FREMONT, Calif., July 28, 1999 – Fremont, Calif., is the only city in the country that's received the top rating for enforcing building codes from the national firm that evaluates municipalities' capabilities for the insurance industry.
Building Code Effectiveness Grading, a program developed by Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), evaluates the effectiveness of local building-codes enforcement to help determine how well homes and commercial structures in a given community will hold up to hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. ISO grades communities' building-code enforcement on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Insurers now use the building-code evaluations as a key variable in assessing risk and determining premiums.
Fremont scored 95.3 points out of a possible 100 in ISO's review – the best performance of any of the 3,600 municipalities ISO has evaluated in 44 states. Fremont achieved that rating by focusing on continuous improvements in building inspection and plan review, including introducing a rigorous training program, hiring more certified and experienced inspection and plan–review personnel, and improving quality control. Fremont also has enhanced public–education programs and implemented many services to help residents and businesses comply with codes and regulations.
With a population of more than 203,000, Fremont occupies 92 square miles on the southeast side of the San Francisco Bay. The city, incorporated in January 1956, boasts a vibrant ethnically and culturally diverse community, and is home to many technology companies.
Presenting the Fremont City Council with ISO's award plaque for building–code effectiveness, Dennis N. Gage, manager of ISO's Risk Decision Services unit, said: "ISO is pleased to recognize Fremont for its unique achievement in municipal building–code enforcement. The property/casualty insurance industry's endorsement of ISO's building–code effectiveness program underscores a compelling message – municipalities with effective and well–enforced codes should demonstrate better loss experience, and insurance premiums can reflect that." ISO evaluates municipal code enforcement countrywide for insurers.
"We're delighted that a national insurance organization such as ISO has recognized Fremont for being in a class by itself in the country," said Lynn Dantzker, assistant city manager, City of Fremont. "Our citizens can take pride in our Building and Safety staff whose professionalism and dedication helped Fremont achieve this unique distinction."
ISO's building–code program was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when it became clear that lack of adequate building–code enforcement contributed as much as one–fourth of the $16 billion in insured losses.
Since Hurricane Andrew, which set a record for insured catastrophe losses and caused widespread suffering and economic disruption, the insurance industry and leaders in emergency–preparedness management and construction have focused on the value of well–enforced, effective codes.
"In communities with favorable grades, ISO's program provides for credits on personal and commercial property insurance premiums ranging from 1 to 17 percent for buildings constructed in the year ISO's evaluation is completed or later," explained Gage. "The prospect of lower catastrophe–related damage and improved loss experience is a powerful financial incentive for communities to enforce their building codes more rigorously, especially as those codes relate to windstorms and earthquakes."
ISO evaluates three broad categories of factors in building–code enforcement by communities:
Greatest emphasis falls on the quality of code enforcement as it relates to natural hazards.
The building–code initiative is similar to ISO's program to evaluate the effectiveness of communities' fire–fighting capabilities, which has long been a factor used by insurers in determining rates for commercial property and homeowners insurance.
EDITORS' NOTE: See Graphic comparing California building-code effectiveness grades with those in the rest of the country
(City of Fremont)