City Fire Protection Rating Moves Into Elite Levels


When the city council first looked at wholesale reforms like boundary drop, decoupling the rescue apparatus, reducing personnel and shared management, there were warnings from many in the community as well as representatives from Davis Professional Firefighters Association, Local 3494, that citizens would be put at risk and the insurance premiums would go up.

On Tuesday, the opposite occurred as the City of Davis Fire Department announced that the Insurance Services Office, Inc. Public Protection Classification (ISO-PPC) rating for the city was changed from a 4 to a 2, “an improvement of two rating classes, an achievement that only 2% of fire departments in the United States can claim,” according to a city press release.

ISO is a private firm that provides information to insurance companies regarding property/casualty risk through a number of programs, one of them being the PPC Program. The PPC reviews the fire department, water department and dispatch/communication center capabilities.

Historically, communities across the country strive to achieve “best in class,” which is generally considered a 1 rating. In 2015, only 132 fire departments across the country achieved a 1. The city’s rating of a 2, less than 9 points away from a class 1, makes it one of only 1,060 fire departments to hold this high rating across the United States.

According to the city release, studies have shown that the results of a change in the PPC Rating from a 4 to a 2 will likely have up to a 2-3% reduction in insurance premium costs for structures in the affected areas, although this is dependent on each individual insurance company.

Statistical data also demonstrates that the cost of fire insurance claims per $1,000 of insured property is reflective of a communities’ Public Protection Classification Rating, thus clearly demonstrating that communities with better ratings experience lower fire insurance rates and fire insurance claims per $1,000 of insured property.

“The Class 2 rating improvement shows that we have an excellent working relationship with our ‘partners’ – our surrounding fire departments and our communication dispatch center,” stated Nathan Trauernicht, City of Davis & UC Davis Fire Chief.

“This is a great benefit to our City. I would like to thank the Davis Fire Department staff and our services partners for their contributions to making Davis a safe place to work and live; this achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of these agencies,” stated Mayor Dan Wolk.

Chief Trauernicht attributed the ISO rating upgrade to a number of factors including deployment practices of the department, and the department’s participation in regional training through the West Valley Regional Training Consortium. “Because we were part of the consortium we were able to count the regional training center in West Sac as our training center,” he explained.

He also attributed the ratings increase to the “deployment modifications we made – decoupling of the rescue (apparatus), puts another available company in the city. The boundary drop with the addition of Engine 34 into the first alarm matrix in the city increases the number of personnel that we’re now sending to a first alarm.”

“I think all those things contributed,” he said.

Chief Trauernicht noted that they continue to pour over the data. Based on the current score, they are only about nine points away from being ISO Class 1. He said that, in 2015, there were only about 135 or so ISO Class 1 departments in the country.

“We’re going through now making improvements that will hopefully net us those extra points,” he said.

At a March 2013 meeting, Bobby Weist, the President of the firefighters’ union, argued that the reduction of one firefighter would reduce the ability of firefighters to immediately attack fires, thus putting not only lives but also property at risk.

In his audit, then-Interim Chief Scott Kenley assessed the impact on fire insurance premiums should Davis reduce the number of fire personnel on duty at any point in time.

Former Chief Kenley noted, “The last grading was completed in April of 2012, with an overall grading of 69.19. This is the closest the City has been to a Class 3, missing it by just 0.89 points.”

Former City Manager Steve Pinkerton added, “We believe that the overall modifications to our service delivery system proposed in the management audit will improve and not diminish our ranking.”

Over the objections of the firefighters’ union, the city council by a 3-2 vote in 2013 approved the reduction of on-duty personnel from 12 to 11. The restructuring process allowed the city to de-couple the Fire Engine from the Rescue Apparatus at the Central Fire Station, allowing the two units to deploy separately.

That along with boundary drop greatly reduced the number of times a fire engine from one of the peripheral stations had to move up to the central station to cover for Station 31. The data from last fall showed that, indeed, the number of times engines from the peripheral stations had to move to the central station drastically fell.

Last year, Chief Trauernicht noted this allowed the fire engines to stay in their home stations, thereby greatly reducing response time. He said, “Simply put, if a fire company is out of district (out of position), response times increase to that response area.”

What does the higher ISO rating mean for Davis?

“A higher ISO rating says that we are more prepared in the eyes of the insurance industry to respond effectively to fires in the community,” he said.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. PhilColeman

    As a retired police administrator, I’ve always been so envious of the my counterparts in the fire service.

    Some time long ago, the collective fire service had the vision to set up a system measuring their performance in fire prevention against fire insurance rates. Financial incentives were thus created for local government increase budgets for fire department’s prevention efforts, and realizing a measurable dollar return on this investment in the form of lower insurance rates.

    Subsequent efforts by law enforcement to mimic this have been feeble at best, and marginally thwarted by claims that the police could “cook the books” and deliberately reduce crime numbers for their own sinister self-interest. It’s a lot harder to hide a fire.

    But I’ve always felt local law enforcement could get past this barrier if sufficient effort was made. My modest efforts many years ago with this notion fell on deaf ears, internally and externally.

    Chief Trauernicht is really in the cat-bird seat now and can–and hopefully will–apply his considerable talents in number analysis. Look for the Chief to come to the council soon with hard numbers on how much every Davis and UCD fire insurance recipient saved with this new Category Two fire classification. It must be in the many thousands of dollars. I can’t even imagine what UCD annually pays in fire insurance.

    After applauding the Council for their support, the Chief can persuasively say,”Give me half that savings in next year’s budget and I’ll promise you we will be in Category One in a year or two.”

  2. Tia Will


    Wow. I had no idea that the police did not employ a similar ranking system whether done by internal or external audit. I suppose this is at least in part because I live in a world which is awash in numbers to assess how well we are doing at prevention both as individuals within our field, in comparison with other departments within Kaiser and as compared with other health care provision groups. I just assumed that everyone had robust comparison systems.

    I would be very interested in seeing more information from you on what systems are currently in place for police ranking and what changes you would recommend.

    1. PhilColeman

      My comments were not to imply law enforcement agencies do not tabulate crime numbers or patterns. Quite the opposite. The Federal level, Uniform Crime Reports, tabulate crime totals at the state and local level and by Part I and Part II types of crimes. Apologies if I mislead anybody on that point.

      Locally, virtually every police agency does similar tabulating and plots it geographically and by Method of Operation (MO). This data assists managers in patrol deployment, alerting potential crime victims, and tagging specific crimes to a specific suspect.

      Ironically, law enforcement has comprehensive data base of crime numbers that matches or even exceeds fire service statistics. However, law enforcement never had the early foresight to develop an direct relationship of crime totals with crime-related insurance rates.

      We all know that insurance determine premium rates based on risk of payment. Life, Auto, Homeowners’, Flood, Fire all are affected, and rates are calculated geographically. Why the police has not taken advantage of this potential financial incentive defies all logic.


      1. Tia Will


        Thanks for the clarification. I in no way read your comment to mean that no statistics were being kept. However, it does lead me to wonder that if they are not utilizing an insurance based model to monitor and take action on the findings, what metrics and models are they using to rank themselves in comparison with others, and how do they use this information to effect improvements ?

  3. Tia Will

    Kudos to Nate Trauernicht and his firefighters for their achievements. This is a clear example of how a collaborative rather than a competitive approach can have benefits for all involved.

  4. ryankelly

    I don’t think anyone has ever criticized our local Fire Department for poor service.  Even with all of the political machinations over staffing, pay and union activities, the fire fighters have always been incredibly professional in delivering prompt, compassionate service to the community.  That the department has achieved a higher safety rating even with the changes in staffing levels and boundary drops that could have caused problems  speaks volumes about the Department – Trauernicht and his staff.  They made it work.  Wonderful.

  5. Anon

    ““The Class 2 rating improvement shows that we have an excellent working relationship with our ‘partners’ – our surrounding fire departments and our communication dispatch center,” stated Nathan Trauernicht, City of Davis & UC Davis Fire Chief.

    Congratulations!!!  It is clear that the “shared model” is working well, to the betterment of the city.  I know it was contentious getting there, and some disagreed that the shared model would work, but Fire Chief Trauernicht and others have shown the way – and is willing to try and do even better!!!  Change is never easy, but can be very, very positive…

  6. Davis Progressive

    “This is a great benefit to our City. I would like to thank the Davis Fire Department staff and our services partners for their contributions to making Davis a safe place to work and live; this achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of these agencies,” stated Mayor Dan Wolk.

    i find this comment very ironic.  after all dan wolk voted against the changes some of which helped result in the improvement of the iso rating.  but of course instead of acknowledging that he was wrong, he doubles down with a laudatory comment that says nothing at all.

    1. ryankelly

      I don’t think that he needs to say that he was wrong.  I think he is saying that he’s impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the agencies to make it work and work well.  I think that this is a pleasant surprise for everyone.

      1. Matt Williams

        I wholeheartedly disagree ryan.  I met Chief Trauernicht shortly after he and Council candidate Robb Davis sat down two years ago to meet so that Robb could better understand the strengths, challenges and issues the Fire Department was facing.  Robb’s extremely positive assessment of that meeting caused me to seek out an opportunity to meet the Chief, and I was equally impressed.  Then we began to see the monthly progress/status reports from the Chief and my comfort levels with both where and how things were going went up another notch and then another notch.

        For those who were able to take a moment of their time to meet the Chief and listen to his plan/approach, the very positive results don’t come as a surprise.

        How does Chief Trauernicht earn respect and admiration and improved rating classes?  The old fashioned way . . . he earns it.

        1. ryankelly

          What are you disagreeing with?  The professionalism? The dedication to make it work?  I give up. People on this blog pick apart even complimentary comments.  Let’s all just take good news and fall over each other to make sure we condemn people who had past concerns that didn’t pan out and make sure the proper head is being patted – oh, and make sure others know who is and who is not a bandwagon fan.

          1. Matt Williams

            I’m disagreeing with your rather absolute, all-encompassing assessment, “… surprise for everyone.”

        2. ryankelly

          I can say with some certainty that no one planned or predicted the rapid increase in ranking. This is a pleasant surprise.  The talk was always about maintaining coverage, while saving the city money.  Kudos to the Fire Chief and Fire Department for not only making it work, but making it work so well.

          1. Matt Williams

            Fair enough. My reading of your initial comment was not as narrowly focused as that. My bad. Please accept my apology for the misinterpretation.

  7. Joe Krovoza

    Thank you Rochelle Swanson and Brett Lee on council.  We barely had the votes to do boundary drop, consolidation of management with UC Davis, 11-on from 12-on on the city side, and regional training.  The staff reports were clear we could improve services by working in a fact-based, best practices-based way with UC Davis — and it’s heartening to see this playing out nicely.  Thank you Chief Trauernicht for the execution and Steve Pinkerton and John Meyer for the administrative leadership.

  8. Cecilia EscamillaGreenwald

    Thank you Joe Krovoza, Rochelle Swanson AND Brett Lee for voting for boundary drop.  You evaluated the information presented and had foresight on what needed to be done to save money, help the city and UCD work together and still keep safety as a priority.  That is true leadership!  Thank you!

    And Joe may have already said it, but it deserves repeating:  Thank you Chief Trauernicht for the execution of the plan and thank you to past City Managers Steve Pinkerton and John Meyer (Vice-Chancellor now at UCD) for your administrative leadership.

    Steve Pinkerton, you were a true asset to the City of Davis and accomplished so much in such little time! You had the courage and leadership to make tough changes when needed.  It is no surprise that you and John Meyer worked so well together.

    And, thank you to the firefighters for the good job they do keeping our city safe!  I know some may think or feel they are under attack when cost savings become a priority and consolidation takes place, but this shows that good jobs, good benefits and consolidation of resources can take place without compromising the safety of the citizens of Davis.  Thank you Davis Firefighters!

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