Penn Forest Township residents will be asked to respond to a survey to determine how close homes are to fire hydrants and other water sources. The results will help determine how much homeowners' insurance companies charge for coverage.

Penn Forest Fire Chief David Klitsch spoke about the survey at a public township supervisors' meeting Monday. The classification ratings are determined by ISO, an advisory organization that collects property/casualty insurance risk. Many insurance companies draw on ISO information when writing policies.

According to ISO's website, the organization "collects information on a community's public fire protection and analyzes the data using our Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS). We then assign a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents the best public protection, and Class 10 indicates no recognized protection."

Penn Forest Township's classification is a 9/10, Klitsch said. It has been at that level since the township was evaluated in May 1988. The level is 9 within five road miles of the fire stations, and 10 outside that radius.

"The biggest issue is water supply and fire hydrants, which account for 40 percent of the classification," he said. "Penn Forest Township needs to be re-evaluated. ISO has assigned a representative to assist in this re-evaluation."

Veteran Penn Forest firefighter Rich Taylor will lead the ISO re-evaluation project, Klitsch said.

He's confident the new evaluation would reduce the level.

"Based on what I've read, realistically, we should be able to achieve an 8, 8B without a problem," he said.

Klitsch said that nearby "Franklin Township is at level 7 where they have fire hydrants, and 9 where they don't. So you can see just how much water supplies and hydrants impact this classification."

Not all insurance companies that write homeowners' policies use the classification system. Insurance companies won't make public whether or not they use the system, but homeowners can ask their own insurers, Klitsch said.

The re-evaluation survey process will likely take at least a year, he said.

"It's not something that's going to happen overnight, it's not something that's going to result in a huge drop in your insurance premium," Klitsch said. "But in this day and age, every penny helps."