Maryville’s Insurance Service Office rating has improved from Class 3 to Class 2/2x, which may lower insurance rates for city residents, businesses and industries.

The new classification goes into effect today and makes Maryville one of 28 Tennessee cities that have achieved a Class 2, according to data on the ISO Mitigation website.

Nationwide, less than 1 percent of fire departments — 1,393 of 44,672 — are rated Class 2, which is the second-highest classification available.

“We are very proud of this new ISO rating and want to thank all the city departments, staff and officials who continuously work together to achieve this high standard,” said Maryville Public Safety Director Tony Crisp. “We hope this lower rating will further provide peace of mind to residents, businesses and industries that we are ready and able to serve during a fire emergency.”

The city was evaluated in the summer of 2017.

Rating explained

The ISO scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Only four cities in Tennessee are rated Class 1: Chattanooga, Franklin, Germantown and Johnson City.

“Through the Public Protection Classification program, ISO evaluates municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States,” according to the ISO Mitigation website. “A community’s investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predictor of future fire losses. So insurance companies use PPC information to help establish fair premiums for fire insurance — generally offering lower premiums in communities with better protection.”

The Class 2/2x rating is the latest of improved designations for Maryville, which obtained a Class 3 rating in 1996. Before that, the city’s rating was Class 5.

The process of rating cities includes an on-site inspection of facilities, records, training and equipment.

The city’s water system accounts for 40 percent of the score while fire department facilities, equipment and personnel account for 50 percent and the emergency communications operations (911) accounts for the remaining 10 percent.

The 2x portion of the score in Maryville’s rating indicates specific areas of the city where either fire hydrants are more than 1,000 feet from the property and/or the property is more than five miles from a fire station.

This variable affects less than 1 percent of the city, and Maryville encompasses almost 17 square miles, said Maryville Fire Department Administrative Capt. Mike Caylor.

“And we are closer to a Class 1 than a Class 3,” he added, noting that Maryville scored an 87.56.

Class 2 departments score between 80 and 89.99. Class 1 departments score 90 or higher.

Improvements made

Caylor told The Daily Times many things helped improve Maryville’s ISO rating: additional fire hydrants, increased training and required redundancy in the city’s communications system, to name a few.

“We are an accredited agency, which makes it easier to prepare for an ISO evaluation in that we are accustomed to keeping those kinds of records and pulling the data they need,” Caylor added.

Maryville Fire Department is accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

Among the improvements that culminated in Maryville’s new ISO rating was the fire department’s improved response times.

“For accreditation, we focused on ‘How long does it take to get to you when you call us?’” Caylor said. “The clock starts when they answer the phone until we pull up at the curb outside your house.”

Because it could take dispatchers a couple of minutes to get all the necessary information from callers, a pre-emption system at Maryville Fire Department’s headquarters helps firefighters get a head start. The television monitors in key locations throughout the department give firefighters a prenotification of the call while the dispatcher is still on the phone with the caller.

“That allows us to get out of the station quicker,” Caylor explained. “We’re supposed to be out the door in 80 seconds, and 30 or 40 seconds (quicker) mean a lot if you’re on the other end of the call.

“All we need to know is where we’re going,” he added. “The only thing we don’t have control over is how long it will take us to get there once we leave the station.”

Crisp advises Maryville residents, businesses and industries to contact their insurance agencies to learn about any cost savings associated with the new rating.

For more information about the rating or fire safety services, contact the Maryville Fire Department at 865-273-3675.

Lesli Bales-Sherrod has written for multiple East Tennessee newspapers, as well as working in communications for the federal government in Washington, D.C., twice, in addition to her favorite job as mom of two. She covers Alcoa, Maryville and Townsend.

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