For as long as anyone can remember Quincy Fire has maintained an ISO rating of 4. But that all changed Feb. 27, when local officials learned that they had been upgraded to an ISO 3, which means that the fire district is on par with many municipal districts around the nation, and the designation could translate into lower insurance premiums for local property owners.
That change reflects the work not only of Quincy Fire, but that of the local water districts and better emergency communications.
“Our water districts are very good,” said Chief Robbie Cassou, “and our dispatch does a fantastic job.”
The Insurance Services Office, a New Jersey-based for-profit company, rates fire agencies from 1 to 10, with one being the best. There are no jurisdictions within Plumas County that are rated higher than a 3, but there are many ranked lower, including some with a 10 — Bucks Lake Fire, C Road and Prattville. A 10 ranking makes it difficult for property owners to even secure fire insurance.
There are three other fire agencies with a 3 rating in Plumas County — all in the Almanor Basin: Chester, West Almanor and the Peninsula.
ISO describes itself as the “leading supplier of data and analytics for the property/casualty industry.” But will this data translate into lower insurance premiums?
“It’s possible,” said Michael Flanigan, of local agency Flanigan-Leavitt Insurance. “But first it will need to disseminate through channels.”
Flanigan went on to say that insurance carriers consider a number of factors in setting insurance rates, with ISO being just one piece of the criteria. He also noted that “there’s very little difference” once an entity is ISO 5 or above. A real difference would be seen if an agency moved from below ISO 5 to above.
A factor that weighs heavily on the ratings is whether or not there are fire hydrants in an area.
That was all part of the information that representatives of the ISO took into consideration when they visited Quincy about two months ago. Chief Cassou said the review took about three hours, and he credited the brevity of the meeting for the preparations made in advance. “We were well prepared,” he said.
Fifty percent of the overall score is directly related to the fire department’s structure fire suppression system. Quincy Fire received high marks for its equipment, including the ladder truck, but posted its lowest score in the area of company personnel. That’s because there are only three paid staff with the rest being volunteers.
Water supply accounts for 40 percent of the score and the area received high marks for supply system and hydrants, but faltered a little on testing and inspections.
In the third area, emergency communications, the area fared well overall.
What is the ISO?
The ISO collects and analyzes firefighting capability information on nearly 46,000 areas across the country and rates departments on fire suppression ability, water availability and communications.
ISO’s methodology, known as the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, assigns a class rating on a scale of one to 10, with Class 1 given to exemplary fire departments and Class 10 to departments that do not meet minimum criteria. Homeowners served by low-rated fire departments may pay higher premiums to insure their property.
ISO, the Insurance Services Office, is a New Jersey-based for-profit company that provides these ratings. ISO sells the information it collects to insurance companies, which may use these ratings to determine property insurance rates.
The ISO classification ratings are based upon several criteria including a community’s emergency communications systems, fire department, water supply, fire prevention efforts and public fire safety education programs.
In the past, ISO ratings were used by all insurance companies when determining property insurance rates, but as of 2015 some insurance companies no longer purchase this data from the Insurance Services Office. Instead they rely on other information, such as the number of losses within a ZIP code or a homeowner’s credit score, to set insurance rates. However, some states require insurance companies to use ISO data when determining insurance premiums.