ISO Announces the Next Generation of Geographic Information Solutions for the Property/Casualty Insurance Industry

NEW YORK, April 3, 2000 — Insurance Services Office, Inc., and VISTAinfo are making new address-specific information available through their Geographic Underwriting System (GUS®) to boost insurers' underwriting and rating accuracy and efficiency.

GUS — a risk-evaluation tool widely used by insurers to access address-specific information about Public Protection ClassTM, windstorm exposure, drive-to-work distances, crime and other underwriting variables — is being redesigned to provide additional information and major new functionality at no additional charge, including:

  • Information on the location of fire hydrants;
  • FireLine™ — ISO's tool for wildfire-hazard analyses; and
  • Internet-based mapping for more accurate risk-address placement.

"These enhancements make GUS an even greater underwriting powerhouse than it already is," said Patrick McLaughlin, ISO's senior vice president — Risk Decision Services. "The added information, easily accessible, will give insurers a critical competitive edge," said McLaughlin.

The addition of hydrant information will enable GUS to accurately identify the single correct Public Protection Class for close to 100 percent of U.S. homes and commercial properties.

ISO's PPC grades are based on communities' fire-suppression capabilities as well as individual properties' distance from fire stations and fire hydrants. The classifications, which apply in all states, are a major property-insurance rating variable used by virtually all insurers.

Many of the 45,000 communities throughout the United States have more than one PPC, indicating that some areas have water supply from hydrants and some don't. GUS' new functionality will help agents and insurers compute premiums more accurately by indicating whether a specific property is within 1,000 feet of a hydrant, qualifying for the better PPC.

The hydrant information service is currently being tested and will be rolled out countrywide over the next 30 months. By year-end 2000, with ISO's new hydrant information, GUS will provide a single PPC for about 85 percent of U.S. homes and other properties.

"We estimate that more than 20 percent of all homeowners policies in the United States are assigned the wrong Public Protection Class," said McLaughlin. "The latest enhancement — available only through GUS — will help insurers charge accurate and adequate premiums for property risks, including those in split-class areas."

The addition of ISO's FireLine database to GUS in the second quarter of this year will provide agents and underwriters immediate access to crucial wildfire-hazard information in California. ISO's FireLine, based on satellite images of wildfire-prone areas, is currently used by insurers that write 60 percent of California's homeowners policies.

The GUS service's new Internet mapping function will enable underwriters to site risk-address locations not shown on commercially available street databases. "If a street isn't in the database, most insurers are out of luck," said Tom Gay, VISTAinfo's president.

With the new mapping functionality, users will be able to place risk-address locations themselves, simply by clicking on an Internet-based map.

"Mapping is particularly valuable in areas with a lot of new construction," said Gay. "Say you give GUS the address of a new home in a new subdivision not yet in electronic street databases. The GUS mapping feature lets you move an electronic pushpin to a point on the map exactly where you know that risk is located, based on map features you can identify such as street intersections, parks, schools and lakes. Then GUS will produce the rating variables you requested for precisely the location you designate.

"Now even remote or out-of-the-way sites can be located to deliver GUS efficiently and accurately for all risks," said Gay.

About GUS

GUS is a geographic information system, available through a variety of electronic media including the Internet, developed specifically for insurers. GUS information includes PPCs for a risk; drive distance to the nearest fire station; name of the responding fire station; windpool eligibility; and distance to the nearest significant body of water. Also included are historical hurricane and tornado data; extended-coverage zones; personal/homeowners territories; Group II commercial territories; crime indices for arson, auto theft, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary; an estimate of the shortest drive distance between a risk's home and work; and the automobile rating territory. ISO recently updated GUS with a premium-tax assignment service for Florida and Kentucky.

About Insurance Services Office, Inc.
ISO is a leading source of information about property and liability risk. ISO provides statistical, actuarial, underwriting, and claims information and analyses; consulting and technical services; policy language; and information about specific locations for a broad spectrum of commercial and personal lines of insurance. In the United States and around the world, ISO serves more than 2,900 insurers and reinsurers, as well as agents, brokers, self-insureds, risk managers, insurance regulators, and other government agencies. For more information visit ISO's website at

About VISTAinfo

VISTAinfo is a leading e-commerce and information services company for the North American real estate industry. VISTAinfo provides insurance underwriting information, flood determinations, and certifications to the insurance industry. The company's Internet properties, information services and software products are used by more than 350,000 real estate agents in the United States. The company also operates two leading real estate-related consumer sites, and For more information, visit VISTAinfo's website at

Release: Immediate

Giuseppe Barone / Erica Helton
MWW Group (for ISO)
201-507-9500 /

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