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How WSRB Determines the Protection Class for Each Property

Posted by Robert Ferrell on October 29, 2019

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WSRB answers many questions about Protection Classes (PCs) for properties in Washington state. Over the years, we’ve found that some people are surprised to learn that not every property has the same Protection Class as the community it’s in.   

We want everyone to understand how PCs work, so we’d like to clear up this common misconception. We evaluate each community to determine its PC and use that as a starting point to determine the PC for each property within that community. We then provide that data to insurers to help them accurately price policies 


Aerial shot of a suburban area with homes and businessesBuildings in a community don't necessarily have the Protection Class of that community.


There are two key points to understand about PCs: 

  • A community’s PC is the best PC an individual property within that community can have. For example, a property in a PC 4 community can only have a PC 4 or worse (PC 5 to PC 10).   
  • A property’s PC is just one factor insurers use to price one part of a policy: the fire coverage. Many other factors unrelated to a PC influence a policy’s premium. 



Protection Class Updates


How a PC for a property is determined 

structure’s PC is determined by three factors: 

  • The community’s PC. 
  • Distance to a responding fire station.
  • Distance to a standard fire hydrant.  

The community’s PC rating will apply to dwelling and commercial buildings located in that community that have standard fire hydrant distribution and water supply and are within five road miles of a recognized responding fire station.  

That’s a lot of information packed into one sentence, so let’s break it down a little. 

A fire hydrant has to meet water flow-capacity and design requirements to be considered standard, and a fire station must meet staffing and equipment requirements to be recognized. For areas without fire hydrants, we look at other ways the community supplies firefighters with water, known as water tender operations.  


Aerial shot of homes in a suburbThese homes could have different Protection Classes, depending on three key factors.


A responding fire station is one that will respond to a fire at the property in question. Fire departments have boundaries, and it’s possible for a property across the street from a fire station to be outside the response area of that station. Fire departments often have automatic aid agreements, meaning one department will respond to fires in another, nearby jurisdiction. These agreements aren’t always in place, though, and must be accounted for when assigning a property’s PC. 

For the distance from a property to a standard fire hydrant, we measure as a radius over land. For the distance to a fire station, we measure over roadways that firefighting vehicles travel, and we include driveways. Some properties, especially in rural areas, are large, and the structure is set back from the road. Because the PC rating is for the structure, we measure road miles from the fire station to the structure, not the property’s edge. 

For buildings not meeting the distance-related criteria, the PC will be higher than the community’s. There are many potential combinations of the three factors, so a building’s PC can be very different from the community’s. It’s actually possible for a structure located in a community with PC of 1 to have a PC of 10, though that’s not common.  


How to find a building’s PC 

To find the PC for a structure in Washington state, there’s no need to try to remember all the rules we just described or take any measurements. WSRB tracks all of these factors and more to provide you with a PC. To find the PC for a structure, simply log into our website and use Protection.  

For detailed instructions on how to use Protection to find a PC for a specific address, visit our Help Center article on this topic. For answers to other questions about how to use Protection, click here 

You can also contact our customer service team at 206-217-0101, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Or, you can submit a support request by clicking here or email customer service by clicking here. 


Robert Ferrell, P.E., is WSRB’s Vice President of Public Protection. He leads the team that manages the insurance rating of cities, fire districts and building departments throughout Washington state. He has more than 25 years of experience in fire insurance rating.    



Topics: PC 10, Protection, Protection class, fire hydrants, fire departments, public protection