CORAL GABLES, Fla., July 25, 2000 — Coral Gables, Fla., has become the second U.S. city to receive the highest rating for enforcing building codes from Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), the national firm that evaluates municipalities' capabilities for property and casualty insurers.
Coral Gables in Miami-Dade County is the only city in the United States to be rated in the top rank for both building-code enforcement and fire protection of homes and businesses.
The Building Code Effectiveness Grading program, developed by ISO, evaluates the effectiveness of local building-code 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 factor in assessing risk and determining homeowners and commercial premiums.
Fremont, Calif., was the first city to receive the coveted Class 1 distinction for building-code enforcement last year.
Coral Gables scored 96.86 points out of a possible 100 in ISO's review — the best performance of any of the 8,931 municipalities, including Fremont, that ISO has evaluated in 44 states over the past five years.
Coral Gables achieved the Class 1 rating, improving from its 1997 rating of Class 2, by focusing on continuous improvements in building inspection and plan review, including a rigorous training program for building personnel, the employment of licensed professional engineers and architects for inspection and plan-review, and the highest level of quality control. Coral Gables also instituted public-education programs on building safety and compliance, and implemented many services to help residents and businesses comply with codes and regulations.
Coral Gables, a 14-square-mile city on Florida's Atlantic coastline, is a vibrant and culturally diverse community of more than 43,000. Incorporated in 1925, Coral Gables is home to more than 38,000 businesses, including 150 multinational companies, and 21 consulates and trade offices. The City also boasts an "AAA" issuer credit rating from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, an accredited police department and an accredited fire department.
Including the ISO ratings of its building and zoning and fire departments, Coral Gables is the only city in the United States to have attained the highest levels of excellence in the delivery of services.
Presenting the Coral Gables City Council with ISO's award for building-code effectiveness, Dennis N. Gage, manager of ISO's Risk Decision Services unit, said: "Coral Gables is a unique city — the only community that is tops for both municipal building-code enforcement and fire protection. ISO is pleased to recognize Coral Gables for achieving its new Class 1 designation."
"In endorsing ISO's building-code effectiveness program countrywide, the property/casualty insurance industry is sending a compelling message to community residents and businesses: municipalities with effective and well-enforced codes should demonstrate better loss experience, and insurance premiums can reflect that," Gage added. ISO evaluates municipal code enforcement countrywide for insurers.
"This is a significant achievement for the City of Coral Gables," Coral Gables city manager H. C. Eads, Jr., said. "It reflects the quality of the city's personnel and translates into better service and safety standards for residential and business communities."
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 almost one-fourth of the $18.4 billion in insured property 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.
Recently, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill establishing a uniform statewide minimum building-code standard to improve the safety of state residents during hurricanes and natural disasters. The new building-code legislation, which becomes effective July 1, 2001, broadens insurance discounts for new construction techniques that mitigate windstorm losses.
"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 building codes more rigorously, especially codes that relate to windstorms and earthquakes."
ISO evaluates these three broad categories of factors in building-code enforcement by communities, with greatest emphasis on 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. Coral Gables achieved a Class 1 designation for its fire-protection capability in 1992. Currently 40 of 43,000 jurisdictions in the United States are designated Class 1 for their fire-protection services.
(City of Coral Gables)