U.S. Fire Protection Lagging Behind Growth

Many fire chiefs across the U.S. are concerned that residential and commercial growth is threatening the ability of fire departments to protect the communities they serve, according to a recent ISO report.

The report, released in early March, warns that the results can be devastating if emergency services can't keep up with demand.

ISO is an independent organization that serves insurance companies, fire departments, insurance regulators, and others by providing information about risk. Their field staff visits communities around the country to analyze their fire protection abilities and assign a Public Protection Classification -- a number from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program does not meet ISO's minimum criteria.

Their latest report is based on ISO's own findings as well as data from the NFPA and a joint NFPA/FEMA report from December 2002 entitled, "A Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service."

The ISO study presents some alarming findings. Based on a questionnaire answered by more than 8,400 fire departments,