Public Fire Protection Classification™ (PFPC)

What is PFPC™?

The Public Fire Protection Classification (PFPC) is expressed on a 1 to 10 scale. Commercial Lines property underwriters and risk managers will more easily recognize these classifications as "town grades". Class 1 represents the "ideal" or highest level of public fire protection while Class 10 reflects the absence of any effective public fire protection. Many insurers will subsequently group these "town grades" into Protected, Semi Protected and Unprotected categories, to be used when calculating underwriting capacity. The Grades indicate how well communities are equipped to combat major fires that may be expected to occur in commercial, industrial, institutional and multi-family residential properties and are developed from a comprehensive review of all facets of the fire defense system as it relates to the level of risk present within the community.

Fire Underwriters Survey collects information on public fire protection efforts in communities all across Canada. In each of those communities, FUS analyzes the relevant data using our Classification Standard for Public Fire Protection (CSPFP). The applicable PFPC from 1 to 10 is then assigned to the community.

By classifying communities' ability to suppress fires, Fire Underwriters Survey helps the communities evaluate their public fire protection services. The program provides an objective, national standard that helps fire departments in planning and budgeting for facilities, equipment, and training. With the objective of securing lower fire insurance premiums for communities with better public fire protection, the PFPC program provides incentives and rewards for communities that choose to improve their fire protection levels and thereby the community PFPC classification.


How the PFPC grading system works

The PFPC program provides important, up-to-date information about public fire protection services throughout the country. Fire Underwriters Survey’s Public Fire Protection Specialists collect information about the quality of public fire protection in all incorporated and unincorporated communities with public fire protection across Canada. In each of those communities, FUS analyzes the relevant data and assigns a Public Fire Protection Classification - a number from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program does not meet the minimum criteria of the Classification Standard for Public Fire Protection.

Canadian insurers of “commercial” property use Fire Underwriters Survey’s Public Fire Protection Classifications (aka. town grades) in calculating premiums for risks other than “detached dwellings”.

A community's PFPC is calculated utilizing calculations of relative classification and benchmarks in the following major areas:

Fire Risk

Adequate response to a fire emergency is generally measured by the speed with which a responding firefighting crew(s) can arrive at the fire emergency with sufficient resources, to have a reasonable degree of opportunity to control or extinguish a fire. Simply put, the response provided by a firefighting crew should equal the potential severity of the fire or fire emergency.

The potential severity of a fire event is generally associated with the fuel load present and exposures to the fire. Factors such as building construction materials; quality of construction; building renovation history; building size, height and age; occupancy and hazards associated with the occupancy, will all contribute to the potential severity of a fire. In addition, other buildings sufficiently exposed to a burning building can contribute to the magnitude of a fire and the resources necessary to be in place to control or extinguish a given fire. Alternatively, building controls and automatic fire protection systems (both active and passive) that limit fire spread will reduce the potential severity of a fire. For building controls to be considered effective, their design, installation and maintenance must also be reviewed as any weak link may result in the system being ineffectual.

Much of the research into fire protection requirements for individual buildings and communities and the corresponding number of Pumper companies and response times has been conducted by FUS and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). FUS evaluates adequacy of response by comparing the potential severity of fires that may occur with a rating of the ability of fire crews and their resources responding within a specified time period relative to the fire and life safety risk potential that may be needed.

The base point, within the Classification Standard for Public Fire Protection, for measuring fire risk and the resultant available and adequate response is the determination of Required Fire Flows (RFF).

Required Fire Flows (RFF) may be described as a measurement of the amount and rate of water application, and fire company response, required in firefighting to confine and control the fires possible in a building or group of buildings which comprise essentially the same fire area by virtue of immediate exposures. RFFs are calculated and detremined for buildings using the methodology described in the FUS 1999 Guideline “Water Supply for Public Fire Protection”.

Fire Department (40% of overall PFPC Grade)

The Fire Department review contributes to approximately 40% of the overall PFPC Grade. Areas of Fire Department review include:

  • Type and number of apparatus
  • The condition and age of fire apparatus and fire suppression equipment
  • Pumping capacity
  • The type of staffing (i.e. career Firefighters vs. paid-on-call)
  • The distribution of companies relative to fire risk
  • Response to alarm protocols
  • Management of emergency services
  • The quality of training programs for the fire fighter including specialized training
  • Pre-incident planning

Water Supply (30% of overall PFPC Grade)

The Water Supply review contributes to approximately 30% of the overall PFPC Grade.

An adequate and reliable water supply is an essential part of the firefighting facilities of a community or municipality. A water supply is considered to be adequate if it can deliver the Basic Fire Flow for the appropriate duration while simultaneously providing domestic water supply at the max day demand; if this delivery is possible under certain emergency or unusual conditions, the water supply is also considered to be reliable.

In most municipalities, due to structural conditions in some areas, the possibility exists that a combination of unfavourable factors, such as the delayed receipt of an alarm of fire, high winds, or an explosion, will result in a fire becoming large enough to tax the ability of the fire service to confine the fire using the normally available water supply.

If, at the same time, the water supply is lacking or is considerably curtailed due to the failure of essential equipment (reliability); any fire, even if relatively small upon the arrival of the fire department, could rapidly expand and extend to adjoining buildings, becoming a conflagration.

In order to provide reliability, duplication of some or all parts of a water supply system is important, the need for duplication being dependent upon the extent to which the various parts may reasonably be expected to be out of service as a result of maintenance and repair work, emergencies, or some unusual condition. The introduction of storage, either as part of the supply works or on the distribution system, may partially or completely offset the need for duplicating various parts of the system; the value of the storage depends upon its amount, location and availability.

Gravity Systems and Pumping Systems

Gravity systems delivering supply from the source directly to the community or municipality without the use of pumps is advantageous from a fire protection standpoint because of its reliability, but the reliability of a pumping system can be developed to such a high degree through redundancies and back-up power supplies that no distinction is made between the two types.

Storage

In general, storage reduces the requirements of those parts of the system through which supply has already passed. Since storage usually fluctuates, the total normal daily minimum maintained or 80 percent of capacity is the amount that is considered as available.

Pump Capacities

As part of the grading analysis of pumps for Fire Insurance Grading the capacities of pumps are de-rated by 25 percent to factor in age and reliability.

Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Control (20% of overall PFPC Grade)

The Fire Safety Control review contributes to approximately 20% of the overall PFPC Grade.

A substantial degree of safety to life and protection of property from fire should be provided by provincial and municipal control of hazards. Control can be best accomplished by the adoption and enforcement of appropriate codes and standards for manufacture, storage, and use of hazardous materials and for building construction, as well as through training, advisory and education programs for the public.

This grading item reviews the general fire prevention, inspection and investigation activities of the fire department. The official in charge of fire prevention activities, in cooperation with the chief of the fire department, should establish an inspection procedure for correction of: obstructions to exits which interfere with emergency egress or with fire department operations; inadequate or defective automatic or other fire alarm/fire extinguishing equipment; or conditions in buildings or other structures which create a severe life hazard potential. Provisions should be made for the investigation of fires.

The fire prevention program should include visiting and inspection of dwellings on an occupant voluntary basis and the continuous education of the public. The fire department should maintain a highly visible profile in enforcement, education, training, and advisory services.

While each community will have their own risks and reduction programs, prevention will be more and more viewed as a frontline service and not a support service.

Emergency Communications (10% of overall PFPC Grade)

The Emergency Communications review contributes to approximately 10% of the overall PFPC Grade.

Equipment for the receipt and transmission of alarms should be housed securely and be protected against fire or damage from other sources, including flooding, vandalism, and earthquakes. Emergency communication centres should be of non-combustible construction with one to three hour protection from exposures depending on complexity of the installation. Most importantly, there should be protection from ignition sources and rapid initial fire spread through control of such sources as flammable furnishings and building finish materials.

Benefits of the Grading System

The PFPC program recognizes the efforts of communities to provide fire protection services for citizens and property owners. A community's investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predictor of future fire losses. Commercial Lines insurers use PFPC information to help establish fair premiums for fire insurance — generally offering lower premiums in communities with better protection. By offering economic benefits for communities that invest in standardized and recognized fire protection and risk reduction programs, the PFPC program provides an important incentive for developing, improving and maintaining public fire protection.

The program also provides measurable benchmarks for fire departments and other public officials to consider as they plan for, budget, and justify improvements.

The most significant benefit of the PFPC program is its effect on fire related property losses. Statistical data on Commercial Lines property losses bears out the relationship between provision of recognized levels of fire protection — as measured by the PFPC program — and reduced fire losses. By assisting communities in planning and organizing fire protection efforts, Fire Underwriters Survey programs reduce property damage resulting from fires and improves life safety in a community.

How the PFPC affects individual insurance policies

Fire Underwriters Survey’s PFPC information plays an important role in the decisions insurers make affecting the availability and price of property insurance. Approximately 85% of all Canadian insurance companies — including the largest ones — use PFPC information in one or more of the following ways:

  • to identify opportunities for writing new business
  • to achieve a financially manageable concentration of property risks
  • to review loss experience in various rating territories
  • to price policies, offer coverages, and establish deductibles for individual properties

Each insurance company establishes its own rates/premiums that are charged to policy holders. The methodology each company uses to calculate premiums for property insurance may differ and depends on the individual company's fire-loss experience, underwriting guidelines, and marketing strategy.

Fire Underwriters Survey does not determine how each insurance company incorporates PFPC information into its pricing structure, so it is difficult to generalize how an improvement or deterioration in PFPC will affect individual policies.

General guidelines to the benefits of improved PFPC ratings for property owners of Commercial Lines insured properties:

  • PFPC may affect availability, capacity and pricing for a variety of Commercial Lines insurance coverages
  • Assuming all other factors are equal, the price of Commercial Lines property insurance in a community with a good PFPC is lower than in a community with a poor PFPC

It is important to stress that insurance rates/premiums are determined by each insurance company’s underwriting plans. Note that insurers also take into consideration a number of factors including but not limited, to the following (in no particular order):

  • Location of the risk with respect to distance from recognized water supplies (hydrants, etc.), and distance from the responding fire station
  • Claims history – ex. fire, wind, hail, crime and water damage claims (as relates to policyholder and/or geographic area)
  • Independent Broker’s insurance markets and their loss experience for that business demographic
  • Types of coverage such as basic fire; comprehensive “all risks”; etc.
  • Type of construction; exposures; etc.
  • Types of occupancies; contents; etc.
  • Applicable policy deductible and/or policy sub-limits
  • Age of risk building and code compliance with respect to building, fire and electrical codes
  • Alarm systems
  • Specialized content coverage ex. fine arts, scheduled articles, jewellery, etc.
  • Loss Control inspection findings
  • Exposures to natural hazards such as earthquake, wind, snow and flood
  • Prevailing property insurance market conditions

Evaluation Process & Your Community's Grades

What Are Your Fire Insurance Grades?

Fire insurance grades have been determined for the vast majority of built-up communities in Canada. Chief Administrative Officers and/or Fire Chiefs should contact Fire Underwriters Survey to determine when the last Survey was conducted and the community’s currently published Fire Insurance Grades. In order to initiate a Grading review, or ensure that the fire insurance grades assigned to your community fully credit all apparatus and fire protection systems that are in place, please complete and submit the “Community Update Form (CU4)” and “Fire Station Form (FS4)” located on our Outreach Program page.

Survey Costs

The costs associated with collecting data, calculating and publishing the fire insurance grading index are largely funded by the subscribing property and casualty insurers. However the funding provided by the subscribing insurers includes only the fire insurance grading and does not include deliverables such as reports, analyses, optimization options, etc. Funding provided by subscribing insurers is limited and communities are prioritized based on the length of time since they were last evaluated and the extent to which changes have occurred. Communities that wish to receive additional information and consulting deliverables may request these items separately by the relevant FUS Regional Office.

FUS Community Outreach Program

Every five years, Fire Underwriters Survey requests that all communities complete a Community Outreach Questionnaire and provide an updated map of the fire protection service area in addition to updated hydrant map layer. The questionnaire is used to determine if there have been significant changes in fire-risk and/or fire-protection capabilities since the last comprehensive survey. On the map, changes in fire-district boundaries, locations of fire stations, and other relevant items should be clearly indicated. FUS reviews the information your community provides to determine whether a comprehensive survey would result in a change to the community’s PFPC. If so, the appropriate officials will be contacted to request further data or schedule a more comprehensive site survey.

At any time, changes to hydrant locations, fire protection area boundaries, or fire hall locations can be submitted directly to our GIS department.

Miscellaneous Information Sources

Fire Underwriters Survey monitors various news sources for announcements about issues related to fire protection. FUS also receives fire risk and fire protection information from insurance companies, agents, and local citizens. When changes occur that might affect a community's PFPC or DPG, the appropriate officials in the community are contacted for confirmation of published statements. If appropriate, a comprehensive survey is scheduled.

When FUS initiates a survey, the appropriate officials are contacted and an acceptable time frame is set up to conduct the potential survey field work. FUS representatives greatly appreciate the cooperation of public officials and recognize the time constraints of public officials. Fire Underwriters Survey representatives make every effort to conduct surveys as efficiently as possible.

Implications of the PFPC grades

If the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS) calculates a Public Fire Protection Classification (PFPC) that is a down grade, FUS will notify the community. However, at that stage, FUS will not publish the information to the insurance industry to use for premium calculations. FUS will identify for the community the features that affect the classification. If the community then wishes to maintain its current classification, it will be given a reasonable time frame (up to a maximum of twelve months) to implement and report on an agreeable action plan. During that time, the previous classification will remain as published, however the notation “provisional” may be added to the Fire Insurance Grading Index for the community record with comments explaining the reason for provisional status grade.

FUS also recognizes that communities may not wish to make changes. If the community decides not to improve the classification, or does not notify FUS of any desire to improve, FUS will publish the updated PFPC.