What is a protection class?
The protection class ranking system was created by the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) as a fire risk assessment tool. Insurance carriers consider your home’s protection class when determining your premium.
Your home's protection class depends on your community's:
- Fire department quality. The ISO looks at the department’s equipment, staff, training, and fire station distribution.
- Water supply system. Key details here include the condition, maintenance, distribution, and inspection of fire hydrants. The ISO also compares the amount of available water to the amount needed to put out a fire.
- Fire alarm and communications systems. The ISO gathers details about the area’s telephone systems, telephone lines, and the dispatch system.
The ISO evaluates this information and uses it to rank the area in one of 10 protection classes. The lower the protection class, the better the community’s fire protection.
What do homeowners need to know about protection class?
You may never actually know your community’s protection class. The program was created for insurance industry professionals, not policyholders. But the number is still important because nearly all providers consider your protection class when calculating your home insurance premium.
Let’s say your community has a protection class of 8. This means the fire department may have a harder time extinguishing a fire at your home because it's further away from a fire department or fire hydrant. As a result, your home may suffer more damage that your insurer has to cover. Your insurer has to protect its own assets, so it may charge you more to cover your home.
Protection class 8 puts you on the bubble, but certain protection classes make getting coverage difficult:
- Protection class 9, which means the community meets the ISO requirements for quality and communications but has an inadequate water supply.
- Protection class 10, which means the community does not meet the ISO’s minimum standard in any category.
The industry considers these essentially “unprotected” classes, and some insurers won’t cover homes in these locations. Others may, but at a price.
What protection class is my home in?
The ISO only shares protection classes with insurance companies and agents. However, there are a few signs that indicate your home is in a high protection class. For instance, your home could be in protection class 9 or 10 if:
- It is located in an unincorporated or rural area or is outside of city limits.
- Your fire department is staffed by volunteers.
- The primary fire department is five miles away or farther.
- The nearest fire hydrant is more than 1,000 feet away.
If your home is in protection class 9 or 10, you may end up paying more for your insurance. Comparing policies from multiple insurance providers can help you find a more competitive rate for your coverage.
Can I improve my protection class?
Improving your protection class is difficult. It takes a significant amount of community resources to upgrade your fire department’s equipment, staff, and training. You may be better off looking for other ways to reduce your fire risk. For instance, you might try:
- Removing unnecessary structures.
- Trimming trees and brush near your home.
- Installing a smoke detector or fire alarm.
Reducing your fire risk minimizes the chance of a claim, and insurance companies may offer premium discounts for it. Talk to your insurance agent to see what discounts you're eligible for.