Prairie Township residents could see their homeowners' insurance premiums drop next year after the fire department earned a higher score on a national rating scale.

The department underwent an audit by the Insurance Services Office, which upgraded Prairie Township's public-protection classification for the first time in seven years. The classification looks at factors that include emergency communications, fire department operations and water supply.

The ISO is a business that provides statistical information and some advisory services to other businesses, mostly insurance companies, which use the data to set rates based on projections of future losses.

According to the ISO, insurance companies generally offer lower premiums in communities with better protection.

"It basically is an evaluation of the fire department and the property in its jurisdiction," said Allen Scott, Prairie Township's assistant fire chief, who oversaw the audit process. "Pretty much every insurance company in the country uses an ISO rating in one way or another.

"We can't tell you how it's going to affect your insurance, but I'm confident that everyone should see some really good numbers," he said. "On average, for every $100 spent on property insurance, about $70 is based on the (fire department's) ISO rating."

The township's overall rating has improved from 5/8b in 2011 to 2/2y this year.

"What that meant is the fire department (in 2011) essentially got a 5 out of 10," Scott said. "Earning a 1 is the best you can possibly get. In 2011, after we got the audit, some things were changed."

The township entered into an automatic aid agreement with the Columbus Division of Fire and contracted with the Ohio Fire Academy to provide online training for personnel.

Last December, Prairie Township turned over dispatching services to Grove City, paying the city $168,540 annually. Previously, the township employed four full-time dispatchers and was spending more than $300,000 a year to operate aging technology.

"In 2017, there were only 77 departments in the state of Ohio out of about 2,300 that have a rating of 2," Scott said.

Nationwide, that figure stands at about 1,500 out of 43,000 departments, he said.

"We're about top 3.5 percent in the state and the nation," he said.

The new ISO rating takes effect Feb. 1, 2019.

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