(May 12, 2006) -- Following a story first reported in April by LBReport.com that the Insurance Services Office (ISO) [a privately run risk assessment firm] does not rate Long Beach as providing ISO-rated Class One public protection status -- despite years of statements by LB officials saying the city has that top rating -- City Manager Jerry Miller has asked LB Fire Chief Dave Ellis to prepare a report providing "some background on the ISO's designation process, the importance of this rating to the City and our residents, and any recommendations you may have as to how the City should respond to recent community concerns."
City Manager Miller's memo to Fire Chief Ellis, dated May 10 [full text below] requests the report as "there appears to be continued interest in better understanding the City's current public protection rating and Insurance Services Office (ISO) status."
The memo comes one day after LBReport.com reported that an ISO spokesman told us after checking back to the early to mid-1980s that it could find no record indicating LB previously had Class One status...a contention we said we reported "with a continuing sense of disbelief."
City Manager Miller's to the Fire Chief explicitly adds, "I want to confirm that, in my view, we have an absolutely world-class fire department that meets or exceeds my expectations day in and day out. I am proud of you, your management team and the entire Fire Department organization you lead. Having said that, I think it is important that we address any concerns that may apply to the City's public protection status."
The City Manager's memo adds that given "our ongoing budget planning process and rigorous schedules, I would think ninety days is a sufficient period to respond to this request."
On April 21, 2006 LBReport.com first reported that the City of LB doesn't provide taxpayers with Class One public protection status regarding fire as determined by ISO, an independent, non-government risk assessment firm. For years, LB officials had routinely stated as a matter of civic pride that LB had a Class One ISO designation that helped keep LB fire insurance rates low.
LBFD fire trucks are emblazoned with the designation "Class One." LBFD business cards also carry the designation "Class One."
After LBReport.com's initial report last month, we asked ISO's media office to do a second check...and asked that records be examined going back beyond the mid-1990s.
As LBReport.com reported on May 10, ISO staffers searched back to the early to mid-1980s...and ISO spokesman Dave Dasgupta said ISO staffers couldn't find records of the City of Long Beach ever having had Class One Public Protection Classification status re fire.
"We spoke with several knowledgable people, including old timers, and searched records going back to the early to mid 1980s," Mr. Dasgupta said. "We simply could not find a record indicating that Long Beach actually had Class One status." He added, "You would do a service to your readers to report the this."
LBReport.com reported what the ISO told us...but add that it was "with a continuing sense of disbelief. We remain at a loss to understand how what now seems to be a civic myth got started in CA's fifth largest city...and then percolated into years of erroneous representations by public officials."
As also reported by LBReport.com, Los Angeles City fire trucks also say "Class One" on them, although L.A. isn't rated Class One. But unlike LB, L.A. did have Class One status from roughly 1947 until somewhere in the late 1990s, says LAFD Public Information Officer Brian Humphrey. In contrast, ISO says it has no record of LB ever having had Class One status.
ISO doesn't set fire insurance rates, but says its risk classifications are used by many insurers in setting their rates. ISO says that all other things being equal, homes and businesses in a city that has Class One (the safest) fire protection status will likely pay lower fire insurance rates than Class Two or below. Class Two is s good rating (the classifications extend downward to Class Ten) but it isn't Class One, a status highly prized by cities that provide it.
Ten CA cities currently provide Class One Public Protection Classication (PPC) status, nine of them in So. Cal: Arcadia (boasts about it on its website), Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Vernon, Torrance, and Glendale. (Stockton in No. Cal is also Class One).
ISO upgraded LB to Class Two status in 2002 from LB's prior ranking of Class Two/Nine status. The 2002 upgrade was based on ISO's assessment of an improved level of hydranting in the city, ISO spokesman Dasgupta said.