What Is a Homeowners Insurance Protection Class?

February 21, 2013 5 Comments »
What Is a Homeowners Insurance Protection Class?

Insurance Q&A: “What is a homeowner’s insurance protection class?”

So, you’re moving out to a rural area and just discovered your homeowner’s insurance policy is more expensive than you anticipated due to the “protection class” for your new address.

Aside from being a little angry, you probably want to know the who, what, where, why, and how of this thing. The “when” doesn’t really come into play here!

Although we can’t make your insurance premium magically go down, we can explain why it may be higher expected, so here goes.


[Compare rates from the leading car insurance companies in your area.]

The Who

Your protection class, officially referred to as “Public Protection Class” (PPC™), is determined by Insurance Services Organization, known affectionately as “ISO” (pronounced “eye-so”) in insurance circles.

ISO is a leading source of information about property/casualty insurance in the United States. Property and casualty insurance can be thought of as anything other than life/health insurance. Think of it as home and auto insurance for our purposes.

What they do is way out of the scope of this article, but take our word for it…they know their stuff and insurers listen to them.

The What

Odds are you could care less about the ISO and what they do. So, let’s get to what a protection class is since you just found out your homeowner’s insurance is more expensive for your particular class.

Without grinding through the excruciating details of protection class assignment, let’s look at the basics, which are really all you need to know.

Protection class ratings deal with fire protection capabilities in a particular community, and may also be referred to as “Fire protection Class.”

Communities are typically assigned a PPC rating of 1-10. The lower the number, the better the rating for your property.

Being in a “Class 1” (best) generally means your home is located in an area with superior fire protection. Conversely, if your property is located in a “Class 10” (worst), the community you are in is on the very low end of the fire protection spectrum.

The How (and Where)

Yes, we realize we’re going out of order here, but stay with us. Protection classes are assigned using a few pretty simple factors.

• Distance to a fire hydrant (water supply)
• Distance to a fire station
• Fire station equipment and staffing – full time professional or volunteer?

That’s really it. As a rule of thumb, if you’re within 500-1,000 feet of a fire hydrant and within five miles of a fire station with a full-time, professionally staffed team, you’re going to be in good shape when it comes to protection class.

If you do not have a fire hydrant anywhere near your property, the closest fire department is 12 miles away and is staffed by volunteer firefighters, you are likely in a “Class 9” or higher.

[How are homeowner’s insurance rates calculated?]

The Why

Hopefully the section of the post is purely academic. Your property insurer is likely trading $1,000 or so dollars of your hard earned money and assuming the risk of rebuilding your $100,000 home from scratch if it burns to the ground.

One of the basic principles insurers follow with their pricing is charging more money to those who present a higher risk of filing a claim, especially a large claim.

[Will my premium go up if I file a claim?]

The longer a home burns before the fire department shows up, the more your insurer is going to have to pay for repairs. The higher your protection class, the longer your home would theoretically burn before they arrived.

Tip: State Farm has a proprietary fire rating system, which relies on its own loss data.

Protection Class 9-10

You may encounter difficulty obtaining homeowner’s insurance in the standard market if your property is located in an area with a PPC higher than an eight (8).

A “Class 9” grading means the community’s fire-protection system meets ISO requirements, but the water supply system does not.

A “Class 10” grading means the community’s fire-protection system does not meet ISO requirements.

Some insurers simply refuse to insure homes in these locations…at any price.

With regard to “Class 8” vs. 9-10, many standard insurers’ guidelines state they will accept the risk, but the pricing says otherwise and a call to an underwriter results in a “we are not really a market for that risk” response, which means if you value your appointment with us, you’ll write it somewhere else!

Be sure to shop your policy if you find yourself in this situation. While many companies prefer not to insure these homes, there are some that specialize in it, so they can offer a more cost effective premium.

Read more: What is the average cost of homeowner’s insurance?

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5 Comments

  1. Kathy Dolsen March 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm -

    I am going round and round with my insurance company on our Protection Class. For years we were a 5 now they changed us to a 10. Fire hydrant is 300′ and the fire station is 5.5 miles(Highway miles, not city…with traffic and lights to deal with) Need some advice on how to challenge this classification. The Fire Chief in Kawkawlin Twp just shakes his head and said 10 is not a proper class number. Our insurance has gone up $320 because of this. We are not in the country…our zip code is a Bay City zip code.
    Thank you for you assistance.

  2. Eric Hooke May 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm -

    Kathy
    I am an insurance agent and have dealt with this issue when a local fire department regained its accreditation. I had the fire chief write a letter to one of my companies explaining the situation and they were able to update their system and rate the homes in the area properly.
    That may or may not work in your case but I would discuss it with my agent as a possible solution or get a quote from another company that may recognize the correct class.

  3. ADRIANA AGUILAR August 15, 2016 at 9:32 am -

    I’m in the insurance business I would like to know if there is a website where I can see the fire protection class whenever I need it.

  4. joe May 15, 2017 at 1:35 pm -

    ISO defines a fire station as a building that can house a fire engine, protect it from the elements (snow, rain, freezing temperatures), and that the Fire District has 24 hour access to. This means many enclosed residential outbuildings would meet the minimum requirements and qualify the surrounding 5 miles for the reduced rates. If you have a space and may be interested in allowing your local fire department simply house a fire truck, you could enable your community to have lower fire ratings and lower fire insurance rates.

  5. joe May 15, 2017 at 1:36 pm -

    Recently, in some rural areas of our Fire District, homeowners are experiencing annual insurance rate increases ranging from $350 to $1,800. Our residents are being told by some insurance companies they have “no fire protection” because they are more than 5 road miles from a fire station. Approximately 500 homeowners of the 35,000 we protect have been, will be or could be affected by these insurance industry policy changes.

    When the Insurance Services Office (ISO) evaluated rural portions of our Fire District in 2004, they were an unbiased organization, separate from the insurance industry. ISO assigned a “Fire Protection Class” 7 rating to our rural areas of our Fire District. The ratings were based on water supply, fire apparatus, equipment, stations, manpower and much more. We worked hard for that rating so our residents could enjoy reduced homeowners rates.

    On March 3, 2010, six years later, ISO, now owned by insurance companies, suddenly changed our rural Fire Protection Class to a 7/10 so that any home more than 5 road miles from a fire station is automatically a Fire Protection Class 10. Insurance companies who use ISO’s rating system to determine homeowners insurance rates (most do) consider this rating the most severe risk and therefore charge the highest premium. Since that time, insurance companies have been significantly increasing rates in the affected rural areas.

    Since receiving notification of the changes, we have been working diligently with ISO to help our homeowners. We have complied with every request from ISO, such as providing with written automatic and mutual aid agreements drafted with other Fire Districts. These agreements mean that the 7 rating (less expensive) applies if the home is within 5 miles of any fire station, not just ours. We have also attempted to affect policy changes, by proving to ISO their “5 mile rule” does not exist in the National Fire Protection Association standards they use to evaluate our Fire District. However, ISO and the insurance industry refuse to acknowledge this and insist on making their own rules without providing satisfactory evidence to support it.

    Since 2004 we have made numerous positive changes to further improve our District’s Fire Protection Class rating. To tell our residents they have “no fire protection” and their insurance rates will be doubled is beyond ridiculous, in our opinion. Our residents do have fire protection. Good fire protection. Half a mile makes very little difference. There are homes in town that nearly burn to the ground, yet rural homes that we are able to save after a 15 minute response time. It all depends on the situation.

    Moving forward, the only resolution for our homeowners is to have fire stations in these two to three rural areas of the District. ISO defines a fire station as a building that can house a fire engine, protect it from the elements (snow, rain, freezing temperatures), and that the Fire District has 24 hour access to. This means many enclosed residential outbuildings would meet the minimum requirements and qualify the surrounding 5 miles for the reduced rates. If you have a space and may be interested in allowing us to house a fire truck

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