Murrieta’s improved ISO ratings lead to savings for businesses and residents

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The city of Murrieta recently announced its improved Insurance Services Office’s rating, moving up from a Class 4 to a Class 3 on the group’s Public Protection Classification Scale. For most, it appears that the ratings reflect only how well a fire department performs its job, but an improved Public Protection Classification, also referred to as an ISO rating, can actually save businesses and residents money in insurance premiums.

“ISO ratings are a reflection of your department’s ability to prevent and suppress fires,” Murrieta Fire & Rescue Chief David Lantzer said. “It’s another measuring stick, not as comprehensive as accreditation, but a measuring stick that is still specific to your department’s suppression and prevention capabilities. It’s something for the public to see how well the department is performing.”

Murrieta’s move from a Class 4 to a Class 3 will likely translate to lower insurance premiums for many, but businesses will see the biggest savings, Lantzer said.

“Many insurance companies utilize ISO ratings as a risk assessment tool to determine insurance rates,” he said. “They use that in their calculations for insurance for business and residential property owners, but the commercial property owners should see the most benefits from the lower ISO rating.”

According to the Insurance Services Office website, to determine the PPC, the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule is utilized to “grade” each fire department and its performance before issuing the classification.

The FSRS looks primarily at three areas, emergency communications, fire department – including operational considerations – and water supply. In addition, the FSRS also includes a Community Risk Reduction section that recognizes community efforts to reduce losses through fire prevention, public fire safety education and fire investigation.

Murrieta Fire & Rescue is one of only two internationally accredited fire departments in Riverside County. The accreditation was helpful for the department which had to meet certain criteria to receive that accreditation by The Commission on Fire Accreditation International, Lantzer said.

“It was that process that actually helped us with that ISO rating,” he said. “We used that accreditation process where they look at every aspect of a fire department and so our focus was getting that accreditation which we obtained in 2018.”

Lantzer said it was during the accreditation process that the department, then under the leadership of former city Fire Chief Scott Ferguson, discovered some shortcomings that were corrected. Those corrections not only assisted the department to obtain the international accreditation, but also assisted in raising the ISO rating.

“It was that process that drove all the improvements we made because part of that process is a thorough and in-depth self-assessment of the organization,” he said. “That model helps you to ask the right questions and to highlight areas where you may be falling a little short.”

Lantzer said it was expected that ISO rating would improve since the department focused on the areas where there were shortcomings in the self-assessment portion of the accreditation process.

One of the main improvements made by the city that helped to improve the department’s ISO rating was in regard to training, Lantzer said.

“The biggest things that pushed us over the hump into Class 3 were our training and community risk reduction,” he said. “Both the training program and our community risk reduction programs were either non-staffed or staffed inadequately as we were still trying to get out of the recession since those were underfunded.

To mitigate those issues, Lantzer said that the department assigned a training captain in the training division who created a training program from scratch, totally revamping what Murrieta Fire & Rescue had been doing.

“We were also able to hire a fire marshal who has done the same thing for community risk reduction,” he said, adding that the city now has five fire inspector positions, something it was lacking in before the self-assessment.

“To say that we were not getting out to do annual inspections or state mandated inspections is not the issue,” he said. “We were not getting out at all. So now we have a staff for community risk reduction, we still have a couple of positions that we will fill later this year.”

Lantzer said those improvements made all the difference in moving from a Class 4 to a Class 3 ISO rating.

“It was really that simple, we were just under resourced,” he said.

According to Lantzer, while the department has improved its ISO rating, there is still work to be done.

“This department has looked at itself critically from head to toe all the way around, 360 degrees and has a plan and a time to address those shortcomings and will continue to address other shortcomings that occur,” he said.

The process of improving Murrieta Fire & Rescue’s ISO rating was really a team effort, Lantzer said, as he gave credit to Ferguson.

“This doesn’t just happen out of the blue; it takes a team and we have a great team here,” he said. “I also want to give credit to Chief Scott Ferguson who I worked under. We began talking to ISO years ago and began working together on the accreditation piece that helped us with ISO, so he deserves credit as well.”

Bottom line for Lantzer is that the community understands how Murrieta Fire & Rescue strives to provide the city it serves with the best fire protection and prevention it possibly can.

“I hope that this brings some comfort to the public, that they see we are working hard toward providing them the best service, but we are still working hard to do even better,” Lantzer said. 

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.