History of the Fire Underwriters Survey

The Underwriters - A Century of Service

The origin of the fire insurance grading system, the Classification Standard for Public Fire Protection (CSPFP), and the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS) date back more than 100 years to a time when major fires destroyed large portions of cities in Canada and the United States. Historical fires such as the Great Fire of Portland (1866), Great Chicago Fire (1871), Great Toronto Fire (1904) and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fire focused attention on the vulnerability of cities to the threat of conflagrations. During this era, water supplies, fire departments and fire codes were in their infancy and were simply not sufficient to prevent or control large, devastating fires. Insured fire losses were staggering and posed a serious threat to the financial stability of the insurance industry.

Faced with this enormous problem, the National Board of Fire Underwriters in the United States assembled an engineering team to carry out a detailed study of the fire conditions in major cities. In Canada, the Canadian Fire Underwriters' Association carried out similar work. Under that program, engineers evaluated the fire potential of many cities.

The following quoted excerpt is from the “The Underwriters, the history of the Insurers’ Advisory Organization and its predecessors, the Canadian Fire Underwriters' Association and the Canadian Underwriters' Association,” by Christopher L. Hives, 1985.

"The high incidence of large fires in 19th century Canadian cities had the inevitable consequence of driving numerous fire insurance companies into bankruptcy. In an effort to lend some stability to the struggling industry, the new Canadian government passed the Insurance Company Act in 1868."

Down through the years, the various Canadian Underwriters' associations, whether they were provincial or national, were known by the public simply as "The Underwriters", and by people in the industry as "The Board".

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