ISO's Public Protection Classification (PPCTM) Program: There's No Comparison
ISO conducts detailed on-site assessments of municipal fire-protection capabilities and collects information for more than 46,000 fire protection areas across the United States. We analyze the relevant data and assign a Public Protection Classification (PPC™) from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents exemplary public protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet minimum criteria.
Here are some questions that cover key areas of PPC and the underlying data that goes into the LOCATION® PPC Service.
Why is identifying the "nearest fire station" insufficient to meet the needs of property insurers?
First, I'll note that proximity to a water source is much more predictive of loss, but we can talk about that later.
While it may be comforting to know that there's a fire station close to the insured property, the critical question for property insurers is really whether that station is the responding one on a first alarm. If the insured property is not within the response area of a responding fire station, that "nearest" station will not respond in an emergency situation or its response will be delayed. ISO studies show that for almost 20 percent of the properties nationwide the nearest fire station is not the responding fire station.
What is unique about ISO's hydrant and water-source database?
Without water, firefighters may just as well bring a long stick and marshmallows to the fire!
ISO is the only organization that conducts surveys, performs hydrant flow tests, and maps water-supply sources nationwide. ISO now has more than 24,000 water-supply sources digitized in our databases. The sources range from individual suction points to entire municipal water systems. We've collected data on water from hydrants and other workable water sources for 90 percent of the buildings in the country. ISO validates each water-supply source to see if it qualifies for PPC credit. We also classify water-supply data by type, such as hydrant, dry hydrant, or suction point. And we recognize and give credit for alternative water sources, such as hauled water using tanker shuttles. Water information is a critical component in assigning PPC for individual properties, and our customers use the LOCATION PPC database to determine if a property has access to the necessary water.
What's the real value in ISO PPC gradings?
The real value lies in the relationship between effective public fire suppression and lower insured property loss. Industrywide statistical data shows that communities with the worst PPC ratings have fire losses two or more times as high as communities with the best PPC ratings. That's strong evidence that better fire protection results in lower fire losses. The general rule of thumb is that the price of insurance in a community with a good PPC is lower than in a community with a worse PPC.
If communities strive to improve their PPC, everyone benefits. The community benefits by investing in loss-mitigation initiatives and making the neighborhood a safer place to live. The insurer benefits from reduced losses. And individuals benefit because, simply put, better fire protection saves lives.
How does ISO keep PPC information up to date?
We're utterly obsessive about maintenance. We've built more than 50,000 geographic updates into LOCATION in the past 12 months alone — changes to fire district boundaries, fire station locations and response areas, fire hydrant locations, and other key geographic information.
With PPC maintenance, we're in perpetual motion. ISO maintains LOCATION PPC through our 3,000-plus on-site community PPC gradings each year and with our Community Outreach Program — where community officials notify us of changes that may affect the PPC codes of properties in their jurisdictions. Every month, ISO contacts about 1,300 communities by phone and mail.
Because we go to the source — local fire authorities, city managers, and other community officials — our customers are getting the highest-quality public protection information available.
We collaborate with almost every state fire-service agency and with government agencies, such as FEMA, the U.S. Fire Administration, and Bureau of Land Management, to get the data we need.
We also get detailed leads on community changes from local insurers and agents, and we access more than 500 public-record sources nationwide every month to generate even more.
Why does ISO place such emphasis on its data?
Without good underlying data, a GIS application is useless — garbage in, garbage out. ISO's proprietary data sets us apart. Not only have we built our PPC database from the ground up, but we also use two roadbases — Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ — to develop and maintain our data. Using two roadbases adds more streets to ensure the most complete address coverage out there.
ISO's Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS), used to measure the firefighting capabilities of communities, is recognized as the standard for evaluating a community's fire-suppression capabilities. ISO derives PPC gradings from the FSRS. The FSRS measures fire alarms, the fire department, and water supply. Criteria include receiving and dispatching alarms, fire company personnel training, maintenance and testing of equipment, condition of hydrants, and adequacy of water supply.
ISO's Fire Suppression Rating Schedule is a national standard used for grading fire protection areas in all 50 states. Here's an actual map that an ISO field rep has annotated with fire protection area updates.
How can customers access PPC information?
We give our customers a lot of flexibility with delivery options. We like to think we have something for everyone. We have our popular database delivery, which insurers can install at their site and perform unlimited lookups. In fact, eight of the top ten insurers use that version.We also offer real-time or transactional deliveries, such as batch, online through your web browser, web-service API access to the data on our servers, and many other access points. ISO also offers customization to a customer's specific underwriting rules.
What level of customer service does ISO provide for its LOCATION PPC users?
ISO assigns each LOCATION customer a project manager, who guides them through initial training and product implementation and remains the primary contact for all general questions during the contract term. ISO's three Regional Processing Centers validate and resolve customer inquiries through our Protection Connection program. We investigate all qualified inquiries and validate information with the appropriate fire officials, usually fire chiefs. Once ISO validates the information, we provide a resolution to the inquiry, stating whether the LOCATION PPC database needs updating.
ISO also conducts general training sessions for our customers on PPC and the underlying data that goes into the final grade. We're a big proponent of education, and our motto is "Knowledge is power!"