56 SCBA (4 per engine/6 per service truck or rescue). There isn't a building in town that would require that many interior firefighters (assuming we had 56 people on the active roster). Just makes no friggin sense.

    I do agree with thier water supply component, as well as a majority of the training and response criteria... but the equipment component creates such a waste of money and thier logic befuddles me ...
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-20-2005 at 12:34 PM.

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    Personally, I'd hate to downgrade my fire department equipment to meet ISO "standards".

    Are ISO "standards" completely useless? No, but they are far from anything I strive for.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Consider the most well respected and trend setting departments on the east coast- Boston, New York, Philly, DC- How many are Class 1? (none, to my knowledge)

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    Quote Originally Posted by orangehopeful
    Consider the most well respected and trend setting departments on the east coast- Boston, New York, Philly, DC- How many are Class 1? (none, to my knowledge)


    Large metropolitan cities are rated statistically by actual loss figures. For smaller communities there's more risk than there is statistical data so the FSRS still applies to us.
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    My point was a little off topic I suppose, just meant that the system is not exactly accurate in my view, but that's just my .02

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    The problem I have with ISO and the insurance companies is that these standards are not based on reality and the insurance companies in our area still use them. I would agree that some of the requirements are excellent though. We have sent people to ISO classes and also purchased several texts on improving ISO ratings.

    Our district actually asked for this ISO visit. We have just completed a 20 year plan, and everything on our side of the equation has pretty much fallen into place. Our last visit was about 8 years ago. We recently added two stations and 3 new Class A Engines. Almost every structure in our district in now within 5 road miles of a station. The water district has placed hydrants approx. every 1000 feet in most rural areas and upgraded a number of water mains. In the city, hydrants are placed per the International Fire Code.

    The Water district and the City/town that we serve has dropped the ball unfortunately. There was suppose to be a water interconnect made between the City and the County Water district in place by now. It hasn't happened due to politicians and lawyers dragging their feet. The interconnect would give the city (pop. 3500) access to a new 1 million gallon water tank. Currently the 1/4 million gallon tank in town is only full during the middle of the night for an hour. We can't reliably maintain a 3000 GPM flow for 60 minutes. It is very very unlikely that we would ever need that much volume on any of our structure fires. Most of the structure fires we would encounter would not require more than 1200 GPM to quickly extinguish, yet we are still subject to the higher standard.

    I agree that preplanning is very important, but we don't have the manpower on a volunteer department to preplan every commercial building in our district and keep them up to date. Our goal was to preplan the major high risk occupancies (churches, schools, lumber yard, and downtown). Most of that has been completed, but it took a lot of time. Has it really helped us any to protect our constituents. Probably not.

    Our stance has been and will continue to be that we will spend our tax dollars responsibly in order to best serve our constituents. Responsible is not purchasing equipment and large quanitities of Class A foam that we will never use.
    Last edited by lmadore; 08-24-2005 at 10:50 AM.

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    Has anyone else heard that some insurance company's are not using ISO ratings. We had a resident come up and ask our chief to fill out some info for his insurance as they do not use ISO rating. He was given the form to lower his rates. I didn't get to see it or hear how the company was.
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    Along that idea, I recently had an insurance company call me for an interview. They had a form to go over to help them determine the premium for a large home that was being renovated near by. Average response times, and so on. 50 questions or so.

    It sounds to me like some companies are going this way by their own choice, but not sure how wide spread it will be, or if this customer got a better or worse price.
    There goes the neighborhood.

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    On the subject of preplanning, which we are actually in good shape on, did you ever see the ISO rep take one and actually see if it's correct and/or up to date? Me neither. They just look to see that you have them. They don't go to any of the preplanned buildings and don't contact them to check the information.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Wouldn't there be very few things they could really verify any way? Floor plans, water sources, availible resources etc. It would appear that if they got into too much detail on your preplans, they'd be into your idea of what was needed. They may have a concern, but in the end, it's your fire to fight the way you see fit.
    There goes the neighborhood.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fireguy919
    Has anyone else heard that some insurance company's are not using ISO ratings. We had a resident come up and ask our chief to fill out some info for his insurance as they do not use ISO rating. He was given the form to lower his rates. I didn't get to see it or hear how the company was.

    State Farm does ot use ISO ratings, but they still purchase data from ISO. There may be others.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    On the subject of preplanning, which we are actually in good shape on, did you ever see the ISO rep take one and actually see if it's correct and/or up to date? Me neither. They just look to see that you have them. They don't go to any of the preplanned buildings and don't contact them to check the information.
    In our last visit, EVERY bit of information we submitted was audited to some degree.

    We didn't have any major problems, but I sure wouldn't try to pull a fast one on them. (Of course, I'm not the type to try that sort of thing anyway!)
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    The day has arrived. ISO investigator arrived this morning to start the review. It sounds like we are in better shape than I originally thought.

    Here's one that will get you. The water district refused to let the investigator have copies of the water distribution maps or even take notes. They claimed that it would violate the security requirements set in place by Homeland Security. The investigator claimed that that was the most ridiculous thing he had heard to this day. I would tend to agree.

    Most of the insurance companies that we deal with use at least some of the ISO information. We have had several inquires about distance from Fire Stations and hydrants to new home and developments. Luckily, the GIS department from the County Assessor's office was able to provide us with some very useful maps. It turns out that a large portion of our district is easily within 5 Road miles of a Station. They were even able to indicate the number of miles of paved and unpaved roads that lie within the district.

    The biggest problem I think that we have right now is the Training. Since I took over as Training Officer things have greatly improved including attendence. Still have a lot of problems getting some people to show up on a regular basis though. The board and officers are really reluctant to dismiss people that haven't been pulling their weight and getting to the training on a regular basis.

    It is going to be interesting to see how this rating causes things to change.

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    Got a brief report from the Chief this evening on how things went today with the ISO inspector. He had a lot of good things to say about our district. He complimented us on our training program, but he said "The attendance sucked." The other area that he was concerned about was incident reporting. Seems that we have a few people that never wrote their reports for several fire alarms (false alarm).

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    The agonizing part (for us, anyway) was the SIX MONTHS it took for the fieldwork to get processed and improvement statements to be mailed to us.

    As it turned out we slipped from a Class 4 to a Class 5. The Chief is interested in regaining the 4 (it won't be hard) and we'll have 90 days to come up with a plan of action to improve our score (my job) and six months to a year to implement the plan. If we stay on schedule, our citizens will not see any premium increases.

    I have to admit, there are some times when saying "I told you so" is very satisfying.
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