WSRB’s creation required ashes from the Great Seattle Fire mixed together with Anti-Compact Law violations and a new state insurance code. Though it might have been a tumultuous beginning, we are looking pretty good for being 111 years old.
Want to learn more about the history of WSRB? Let’s start at the origin.
On November 11, 1889, five months after the Great Fire had ravaged the central business district of Seattle, the state of Washington was admitted to the union. During the period following the fire, Seattle and other cities around the state developed robust fire departments and insurance associations to ward off future losses.
In 1897, the State Legislature passed the Anti-Compact Law and prompted companies to form a rating organization that would comply with the law. By June, the Washington Insurance Association was formed, a committee with rating jurisdiction for surveying risks and recommending rates. The WIA operated until 1911 when they were disbanded for violating the Anti-Compact Law.
By the early 1900s, insurance companies and agents had been expressing concern regarding the rating system in Washington. The State Legislature formed a committee to write a new insurance code and, in 1911, the governor approved the code.
To avoid the rating organization/insurance company collusion experienced under the WIA, the new code required the following from any new fire rating organization:
1. The applicant and operator must be residents of and actually domiciled in the state
2. The organization shall be and shall be conducted as a non-profit public service institution
3. The ownership of the organization would be vested in trustees for all subscribers under the approved agreement
4. The organization could not be connected with any insurer, except to the extent such insurer may subscribe to its service
Following the codification of these specific criteria, WSRB was founded in May of 1911, created as a non-profit, public service organization, independent and devoid of any direct control by companies or agents.
In the following years, WSRB began to expand its services across the state. Headquartered in Seattle, 1917 saw the opening of a WSRB office in Spokane.
Through the 1920s and 1930s, rating and insurance codes were further codified and the services provided by WSRB continued to expand. In 1935, WSRB started the mechanical grading of sprinkler systems.
By the 1980s and 90s, advancements in technology allowed WSRB to expand its scope and efficiency even further. Here are some major milestones during that period:
1980 - WSRB starts mailing paper rate quotes for buildings surveyed
1981 - Changed from paper rate books to Microfiche, allowing for a much greater storage capacity
1985 - ENTREX computer system implemented to calculate rates
1988 - Added online rate lookup system RAIN (Rate Access Information Network) as an alternative to Microfiche
1997 - WSRB begins both compact disc distribution of Loss Costs and BCEGS® (Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule) evaluations
1999 - Launch of www.wsrb.com
2001 - WSRB is incorporated as a non-profit corporation and Reports/Lost Costs lookup is added to the website
The modern era
With a website and new tools, WSRB entered the new millennium with a bright future. In the following years, technological developments would allow WSRB to continue growing.
Various iterations of the WSRB site from 1999 onward.
The first Geographic Information System (GIS) application, PROTECTION, was launched in 2002, making it easier than ever before to determine class-rated property protection classes.
In 2007, BuildingMetrix, a wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary, was launched with the aim of developing new products, services, and customers. The same year, email distribution of Loss Costs through the Inspection Application program began.
Though the original charter specified the requirement that operation could only take place within Washington, in 2010 WSRB obtained licenses to operate in other states (in 2016, WSRB launched its web services program in Oregon). 2010 also saw the launch of the PropertyFacts database for building inspections.
PropertyEdge, WSRB's interactive web application, was launched in 2012.
In 2016, Karl Newman became the President and CEO of WSRB, charting the course for continued success in the future.
While much of WSRB's history has already been written, we're not done yet. Stick with us as we move onwards into the future and continue to serve our customers in Washington and beyond.
Learn more about WSRB's history here.