BRENTWOOD -- A company that serves the insurance industry recently visited East Contra Costa Fire District to update the ratings that determine property owners' premiums.
The district late last month underwent a daylong evaluation by two field representatives of Insurance Services Office Inc., a New Jersey-based company that provides carriers with advice and information ranging from claims data and legal aid to risk management.
One of ISO's functions is to rate fire districts' ability to protect residents on a scale of 1 to 10, an analysis that insurance companies take into account when calculating risks and deciding how much to charge policyholders for coverage.
To that end, the ISO employees who came by East Contra Costa Fire noted such details as the condition, type and volume of equipment it has, the number of firefighters on duty and how many responded to calls that day.
They also perused records to determine whether the district meets ISO's minimum requirements for the number of hours firefighters spend on certain types of training, and whether it has been testing its fire hoses each year as well as engines' water pumps to ensure they're working correctly.
In addition, the evaluators reviewed how long it takes for a 9-1-1 call to be relayed from a central dispatch center to the district and how much water is available from fire hydrants in different parts of the region.
ISO ratings for East Contra Costa Fire, which will be released later this year, vary by location. Although they include the district's performance in all these categories, the most important factor is whether homes are within five miles of a station and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant.
Most of the fire district currently is either Class 4 or 9 -- 10 being the worst.
Areas that the ISO has designated Class 4 means the homes there are sufficiently close to a station and fire hydrant; properties in those neighborhoods labeled Class 9 don't meet either benchmark.
Brentwood and Oakley have areas that are rated a 9; parts of Bethel Island and Morgan Creek Territory have been labeled a Class 10.
ISO, which has started updating its information on fire districts every five years, last paid East Contra Costa Fire a visit in 2008, Chief Hugh Henderson said.
The review also was triggered by calls the company received from some insurance firms that are concerned about the number of stations the financially struggling district has closed since 2010, he said.
Henderson expects the ISO to come out with its new ratings in six to nine months, and if they're different, he predicts it won't be good news for policyholders.
"I have a feeling that our numbers are going to change, (and) there definitely could be an increase," he said.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.