The Fire Department, in conjunction with the Auburn Firefighters Union, hosted a class provided by Paul Levesque of the Insurance Services Organization (ISO). Mr. Levesque is a Field Representative with the Community Hazards Mitigation Services of the ISO. He provided some valuable insight into how the ISO rates local Fire Departments, and how their rating impacts the insurance ratings within the community.
The session lasted most of the morning and was attended by about 30 people. Some of the on duty crews sat in on the program-as did Public Safety Chief Phil Crowell and Deputy Fire Chief Geoff Low. Several off duty firefighters also attended. The Auburn Fire Department personnel were also joined by representatives from many of the mutual aid Departments. Everyone found the class extremely informative.
Mr. Levesque described in detail how the ISO measures the major elements of a Fire Department’s fire suppression system. The ISO audits the Fire Department and then they calculate a Public Protection Classification based on their findings. They rate the Department on a scale from 1 to 10-with 1 being the best Fire Protection and 10 being what Mr. Levesque described as essentially no Fire Protection. The ISO classification is commonly one of the most heavily weighted elements used by insurance companies when developing fire insurance rates for individual properties. Other factors used by insurance companies to determine hazard insurance rates include: construction, occupancy, exposures, on site fire protections systems, and credit ratings.
The Auburn Fire Department was last audited by the ISO back in 1994. At that time the City was given a rating of 3, making it one of the highest rated in the state. In fact, there have only been three other Departments in the State of Maine that have had a higher rating (they all had a rating of 2). The Department was recently put on notice by ISO that they were coming in to perform another audit in the upcoming months.
Given the information provided by Mr. Levesque, the Department faces many challenges with the upcoming audit. Both the City and the Department have undergone many changes since 1994. Some of these changes will have a positive impact on the City’s ISO rating and some are going to have a negative impact. Any changes to the ISO rating, per Mr. Levesque, will be most heavily felt first by industry, then large commercial occupancies, then smaller commercial occupancies, and finally the homeowners.
The ISO looks at many factors when calculating their ISO rating. These factors include: the Dispatch system, the fire hydrant system throughout the City, the ability of the Department to get water to buildings outside the hydrant system, the Fire Department’s apparatus and equipment, the Fire Department’s staffing levels, the Firefighters’ training, and the distribution of the Fire Stations.
Relative to the distribution of Fire Stations, ISO looks at the number of Engine companies needed and the number of Ladder companies needed. The coverage within a 1 ½ mile, 2 ½ mile and 5 mile road travel distance is heavy weighted into the distribution needs of Fire Stations and companies. They then look closely at the staffing of these Engine and Ladder companies, with full credit given for full time firefighters and partial credit for call or volunteer firefighters. ISO requires three fully equipped and trained call or volunteer firefighters to equal one career firefighter.
Since 1994, the Department has lost some resources that will have an impact on our ISO rating. In 1994, Central Fire Station was staffed with an Engine company, a Ladder company and a Rescue company. The Ladder company was moved to Center Street station when Tower 1 came in. More recently, the Rescue truck was taken out of service, leaving a single Engine company responding out of Central Station. With the loss of the Rescue company, the minimum staffing was reduced from 14 firefighters to 13 firefighters. According to Mr. Levesque, these changes will impact the ISO rating of the City.
In 1994, the Fire Department also had a Water Tanker truck that was used to bring water to areas outside the hydrant district. That old tanker was removed from service and never replaced. The Fire Department had a spare aerial truck in 1994-Snorkel 1-that was also removed from service and never replaced. Also, the Fire Department received credit in 1994 for having an Engine out of Danville. This volunteer Engine company shut down due to lack of personnel. Finally, reduction in Administrative Personnel will also impact the Department’s ISO rating. In 1994 the Department had a Chief and three Administrative Deputy Chiefs while today there is only a single Deputy Chief at the Fire Department. These circumstances will also impact the ISO rating of the City, per Mr. Levesque.
Regardless of the above changes, the Fire Department will continue to do its best relative to its ISO rating. A good ISO rating makes the City a more attractive place to do business and also saves the property owner money in fire/hazard insurance. The upcoming audit will provide the Department some important third party information on what is needed to adequately provide Fire Protection to the City.
More information about ISO will be coming in the future. If you have any questions about the ISO, the Auburn Fire Department’s ISO rating, or how these will impact your insurance rates, please contact Captain Don Flanagan at 207-784-5433 ext 26 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.