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Water supply: Be sure you have it

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

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!

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