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The Seward Fire Department has achieved an Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of Class 3/3Y, joining only 10 other departments in the state with a rating of three or better. The rating will go into place on Feb 1, according to a press release from the department.

The ISO is an organization that rates fire departments on a scale of 1-10 with what it calls a Public Protection Classification or PPC, with a rating of one being the best possible rating and a 10 being the lowest. Only two departments in the state have a rating of one. A ten rating indicates a department does not meet minimum protection requirements.

ISO’s PPC program evaluates departments on their ability to provide fire protection services to a community. Each property in a community receives an assigned rating based up the PPC issued to the department that services that area and the location of the property in reference to a department’s fire stations. The rating helps determine insurance risk and thus consumer cost for insurance.

Numerous criteria are used to evaluate a department says the ISO. Scores are calculated based upon the following schedule. One half of the rating comes from the quality of the fire department to suppress a fire, including the proximity of the fire station to a property. Other criteria include staffing levels, training, and response times. Forty percent of the rating comes from availability of water supply, including the prevalence of fire hydrants and how much water is available for suppressing fires. Ten percent comes from the quality of the emergency communications system including the skill level of the dispatch center.

Departments may also earn an extra 5.5 percent from the community outreach programs the department performs, including fire prevention and safety courses. 

Any area that is more than 5 driving miles from the nearest fire station is automatically rated a 10.

The Seward Fire Department, last rated in 2014, says it improved its score by 5.41 points to advance from a 4/4Y rating to the 3/3Y rating. The department says the 3Y rating relates to the Seward Marine Industrial Complex area.

The PPC assigned to an area is used by insurance carriers in the underwriting process to determine insurance costs. Most insurance companies use the rating in some fashion. Some carries use their loss history along with the rating to determine risk according to online reports. State Farm, the country’s largest home insurance company by far, covering almost 20 percent of the market, says it does not use the ISO rating at all.

The ratings have the largest impact on larger commercial properties.

The press release from the Seward Fire Department said, “By lowering the ISO rating, some Seward residents and businesses could benefit by these ratings with their insurance companies. Once reviewed by insurance underwriters, this could possibly save money on insurance rates in the City of Seward.”

Residents and business owners should contact their insurance carrier in anticipation of the new classification to determine if it can lower rates.


Michael Paschall is publisher of the Seward Journal and president of TriDelta, Incorporated Publishing, owners of the Seward Journal.