Updated Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire insurance ratings, which took effect on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, have raised insurance premiums for some property owners at the Lake of the Ozarks.
An ISO fire insurance rating, also referred to as a fire score, is a score from 1 to 10 that indicates how well-protected a community is by their fire district. Whether or not a district’s ISO rating impacts the cost of insurance, depends on the insurance company and the location of the property. According to Mid County Fire Protection District (MCFPD) Fire Chief Scott Frandsen, there are only a few insurance companies that do not use ISO to rate fire districts.
“The ISO is an independent organization funded primarily by insurance companies,” Chief Frandsen explained.
While most Lake area fire districts are either currently undergoing an ISO review or are not due for another one yet, Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District received bad news after their 2020 review was complete: some district residents will be seeing an insurance premium increase.
ISO Based on Fire Suppression Schedule
Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District (SBFPD) Fire Chief Joseph LaPlant explains the ISO rating is based on the program’s Fire Suppression Schedule (FSRS), which is the criteria the company measures to generate a score for each locality. The score indicates how good or bad a fire department is at suppressing fires. The FSRS evaluates four primary categories of fire suppression:
- Emergency communications - The quality of a community’s emergency response systems (911) accounts for 10 points of the total classification
- Fire department - The quality of a local fire department, including their equipment, pump capacity, engine companies, ladder companies, training, and personnel, accounts for 50 points of the total classification
- Water supply - A community's water supply system accounts for 40 points of the total classification. The FSRS considers hydrant size, type, and installation, as well as the quality and frequency of hydrant inspections and testing
- Community risk reduction - A community’s ability to prevent fires, enforce codes, and implement fire safety educational accounts for 5.5 points of the total classification
After evaluating these four categories, ISO then evaluates the data, totals the points, and assigns a score between 1 and 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Scoring 90 or more earns a Class 1 rating, 80 to 89.99 earns a Class 2 rating, and so on. Most municipalities want to aim for a score between 1 and 3.
Sunrise Beach Fire: Class 4/10 Rated District
The SBFPD district underwent an evaluation by the ISO in 2020. According to Chief LaPlant, evaluations typically take place every five years, or as requested. Sunrise Beach was able to achieve a “no class change,” meaning the district retained an ISO Class 4 rating, with a rating of 4/10. “What helped the district keep their rating was code enforcement and the amount of training we do,” Chief LaPlant said.
The Class 4 rating applies to any properties within five road miles of a credited fire station.
The District has a Class 10 rating for properties beyond five road miles from Stations No. 1 (Administration Building) on Porter Mill Spring Road, No. 2 on State Road TT and No. 3 on Spruce Lane. Unfortunately, this time around, ISO gave the district no credit for Station No. 4, on Highway F or Station No. 5, on Sellers Road, as these are unmanned stations. This decertification resulted in a significant premium increase for properties within five miles of those stations. (Station 5 is owned by Lake West Ambulance District and the district maintains a truck there for ISO purposes), “It used to be that if we had heat and a building, we received credit for those stations,” Chief LaPlant said.
Most of the calls for the SBFPD are emergency medical responses and these do not count in the rating; only fire incidents qualify.
Changes in the ISO Evaluation
New ISO reviews are a departure from previous evaluations, as ISO has changed their evaluation criteria. According to Chief LaPlant, previously, ISO gave credit based on station locations, regardless of staffing levels. “The loss of credit for SBFPD Stations No. 4 and No. 5 are beyond the control of the District,” Chief LaPlant said. “These stations could only be credited if the district was able to staff them and show regular responses out of those locations and this would require an increase in taxes.” Under these new criteria, even if those stations received credit, the overall rating would have suffered, as ISO wants to see six people at each station. Currently, Sunrise Beach only staffs Stations No. 2 and No. 3, with three full-time people. The Headquarters Building at Station No. 1 is considered staffed during the day by the Chief Officers.
Mid County Fire: Class 4/6 District
The Mid County Fire Protection District is currently going through an ISO review, which is expected to be complete in four to six months. Currently, the MCFPD has a rating of 6, within five miles of a staffed fire station, and a rating of 4 in the city limits. “It is frustrating because a department on the other side of the state can have a lower (better) rating, yet we can have a better loss record, better trained firefighters and put out fires better,” Chief Frandsen lamented. However, he added, “We expect [MCFPD] to keep the same rating with this evaluation.”
Osage Beach Fire: Class 4 District
The Osage Beach Fire Protection District OBFPD is also currently undergoing an ISO review. They are a class 4 district. “We do not expect any changes,” OBFPD Fire Chief Paul Berardi said.
Gravois Fire – Class 7 District
The Gravois Fire Protection District (GFPD) had their review in 2019 and they currently have an ISO rating of seven, for property within five miles of a staffed fire house. “We are pleased we didn’t lose any ground and we were able to hold on to the rating,” GFPD Fire Chief Ed Hancock said.
“The ISO does not have a grasp on rural volunteer fire districts,” Chief Hancock said. “They strictly base their evaluations on career-metropolitan fire departments,” Chief Hancock said. “They have gotten better, but they are still somewhat biased against rural fire departments, particularly those without water systems.” Chief Hancock said he would not be in favor of any kind of government agency stepping in to regulate ISO. “We know what happens when the government gets involved.”
“ISO bases their review on National Fire Protection Association standards, which are unreasonable, in some respects,” Chief Hancock added. “There are very few districts that comply 100 percent, yet at some point there needs to be a standard by which you are judged.”
Versailles City Fire: Class 5.5 District
The Versailles City Fire Department went through their ISO review in 2018. They received 5.5 rating, within the city limits. Versailles City Fire Chief Dwayne Miller is the only paid firefighter on staff. They have 17 volunteer firefighters. “We are working to prepare and set up an evaluation, most likely in 2021,” Chief Miller said. “With these new criteria, I am interested to see what will happen to the volunteer fire departments since paid staff rate higher than volunteers. Fire districts receive 1/3 of the credit for volunteers, compared to full time firefighters.
No Break for Fire Boats at the Lake of the Ozarks
In some parts of the country, districts can obtain a lower ISO for areas near a fire boat. Unfortunately that is not the case at Lake of the Ozarks, because the Lake can freeze over in particularly cold winters, making navigation impossible for fire boats.
Mid County, Versailles and Osage Beach Fire Protection District will publish a press release once they receive their updated ISO rating.