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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Water supply: Be sure you have it

Whether static or hydrant, fire departments cannot take their water supply for granted

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel reminds us to regularly check out water supply as hydrants may or may not work and static supplies can be very low, especially given this year's drought. 

I'm sure many FireRescue1 readers have stories, near-misses or otherwise, about water-supply issues?

I learned early in my career not to take fire hydrants for granted. After moving from a department with plentiful and closely spaced municipal hydrants — to an area where the only available hydrants were, quite literally, decorative ones on a 3-inch private loop — I recognized that appearances don't mean a whole lot when it comes to firefighting water supply.

My sense is that this story from Boston describes a situation that is probably more common than we think across the United States.

But the bigger question is, do you know?

For your department, in your first-due, and adjacent to any major target hazards, do you know the status of the hydrants or other water supply appliances (and their associated sources)? Given the ongoing drought in many places, this also goes for those who primarily rely on static water sources.

Beyond knowing where they are, how they work and how they're supplied, have you tried flowing water through them?

While there is a wide range of requirements for designing and testing water supplies, many utilities — both public and private — rely today on computer modeling to identify the hydraulic characteristics in their systems. Even if a hydrant or appliance was sufficiently tested during installation, there's no guarantee regarding its ongoing maintenance and proper operation by non-fire department personnel.

As with so many other facets of fire department operations, when considering your water supply options there's no substitute for area familiarization, pre-incident planning, and ongoing training.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Kathryn Peachie Miner Wilcox Kathryn Peachie Miner Wilcox Tuesday, September 04, 2012 10:45:59 PM There are no fire hydrants-I live in rural ny.

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