Leveraging GIS to Tackle ISO Reviews


Fire Departments nationwide are reviewed and accredited for how they allocate their resources by the Insurance Services Organization (ISO). These ISO reviews are conducted every 10 years, and a great deal of preparation is required to achieve a better rating. When the review is completed, ISO will assign a rating from 10 to 1. Class 10 being the worst possible score, and class 1 being the best. These ISO scores directly affect the insurance premiums paid by residents and business owners throughout a municipality or fire protection district. The Village of Wheeling Fire Department entered 2017 with an ISO class 3 rating, and will be ending the year with a class 2 rating. The Village was able to leverage GIS to attain all the possible points necessary to achieve a class 2 rating. The Village has come a long way since its last ISO review, and it’s investment in GIS was a key factor that made it all possible!

How Far We’ve Come

In 2007 the Village of Wheeling had not yet joined the GIS Consortium, and an ISO review was conducted that year. The address model and water distribution system had not yet been integrated into GIS, and response area analyses had to be conducted on hand drawn paper maps. Wheeling Fire Chief – Keith MacIsaac lamented back on the process by stating, “We use to draw the response areas maps by hand. That process took about a month of work.”

Originally, the Village was pessimistic about their odds of improving to a class 2 rating, but GIS was the key ingredient that was missing from the previous review. Joining the GIS Consortium provided the Wheeling Fire Department with tools and information for a better way forward. This partnership allowed them to better manage their assets and prepare for a review as important as this. After the review was completed, Fire Chief MacIsaac credited GIS as “an integral part of the review.”

Preparation through Collaboration

The Fire Department and the GIS Specialist worked directly with one another to prepare for the review. The Fire Department shared a project list with the GIS Specialist that contained all the analyses and maps that were needed to achieve the highest possible score. Almost 40% of the ISO rating requires analyses and map production using GIS!

The GIS Consortium provides more than access to GIS professionals. Wheeling had the opportunity to leverage the knowledge of all the Fire Departments in the Consortium. Inquiring about any blind spots in their preparation, they wondered if ISO projects that had previously been completed by other GISC members could benefit with their upcoming review. The review was efficient and effective, and that was echoed by Fire Chief MacIsaac who stated, “The ISO official did not ask for any additional maps or analyses. The information provided by GIS was perfect.”

Doubling Down on GIS

The Village of Wheeling improving to an ISO class 2 rating was not by chance. It was achieved by hard-work, investing in the future and leveraging the power of the GIS Consortium to use the best ideas from all the member communities. After seeing the recent pay-out from GIS, there is no reason to think it will not pay off again in 2027, when the next ISO review in Wheeling will take place. The Village of Wheeling will set the bar even higher by aiming for an ISO class 1 rating. Doubling down on GIS will ensure such a triumph is not a possibility, but an inevitability. In the process the Village will better serve the community and save people money!

Take the Lead    

Discover, innovate, and collaborate with the GIS Consortium today! Contact your community’s GIS Specialist to discuss project opportunities, Consortium services, and GIS.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative or if you have questions, please contact agrahovac@mgpinc.com.

Author: John Dakarian, GIS Specialist