Calif. fire dept. awarded ISO Class 1 rating

The ISO upgraded the San Rafael Fire Department from Class 3 to Class 1; the chief said the improved rating is due to changes in staffing, equipment, communication and fire prevention

The Marin Independent Journal

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — The San Rafael Fire Department has joined three other Marin fire departments that have achieved a prestigious Class 1 rating for fire protection, as judged by the Insurance Services Office.

The ISO, a national organization that provides statistical and actuarial analyses for the insurance industry, upgraded the San Rafael agency on April 1 from Class 3 to Class 1, the highest possible rating.

“It is a big deal, because it means our firefighters are doing an outstanding job keeping San Rafael as protected as possible from fire risks,” said City Manager Jim Schutz.

The rating, however, does not necessarily mean San Rafael property owners will get a break on their insurance rates. Any rating of Class 3 or higher is excellent, said insurance agent David Stompe, owner of Farmers Insurance and Financial Services Office in Novato.

“When it goes up to (Class) 5, 8, 10 — that’s what makes (insurance) go up,” Stompe said. “When it goes down to 3, that’s like the best rates.”

But the rating does put the department in an elite group. Of the 979 California fire agencies rated by the ISO, only 19 are Class 1. They include the Novato Fire District, the Mill Valley Fire Department and the Tiburon Fire Protection District.

Of the 48,632 fire agencies rated nationwide, 178 have been judged to be Class 1, according to the ISO.

San Rafael’s rating was upgraded after inspectors last fall evaluated the department in a process typically conducted every 10 years for municipal fire departments.

“We’ve gone through a lot of efforts, in particular, over the last 10 years to upgrade the city’s response capability,” said San Rafael Fire Chief Chris Gray.

The improved rating is due largely to changes in the department’s staffing, equipment, communication and water systems, and fire prevention, he said.

Significant factors that prompted the upgrade included maintaining reliable water flow with the 2012 extension of a $75 annual fire flow fee via the Marin Municipal Water District, Gray said. He also cited replacement of the fire department’s in-house dispatch system with the Marin County Public Safety Communications Center in 2009.

Novato Fire Chief Mark Heine agreed the Class 1 rating is something to be proud of. Novato achieved its rating in 2009.

“It is a remarkable achievement for any agency and reflects the agency’s commitment to community risk reduction efforts, prevention, public education, and emergency response efficiency,” Heine said.

The San Rafael Fire Department’s improved rating will soon be displayed publicly.

“You’ll start to see it on our engines,” Gray said. “We’ll designate them Class 1.”

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