May 11, 2006

Memphis Fire Department Receives Improved ISO Ranking

A six ISO ranking could mean lower insurance rates for some homeowners.

And the judges give that performance a six. No, itís not the Olympics, and one doesnít strive for a perfect 10. As a matter of fact, the Memphis Fire Department is more than happy to learn that it received a score of six on its most recent Public Protection Classification (PPC) survey as performed by the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

The six ranking, which will take effect July 1, 2006, marks an improvement from the fire departments previous score of seven. The ISO ratings are based on a 100-point test. The score is based on fire alarms, the fire department and the local water supply.

The ISO rating has traditionally been used by many insurance providers to establish rates for fire protection coverage. A lower score can mean reduced rates with some insurance companies.

According to ISO, the company collects information on a communityís public fire protection and analyzes the data using its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). ISO then assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents the best public protection, and Class 10 indicates no recognized protection. By classifying a communityís ability to suppress fires, ISO provides information for understanding the entire landscape of risk associated with a specific property.

According to a recent report in the St. Louis Post Dispatch which sited ISO statistics, the majority of the nationís more than 43,000 fire departments that complete a PPC survey are ranked as a seven or worse.

Fewer than 400, or less than one percent, receive a one or a two ranking. Just over 1,400 have three rankings while around 3,500 fire departments are scored as a four and approximately 6,400 get a five ranking. Nearly 8,000 other departments scored a six along with the Memphis department. More than 6,300 departments scored a seven and another 3,500 were ranked as an eight. The biggest number of departments scored a nine, with more than 14,000 falling into that category with just over 1,300 departments receiving a 10 ranking.

The PPC score largely reflects infrastructure and the tools with which departments are equipped to fight fires. It doesnít take into effect the end results of the efforts of the fire department at actual fires and emergency calls.

Up to 10 percent of the score is based on how fire alarms are received and handled by the local dispatching service. The Memphis fire service received a score of five out of 10 in this category, losing some points because of how the departmentís emergency number is listed in the phone book and because the emergency calls are not recorded by the dispatcher.

Half of the score, or 50 percent, is made up by the fire departmentís rankings. The Memphis department scored 19.75 out of 50. The ISO recommends a total of three engine companies to serve a community of the size of Memphis. While the city fire department maintains three pumper trucks, one is considered a reserve unit due to age. Because of the lack of a third engine company that meets ISO standards, the department scored just 3.1 out of 10 on that component of the test.

The department scored very well for pumping capacity as well as for ladder and service companies but took itís largest reduction for being a volunteer force of firemen. The department received just 5.4 out of the possible 24 points that are allowed for personnel responses and training and tend to favor paid departments that have personnel on hand 24/7.

The final 40 percent of the ISO ranking was based on water capacity in the city. The city earned 18 points of the possible 40 points that deal with the water supply system, hydrants and inspection services for both.

Overall the City of Memphis PPC ranking was 41.67 percent, earning the service a ranking of 6.

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