Aurora gets 'good' score from insurance rating company

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- The city received a "good" rating from a firm that helps set insurance rates for communities, according to Fire Chief David Barnes.

Aurora scored 73 out of a possible 105 points in an Insurance Services Online rating system, in which a city's score is used by insurance companies to set rates for businesses, industries and homeowners.

"After this agency develops ratings, when you are a business, for example, it's one of the factors considered by an insurance company," he said.

Dominic Santanna of ISO wrote to Barnes and city officials that ISO's program "plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies. In fact, most U.S. insurers -- including the largest ones -- use the information as part of their decision making when deciding prices to charge for personal and commercial property insurance."

ISO representatives evaluated the city in three areas -- the fire department, which makes up 50 percent of the total score, the city's water system (40 percent) and dispatch center (10 percent).

Barnes said the lower the score, the better -- just like in golf.

He said the city received a 3 rating in areas with hydrants, compared to a 5 rating in 2001, the last time the city was graded by ISO. In areas without hydrants, mostly in the northeast sector, the city received an 8B rating, which was better than the 9 rating in 2001.

Barnes said Aurora does not have fire hydrants all over the city because the water system, which was in the center of town, was put in when Aurora was a village. As the city expanded, "fire hydrants never reached their full potential," he said.

BARNES SAID the scores are improved for three reasons -- the fire department has upgraded its equipment, there is a better water system and better staffing.

• Equipment. Barnes said the department has improved its equipment over the last 10 years. "We purchased a fire engine in 2004 to replace two pumpers made in 1975 and 1979, and we purchased a pumper last year that replaced one made in 1988," he said.

• Water system. "Not long ago, we hooked into the Cleveland water system, so we have a better water supply," he said. "We have Portage County water as a backup."

• Staffing. In 2001, he said there was only one dispatcher on most shifts, while there are two on most shifts today. He said the department hired three full-time firefighters in 2002, giving it a total of 17 full-timers.

The ISO evaluator looks at a detailed check list, Barnes said, including things like training records, maintenance records and equipment the department possesses.

"We're required to test pumps on our fire trucks, our hoses, our ladders and our breathing apparatus," he said, giving other examples.

"It's like a test grade, and you accumulate points," he said. "There are different points in each category, and they're added together. For example, we can get credit for fire pumpers. Out of a possible six points, we got six. We got three out of three points for hydrants."

According to the ISO website, the agency is a leading source of information about property/casualty insurance risk. ISO is an advisory organization, and insurers may use its information, modify it, or not use it as they see fit.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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