The greatest advantage is for drivers to become familiar with the location of the hydrants in their first alarm territory. This also is good knowledge for other truck crew members.
Looking at hydrants on a map is one thing, but seeing them, their surroundings and the landmarks nearby projects a clearer picture. Many times, you may need to cut away vegetation or plant growth surrounding the hydrant to make it more visible.
If there are several routes for hydrants in different locations, rotate the routes so that other shifts also experience the location of the other hydrants in their territories. In other words, don’t have the same shift do the same routes year after year. This way we can become more familiar with the hydrant locations and areas.
When doing hydrant maintenance in public, people are often curious about what you are doing. Be friendly and answer their questions. This is a great time to build public relations, interact and present a good name for the fire department.
You will also learn to identify trouble spots, such as areas where parked cars are blocking the hydrant regularly. A new fence may have been installed without leaving enough room to spin the hydrant wrench on the operating nut. You may run into a hydrant that is constantly being hit by cars backing into it or is missing caps from the outlets.
Some departments encourage citizens to "beautify" hydrants by allowing them to paint them in different schemes. This can have its advantages and drawbacks. Remember, the goal is to make sure that the hydrants remain "visible." This is another reason why drivers should get to know the locations of the hydrants in their territories.
A helpful visual aid that has been adopted in many municipalities is the use of a blue reflector in the middle of the street to denote that a hydrant is on either side. This is somewhat like the amber reflectors we see on public roads and highways to mark travel lanes or other avoidance obstacles to get a driver’s attention.
Our department once had a policy that a firefighter would have to know the locations of all the standpipes/sprinklers connections and hydrants in their first-alarm territory within six months of permanent assignment to their station. This assured that they also became familiar with the surrounding neighborhoods.
Location(s) of standpipes and sprinkler connections can be tricky. Landscaping could be covering the connections, access may be limited, etc.
Remember, these are usually located in buildings that have several floors or are in high-value areas. Therefore, some residents may feel that they are an eyesore and purposely request to have them disguised or covered in one way or another. Even though this is not a legal or legitimate practice, they need to be clearly marked and visible for obvious reasons. We need to remain professional and courteous and refer the violation (if any) to the Code Enforcement section.
Sometimes they are located on the side of buildings where access with a fire apparatus is limited. Consideration needs to be given as where to spot or stage the apparatus in case of an incident at the location. What we also are accomplishing basically is a tactical survey for responding to the structure. A preplan is always advantageous.
Just remember, we are always in the public’s eye. It is good to have people see us doing inspections and maintenance. They want to assure their tax dollars are being well spent.
We need to interact with them and maintain a professional look and act accordingly. We need to make them confident in their first responders. Believe it or not, there is more accomplished than just flowing water out of the hydrant and tapping the caps on the standpipe and sprinkler connections.
Frank R. Myers is a retired lieutenant with the City of Miami (Florida) Fire Rescue, where he served for 32 years. He works as a consultant for PSTrax.com, a technology service that helps fire departments across the country automate their apparatus, equipment and inventory checks.