Designing Water & Hydrant Systems; Part 6
© 2000 Capt. Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer, Moraga-Orinda (CA) Fire District
Background    Criteria    Storage    Distribution    Hyd. Design    Placement    Installation    Codes & Markings    Applications    Codes & Standards

There are a number of common errors made with respect to the installation of new fire hydrants. Most have to do with variations between preliminary grading designs and final grading. Others involve specific uses of areas near where hydrants are installed. If these issues are not monitored, hydrants can end up being situated in such a manner that they at best look strange and at worst are difficult or impossible to operate.

Hydrant installation details need to be coordinated among all parties involved at the construction site. If hydrants are being installed in areas to be landscaped or if final grading elevations are not clear, the hydrant design that is specified should easily accommodate placement of riser extensions of various lengths so that the final hydrant installation is compatible with the final grade elevation.

Coordination should be made with utility companies in order to ensure that utility poles, vaults and cabinets will not interfere with access to fire hydrants or impede the operation of the hydrants. As a general rule, no equipment or facilities should be within 3 ft. (1m) of the hydrant body nor be placed in front of any hydrant outlet, nor be placed between the hydrant and the roadway. Those persons who are landscaping near hydrants should be apprised of these conditions as walls, plants and other landscape materials must be kept outside the hydrant's clearance space.

Hydrant set with both
outlets facing parked cars
Pumper outlet facing into tree,
hose outlet into parking space.
Hedge row planted in front of hydrant

Photo - Andreas Kühl
Hydrant set too low
for final grading
Hydrant set too high
for final grading
Hydrant obstructed by
utility company equipment box
Wall added after hydrant installed

(US codes require a 3 ft (1m) setback)
Photo - Andreas Kühl
Most of this placement business seems like simple common sense, but these mistakes are made all the time.

In the West we're puzzled by the use of underground hydrants in locations where there is sufficient space to install an above ground hydrant on the sidewalk or shoulder of the road. We're not sure how the fire brigade is supposed to connect to the underground hydrant pictured on the right!

Photo - Andreas Kühl

NFPA Standards
Chapter 14

The center of a hose outlet shall be not less than 18 in. (457 mm) above final grade, or when located in a hose house, 12 in. (305 mm) above the floor.

Hydrants shall be protected if subject to mechanical damage. The means of protection shall be arranged in a manner that will not interfere with the connection to, or operation of, hydrants.

Hydrants shall be provided and spaced in accordance with the requirements of the authority having jurisdiction.
Exception: Public hydrants are recognized as meeting all or part of the requirement of 5-13.1.

Hydrants shall be placed a minimum of 40 ft (12.2 m) from the buildings protected.
Exception: When hydrants cannot be placed at this distance, locations less than 40 ft (12.2 m) from the building or wall hydrants shall be permitted to be used.

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