Amy Cunningham
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Thanks to the consolidation of the fire portion of the Gardner Department of Public Safety and Johnson County Fire District No. 1, commercial and industrial property owners in Gardner might get to keep a few more dollars this year.
Fire District No. 1 Chief Max Sielert announced this week that the absorption of the Gardner department by the county unit constituted an improvement in the department’s ISO rating, moving from a six to a five.
According to Ken Hill at the Insurance Services Office in Dallas, an ISO rating is a mechanism to recognize the fire suppression capabilities of a certain area.  Areas are graded on a scale from one to 10, with one being the highest rating possible.
“The letter I have from the ISO says that any property within five miles from one of our stations is a class five rating…as far as our city, now that we’re the primary provider for the City of Gardner, all property should (fall into that category),” stated Sielert.  “As I understand it from insurance people, moving from a six to a five will lower rates for commercial and industrial property owners.”
Because of the status upgrade, Sielert suggests that commercial and industrial property owners follow up with their insurance agents to make sure they are receiving the best rates possible.
“I would suggest to those property owners that they call their agents and they should get better insurance rates as a result,” Sielert said.  “They may have to tell them to call us and (verify), but let them know we’re now a class five instead of a class six.”
Sielert also said that by this time next year the department has plans to apply for reevaluation with the ISO believing that they can achieve an even higher class for the entire district.  He thinks the addition of Gardner staff as well as the city’s ladder truck may help in boosting the department’s rating.  The department was last graded by the ISO in 1995.
Hill said there are several items that must be taken into consideration before assigning a rating.  His company looks at variables including staffing, equipment, training, water supply, communication system, fire alarm system and the ability of the department to offer fire protection to the entire area.
During the evaluation process field representatives from ISO are sent out to conduct grading.
“When we grade towns and set the town class, the purpose of that is for fire insurance rating only. It is a mechanism to recognize the fire suppression capabilities of a certain area,” he explained.  “We look at anything that involves that fire department and their ability to put out fire. We’re evaluating the whole fire protection of the area, how good the fire department is.”
Jim Newins the auto and property lines supervisor in the Property and Casualty Division at the Kansas Insurance Department said that Insurance Services Office is a private company that provides information about property and casualty risk to insurance companies.
“It’s supported by insurance companies, the ISO charges insurance companies for this service. Once they pay for the service they have access to the ratings,” he explained