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ISO is a leading source of information about risk. In the United States and around the world, ISO helps customers identify and mitigate risk. We provide comprehensive data, leading-edge analytics, and decision-support services to the federal government, municipal leaders, insurance industry regulators, and public- and private-sector customers.

With the cooperation and support of many federal, state, and local agencies, ISO delivers mission-critical information to help solve challenging infrastructure problems and aid in disaster readiness and threat assessment for communities.

ISO provides information on:

  • communities — fire protection, water systems, other critical infrastructure, building codes, and natural and man-made catastrophes
  • buildings — size, construction, occupancies, hazards, and public and private fire protection
  • people — fraud, criminal and public records, claims, and employment history and background

ISO’s greatest asset is our 3,200 employees — recognized experts and leaders in their respective fields. Many of our employees serve on national advisory committees and have advanced degrees, certifications, and designations in areas including fire protection, insurance, risk management, actuarial analysis, and finance and economics. Our team of highly qualified and trained professionals also represents the following disciplines:

  • science — atmospheric and climate science, geology, geophysics, hydrology, meteorology, and seismology
  • engineering — architectural, civil, hydraulic, seismic, structural, and wind
  • information services — simulation modeling, software and network engineering, security, and database architecture

Headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, and with offices in Washington, D.C., ISO has staff located strategically throughout the United States and around the world.

Community Fire Protection

ISO partners with municipal fire authorities, city managers, and other community officials to evaluate local fire-protection resources. With a staff of field representatives located strategically around the country, we have evaluated and continue to monitor more than 45,000 fire-protection areas in the United States. With the cooperation of local authorities, our representatives collect data on fire station locations, protection-area boundaries, emergency dispatch centers, fire department resources, and water-system capabilities. We currently have extensive information on more than 30,000 areas served by community water systems. ISO’s ongoing dialogue with community fire and water authorities keeps community-infrastructure information current. Learn more about those efforts with ISO’s Community Outreach Program.


Public fire protection

ISO provides reliable, up-to-date information about a community’s fire-protection services through the Public Protection Classification (PPC™) program. ISO’s PPC Service evaluates the capacity of the local fire department to respond to and fight structure fires. By evaluating a community’s ability to suppress fires, ISO provides crucial information for understanding risk associated with a specific property. Fire and water officials benefit because they gain a road map for improvements in fire service and water supply.  

This map shows the PPC grades for communities in the 48 contiguous states. PPC grades run from Class 1 — which generally represents superior property fire protection — to Class 10 — which indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria. A third of all fire districts are graded Class 9 — the lowest recognized protection — or Class 10. ISO statistics show that those communities have losses at least twice as high as their better-protected neighbors.

Community Outreach Program

ISO has the highest-quality fire protection information available because we collect data directly from local fire authorities, city managers, and other community officials. ISO staff gathers data in the field to map fire protection areas, water coverage areas, and fire station locations.

ISO’s Community Outreach Program — aggressively supported by many state and local fire associations — identifies communities that have made changes to their fire-protection systems. 

How ISO keeps information up to date

In a typical year, we identify and verify more than 2,800 fire station location changes and 9,500 changes to protection-area boundaries and automatic-aid agreement areas. Those changes can affect the distance from an individual home or commercial property to the nearest responding fire station. Examples of significant changes include annexations or changes in the boundaries of a fire district, new or closed fire stations, water-system improvements, or changes in the way a community receives and handles fire alarms.

ISO contacts community officials by phone and mail. We send the officials detailed questionnaires, including maps of their fire jurisdictions. Upon receiving a community’s returned questionnaire, ISO performs an analysis to determine whether the community has made significant changes in its fire-suppression system. Based on that review of changes, ISO contacts the appropriate officials to schedule an on-site survey.

ISO also offers a free service to fire departments around the country — Fire Chiefs Online — a secured website with information and features that can help improve a community’s Public Protection Classification (PPC™). Fire chiefs can fill out questionnaires online, update them as needed, and access interactive maps of their fire protection areas and verify their accuracy.

Fire-Protection Resources

ISO uses well-defined criteria to review the structural firefighting capabilities of individual communities. We evaluate three major elements of a community’s fire-protection program:

Fire-alarm and communications systems

Ten percent of a community’s assessment is based on how well the fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its firefighting resources. Our field representatives evaluate the communications center — number of operators; telephone service, including the number of telephone lines coming into the center; and the listing of emergency numbers in the telephone book. Field representatives also look at the dispatch circuits, backup power capabilities, and how the center notifies firefighters about the location of the emergency.

Fire department and fire-protection capabilities

Fifty percent of the assessment is based on the fire-protection capabilities of the fire department. ISO reviews the distribution of fire companies throughout the area and checks that the fire departments test their hoses, pumpers, and aerial apparatus regularly. ISO inventories each engine company’s nozzles, hoses, breathing apparatus, and other firefighting equipment, as well as the equipment carried on aerial apparatus. We also review the distribution of fire stations and their proximity to the properties they protect.

ISO also reviews fire company records to determine:

  • type and extent of training provided to fire company personnel
  • number of firefighters who participate in training
  • on-duty and volunteer firefighter response to emergencies
  • maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment

Water supply

Forty percent of the assessment is based on the community’s water supply. ISO reviews whether the community has a sufficient water supply for fire suppression beyond maximum daily consumption. We survey all components of the water-supply system, including pumps, storage, and filtration. We observe fire-flow tests at representative locations in the community to determine the rate of flow the water mains provide. Finally, we evaluate the distribution and maintenance of fire hydrants.

Municipal Infrastructure

ISO works with city managers, municipal building-code authorities, and other community officials to evaluate a community’s commitment to adopt and enforce building codes and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements.

Building-code evaluations

ISO maintains classification information on building-code adoption, amendments, and enforcement for more than 9,000 enforcement authorities that provide services to more than 19,000 communities around the country. Building-code information can help analyze the possible effects of natural disasters on certain structures in a particular community. The prospect of decreasing catastrophe-related damage provides an incentive for communities to adopt the latest building codes and enforce them rigorously — especially as they relate to windstorm and seismic hazards.

ISO’s evaluations of building-code adoption and enforcement help communities by:

  • encouraging the adoption of the most current codes and enhancing code-enforcement departments
  • providing benchmark information to compare with other similar communities
  • promoting construction of better, more catastrophe-resistant buildings
  • reducing property losses from catastrophes
  • reducing the economic and social disruption that results from the serious and widespread destruction of natural disasters

Flood management

ISO works closely with community officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and flood insurance participants to help satisfy National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. Since 1991, ISO has administered the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) — a voluntary incentive program that assesses a community’s ability to mitigate flood damage.

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