Benchmarking for improvement: ISO and ESCI team up

Mike Duyck lgHow do you demonstrate to the people and community you serve that you’re doing a good job? Do you have a clear, definitive method to show you provide quality service with the resources you have? What data points are appropriate for a true peer review and accurate comparison of your service delivery?

Many fire departments have conducted benchmarking studies for years, but when you review the comparisons, the data points are often measured differently among peers. Providing public services can create dilemmas in determining exactly how those services equate to efficient use of public funds. Comparative analysis, or benchmarking, can establish an accurate picture of the effectiveness of the services.

To offer a powerful method for benchmarking fire departments, ISO has partnered with Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to create the Community Fire Service Performance Review for Structural Fire Protection.

ISO started by modifying our Public Protection Classification (PPCTM) grading schedule for fire protection to reflect current industry standards and improved currency. In doing so, we created an opportunity for true fire department peer reviews with more than 32 data points. The review tool accurately helps departments compare their organization against industry standards and similar organizations. The tool gives a quality comparison for gauging the effectiveness of your fire services delivery.

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Once the review is complete, ESCI sends a report that includes a description of the area being measured, its value to service delivery, an assessment of the organization’s ability to provide that service, and points to consider for maintenance or improvement. You get an accurate picture of your fire department’s performance compared with similar organizations and regional and national fire departments.

How it works

ISO reviews and establishes more than a hundred data points for use in the grading schedule. The points are compiled into 32 subcategories and four main sections: emergency communications, fire services, water systems, and community risk reduction. ISO reviews fire departments throughout the country on these points and assigns a grade that’s perfect for peer analysis.

Many fire departments have been conducting benchmarking studies for years, but the data points are frequently measured using different methods among peers. With ISO’s system, each department is measured employing the exact same standards, making our review the most accurate possible. ISO and ESCI will assess a department, establish 15 to 25 accurate peer organizations, and execute the benchmark analysis on 32 data points to compare the department with its peer group, along with regional and national averages.

The Community Fire Service Performance Review for Structural Fire Protection is the next step in ISO’s continuing effort to help communities improve their fire protection services through partnerships and training—and the ESCI report is proof of that goal. For more information about the community fire service review, contact Tom Weber, national director, ISO Community Hazard Mitigation, at

ISO Fire Suppression Rating Schedule

Our Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) is free to chiefs and other fire officials. It's a manual containing the criteria Verisk uses in reviewing the fire prevention and fire suppression capabilities of individual communities or fire protection areas. To recieve a copy of the FSRS, contact our National Processing Center at 1-800-444-4554 and select Option 2.

H2O and Verisk

Water supply and distribution systems are important factors in determining a community’s ISO Public Protection Classification (PPC®). We provide complimentary educational training and seminars to water providers and associations throughout the country. Contact Hugh Gibson, national water resources manager, at for more information.

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