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The Insurance Service Office upgrades the Solana Beach Fire Department’s Public Protection Classification to a 1, the highest rating, which means fire insurance rates for property owners could go down. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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High fire score could mean low insurance rates

SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach property owners may soon get a break on fire insurance thanks to the efforts of the city’s firefighters.

The Insurance Service Office (ISO) recently upgraded the department’s Public Protection Classification from a 3, assigned in 2012, to a 1. The new rating becomes effective March 1.

The ISO reviews public fire suppression capabilities and develops a classification for insurance companies, allowing them to assess the risk of local fire protection. The 1-10 rating scale is used to establish appropriate fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties.

ISO surveyed 48,632 communities nationwide. Only178 fire departments, including Solana Beach’s, received the highest rating.

The components affecting the score include the performance of the fire department, the available water supply and the communications systems in place, such as dispatch.

Over the past several years, the Solana Beach Fire Department has been working hard to improve its rating with many efforts in community risk reduction, according to a press release from fire Chief Mike Stein.

These efforts include code adoption and enforcement, public fire safety education, fire investigations and pre-fire planning inspections.

Stein said improvements in all areas attributed to the improved score but he mostly credited an increase in the number of fire inspections and the department becoming more data driven.

He said the latter helped track training and a review of all major state fire codes that have been adopted.

“I’m extremely proud of the rating that the Solana Beach Fire Department received,” said Stein, who also oversees the Del Mar and Encinitas departments. “I’m proud of the level of service the department is doing. But this isn’t just about the Fire Department. It’s the entire community.”

He noted that the dispatch center and Santa Fe Irrigation District were also evaluated and “rated very high.”

Stein also credits the city for investing in a fire inspector.

“It’s a culmination of all three agencies that got us the score and the entire community helping,” he said.

The improved rating “may not sound too exciting,” Mayor Mike Nichols said, but it could result in “lower insurance rates paid by our residents when it comes to fire insurance, so it’s a win-win and it’s quite an honor.”

“So congratulations to the Fire Department,” he added. “Congratulations to the fire management staff. We appreciate all that they do for us. It shows that they’re being recognized by this and it helps our community. So hats off to them.”

ISO, created in 1971, is an advisory and rating organization for the property and casualty insurance industry. It provides statistical, actuarial, underwriting and claims information, policy language, fraud-identification tools and technical services to help develop programs.

It also helps insurance companies meet state regulatory requirements.