You drive by them and may not give them a second thought. One of them may be right outside your home or very nearby. Fire hydrants. We just assume they work. But that could be a dangerous assumption. FOX 23’s Douglas Clark reports on the call for improved hydrant inspections in Tulsa.
With thousands of fire hydrants around Tulsa, fire officials say they only have time to inspect them once every three years. But some city leaders are concerned that may not be enough.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends fire hydrants be inspected, at a minimum, every year.
“It’s absolutely a public safety issue,” says District 9 Councilor G.T. Bynum.
He began asking questions when he found out hydrant inspections were not meeting national recommendations. In fact, in 2007, the fire department did not perform any inspections on city hydrants because it began designing a new computer system to streamline the process.
“We have a great fire department and firefighters. But if they get there and a hydrant doesn’t work because we haven’t done the right level of inspection on it, that’s a serious public safety concern,” says Bynum.
There are roughly 16,000 fire hydrants in the city of Tulsa, each requiring 15-20 minutes per inspection.
“It’s really a workload issue,” says Tulsa Fire Captain Michael Baker.
He says the department simply doesn’t have enough people to inspect every hydrant every year.
“To be able to do it on an annual basis, we’d have trucks inspecting hydrants all the time,” says Baker.
Instead, every year, a third of city fire hydrants get inspected.
“I’m concerned about the safety of our homes and businesses in the area. And that would concern me if it came time to use it and it wasn’t usable,” says Tulsa resident Ginger Heald.
Baker admits only a small percentage of hydrants fail inspection. Those that do are immediately reported to public works for repair. But he says there are backups in place when a hydrant experiences a problem during a fire.
“The backup is that we carry enough water on the fire truck to allow us to do an initial attack on a fire or a rescue. So we have 500 gallons on those trucks. That’s enough for us to get in there and make any intervention we can,” says Baker.
Firefighters also carry 1,000 feet of hose to tap into a working hydrant.
There is a bill moving through the state legislature that would require cities to inspect hydrants every year. But it was recently amended to require inspections once every three years at the request of Mayor Kathy Taylor, who said an annual inspection procedure would be a financial burden for the city of Tulsa.
Councilor Bynum would like to see the responsibility of inspecting hydrants shifted to the public works department, so the fire department can concentrate on fighting fires. Fire officials say they would support that idea, as long as it does not affect their personnel or budget in any negative way.
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03-24-2009, 10:45 AM #1
Tulsa Fire Hydrant Inspections Questioned
03-25-2009, 09:41 AM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2008
Since you brought the issue of hydrants up, what exactly is the minimum NFPA required flow rate of hydrants...we have hydrants that barely work. We have some that don't work at all. We make notes of those and send them up the chain. But what constitutes a "Bad" hydrant, other than the ones that don't work? Does the NFPA have a minimum hydrant output standard?
03-25-2009, 12:48 PM #3
For a hydrant to be really useful, it should be able to provide sufficient fireflow without dropping below 20 psi residual. The codes adopted by your authority having jurisdiction will dictate how many, spacing, and minimum flow. These requirements are generally based on the size and type of occupancies protected by the hydrant. They also dictate the size of the mains supplying them. Some buildings such as schools and nursing homes may be under the jurisdiction of the state and the life safety codes they have adapted. Most water districts do not allow connection to low-flow hydrants to prevent possible backflow of contaminated water into the system. To really (and I mean really) generalize, all hydrants should be capable of at least 500 gpm fire flow at 20 psi residual, and spaced so that they are actually useful, based on the tactics and size/amount of supply hose you use. If not, they are not useful for anything much, except for the water department guys to bleed air out of the system after a repair.
03-25-2009, 12:58 PM #4
03-25-2009, 01:21 PM #5
In my community... the Water and Sewer division of the Department of Public Works is responsible for the inspection and maintenance of hydrants."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
03-25-2009, 01:34 PM #6In my community... the Water and Sewer division of the Department of Public Works is responsible for the inspection and maintenance of hydrants.
Can I get the number for your mayor?
03-25-2009, 01:39 PM #7
03-25-2009, 01:53 PM #8And we have a separate water company that has a transfer line through part of our town that we forced to test their hydrants.
03-25-2009, 02:01 PM #9
We actually have a great water system, and we operate with a separate water utility.
The biggest problem we have with hydrants is with 'em freezing in the winter, and them being used as summertime neighborhood sprinklers.
Other than that the water utility does a very good job at keeping our hydrant system up and running.
We do absolutely nothing with our hydrants for testing or maintenance.
03-25-2009, 03:40 PM #10
- Join Date
- Nov 2000
- Houston, TX
We're responsible for checking our own hydrants as well. The number of hydrants in an engine's territory are divided by four (for four shifts) and each hydrant has to be inspected twice per year. Besides the inspection factor it's an excellent way to learn where the hydrants are in your territory.
03-25-2009, 07:39 PM #11
My old city department had over 7,000 hydrants planted all over. They belong to the public utilities but the fire department inspects them.
All hydrants in each companies district is divided by three for the three shifts so each shift will have their fair share.
There is a physical check on each hydrant twice a year and on those that has been repaired or replaced throughout the year. Each hydrant is checked for water and the flow. Caps and other parts are checked to be sure they are connected to the hydrant and also to the caps. In the spring the hydrant is flowed and afterwards it is painted. Paint and equipment is furnished by the utilities dept. Plus each month grass and over growth is cut away from all hydrants having it growing at or near them.
In the fall the inspection consists of making sure no water is standing in the barrel. Sometimes the weap hole may be blocked by debris or trash. If is is the companies make a connection to a 2-1/2 " outlet on the pumper to a 2-1/2 ' outlet on the hydrant. After making sure the hydrant is closed, the operator charges that line and applies pressure to the hydrant. This normally will blow out the weap hole. Everything it shut down and the caps removed from the hydrant and inspected. Should water is still there the public utilitiy dept is notified and they will repair the hydrant.
We also make sure the street valve is fully open, as sometimes workers will close the valve while working on the mains and or hydrant and think they may have it fully opened.
This has been done for years by the department. It is a learning tool as members learn the district as well as the hydrants.
Of course the company is always ready to take a run if one is transmitted for them.Stay Safe and Well Out There....
Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers
03-26-2009, 09:57 AM #12
As for my own water department and our hydrants...we may argue the numbers they report, but we know the hydrants are working."This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?
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