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Better fire rating may mean lower insurance premiums

The City of Lawton's success in moving up two steps to land itself in the best fire rating category should mean good news for insurance premiums.

But insurance experts can't yet commit to exactly how much those savings will be.

Lawton will enter unique territory May 1 when its ranking from the Insurance Service Office (ISO) moves to Class 1, a ranking held by only two other cities in Oklahoma and only 471 of the 47,000 fire districts in the United States. According to insurance experts, American cities are placed into one of 10 ISO classes, with Class 1 representing the safest and highest rank. The score is determined by ISO's Public Protection Classification assessment, which bases its evaluation on fire department capabilities, water supply, emergency communications and the actions the community takes as a whole to improve safety.

Lawton now is ranked Class 3, meaning it improved by two classes. Kenneth Stoops, with ISO, told the City Council last week that the better the rating, the better protection that communities are being offered, which is why insurance policies could be positively effected. A total of 105.5 points are available through ISO's ranking system, with scores between 90 and 100 representing Class 1. Lawton scored a total of 92.29 points in the four categories in which it was ranked, leaving room for improvement even within Class 1.

How fire departments measure effectiveness

Fire Chief Dewayne Burk said the ISO ranking is important because it is one of the few ways fire departments can measure their effectiveness, providing a measuring stick against which improvements can be made. But it also benefits the community because it often has a positive effect on insurance premiums.

While not all insurance companies rely on ISO rankings to set the premiums they charge for property insurance, many do and property owners insured by those companies should see the Class 1 rating reflected on the bills they pay for insurance coverage.

Burk said he has tried to get that information himself, but has been told most insurance companies don't want to speculate because they don't yet know the effect the upgrade will have. Part of the problem is that the ISO rating is one of several factors used to calculate premiums.

Ryan Knowles, president of Insurica Lawton, said the new ISO rating will definitely have a positive effect on the property insurance written by its partner agencies for commercial and residential clients.

"That is a significant drop, to go from a three to a one," he said. "I'm impressed with the city to have done what it needed to do."

The Lawton Constitution

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