New ISO rating for MCFR may help lower homeowners’ insurance premiums


Marion County Fire Rescue training. Photo Courtesy James Lucas/MCFR

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Posted January 21, 2023 | By Allen Barney
allen@ocalagazette.com

Marion County homeowners could be eligible for a reduction in their home insurance policy premium following a recent evaluation by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) that resulted in the county’s fire department rating improving from a Class 3 to a Class 2.

Marion County Fire Rescue Chief James Banta told the Marion County Board of County Commissioners at their Dec. 22 meeting that the department’s ISO rating will move up a grade as of March 1. The rating system is on a scale of one to 10, with one being the highest rating.

“The latest score represents the significant effort that has been placed into improving our ISO over the last 10 years,’’ Banta said. “I’d like to thank the board for their support of our initiative to improve fire services for our community, and I also want to thank the employees of Marion County Fire Rescue who spent many hours to make this possible.”

The ISO is an independent company that serves insurance companies, communities, fire departments, insurance regulators and others by providing information about risk. It evaluates the capabilities of structure fire suppression of fire departments in the U.S. Fire departments are evaluated in areas such as response, equipment, training, water supply and staffing.

The ISO began its evaluation of MCFR in June 2022 and concluded later that month with an on-site inspection. Once the evaluation is completed, the ISO analyzes the data and gives a Public Protection Classification (PPC) grade.

A PPC grade depends on:

  • Needed fire flows, which are representative building locations used to determine the theoretical amount of water necessary for fire suppression purposes.
  • Emergency communications, including emergency reporting, telecommunicators and dispatching systems.
  • Fire department, including equipment, staffing, training, geographic distribution of fire companies, operational considerations and community risk reduction.
  • Water supply, including inspection and flow testing of hydrants, alternative water supply operations, and an evaluation of the amount of available water compared with the amount needed to suppress fires up to 3,500 gallons per minute.

So, how does their ISO rating affect a homeowner’s insurance premium?

In a written statement, Alex Shubert, manager of the National Processing Center, explained, “ISO’s (PPC) program plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies. In fact, most U.S. insurers–including the largest ones–use PPC information as part of their decision-making when deciding what business to write, coverages to offer or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance.”

Banta encouraged county residents to contact their insurance companies after March 1 to inquire about potential reductions in premiums. The Gazette reached out to multiple local offices of State Farm, Allstate and Farmers Insurance, but they all declined to comment on the topic.

Based on the ISO evaluation, MCFR will now be rated in the top 5% of over 40,000 fire departments in America. According to Banta, about 1,700 departments in the U.S. receive a Class 2 rating and less than 400 receive a Class 1 rating.

Banta told the commissioners the improvement at MCFR has taken hard work and patience. The department went through its first ISO evaluation as one unit in 2011 and received a rating of a Class 4/4Y. Shortly after Hurricane Irma in 2017, the county was rated at a Class 3/3Y.

“I want to give a special thanks to (MCFR) Fire Marshal Ken McCann,’’ Banta said. “He has borne a lot of the weight in getting us to where we are.”