Class 1 Fire Department

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Effective 1 July 1999, the Cambridge Fire Department was upgraded to a Class 1 Fire Department by the ISO (Insurance Services Office), the first Fire Department in Massachusetts to be rated as Class 1. The ISO is a nationwide nonprofit service organization that provides rating and other services to property and casualty insurance industries. The ISO was formed in 1971 and is the successor to the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU) which initiated the original municipal fire protection survey in 1889. The objective of the survey is to recognize the impact that effective public fire protection has on individual property fire rates, given that public fire protection can affect the percentage of loss value that could be expected in a fire situation.

The latest revision of the ISO’s Fire Suppression Rating Schedule classifies fire protection into 10 categories, Class 1 recognizing the highest level of fire protection and Class 10 recognizing the lowest or no level of fire protection. The Fire Suppression Rating Schedule includes three major sections: Fire Alarm; Fire Department; and Water System. The Fire Alarm section includes the means for the public to report a fire, how the fire department receives the alarm of fire, and how firefighters and companies are alerted and dispatched to the fire. The Fire Department section considers apparatus, equipment, staffing, automatic and mutual aid, pre-fire planning, and training. The interrelationship of engines, trucks, rescues, and other companies is also considered. The Water System section considers the supply works, main capacity to deliver fire flow, distribution of hydrants, hydrant size, type, and installation, hydrant inspection and condition, and alternative water supplies. Per the 1980 revision of the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, fire alarm is weighted as 10%, water supply as 40%, and the fire department as 50% of the total survey rating evaluation.

Of the more than 47,000 fire departments subject to ISO survey in this country, just over 300 are rated as Class 1.

In the state of Massachusetts only Cambridge, Boston, Brockton, Brookline, New Bedford, and Newton Fire Departments are rated Class 1.

For further information on ISO gradings of fire departments, refer to their web site at Verisk Community Hazard Mitigation, and more specifically, their Public Protection Classification Program page.