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We would be delighted to try and obtain an answer to any questions you might have regarding fire hydrants, whether of a technical or general nature. Below are recent questions and answers from the FireHydrant.org mailbag. If you have a question, Email Us.
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  • #7 - Was curious if you had any cross section pictures or any kind of pictures that describe how to tell the difference between the co-efficiency (.70,.80,.90) and is most new hydrants .90, if so after what year roughly?

    Thanks for your help

    There are so many variables (barrel size, nozzle shape, nozzle aperture, etc.) affecting coefficiency that it would be overly simplistic to try to determine a value by comparing a drawing to a hydrant. Each hydrant manufacturer should be able to provide the coefficiency of their specific hydrant models. Of course that doesn't help if you have older hydrants made by out of business foundries and the information has been lost.

    Let's say, for example, that you have a bunch of old Kupferle model 75 hydrants and you have no clue as to their coefficient. Find a hydrant located in a large paved area where a long stream discharge won't cause any damage. You can fairly accurately determine the coefficient by flowing the hydrant using an underwriter's tip or "stream straightner," calculating the flow using a coefficient of 1.0. Then you can flow test the hydrant without the stream straightner. Run your "raw" calculations using various coefficients until you come up with the same results as when you used the calibrated tip. Now you'll know the coefficient.

    If you really want to be accurate, try this experiment on 3 or 4 different hydrants where you would expect different flows. If your comparative results are consistent, you may be able to determine a pretty darn accurate coefficient. (Some of our newer hydrants are .96.)

    ":O) Willis Lamm,
    Captain / Water Supply Officer Moraga-Orinda FD


    #8 - I am looking for minimum or recommended guidelines for hydrant flow/pressure and hydrant maintenance. Is there any place on the net that I can obtain that info. Would rather have federal or national organization guidelines if possible. We are having a "discussion" with our local water district as to appropriate flushing (we have large sediment in the system...causes havoc with our fire equipment) techniques, pressure and gpm ratings needed for adequate fire fighting, necessary maintenance schedules, etc. Thank you.

    We've developed a web feature [see Tech Info]which discusses the very issues that you raise. In short, if your state, county or municipality has adopted the Uniform Fire Code (UFC,) then legally the fire chief has domain and authority over such issues as hydrant design, placement, markings, testing and maintenance. In theory he could establish whatever criteria he chooses, and unless his criteria is patently unreasonable, it is enforceable.

    The National Fire Protection Association has published nationally recognized guidelines for Fire Chiefs to follow when exerting their authority over municipal and private hydrant systems. With private systems (such as in a lumber mill, large warehouse complex, etc., that is self-contained), the chief can require that the property owner or system operator inspect, test and maintain fire hydrant systems at the owner's expense. With municipal or public water systems the fire department may be responsible for providing personnel and equipment to conduct inspections, servicing and periodic testing, or municipal or water company employees may provide this service.

    In most jurisdictions the fire department performs annual inspections of fire hydrants. This involves at minimum making sure the hydrants are accessible, that they operate and typically involves flushing the hydrants. (In locales where sediment is a problem, the flushing sequence is coordinated with the water agency to minimize general dissipation of sediment through the system, such as flushing hydrants closest to the source of supply first, and working down the mains in a logical sequence. "Hydrant flushing day" is publicized so residents will be aware of potential discoloration of water during the flushes.) While recommended to be performed on an annual basis, most departments don't do full Hazen-Williams flow tests every year but rather do a portion of the system each year, completing all hydrants within a five year period.

    In reality, the EPA is starting to really crack down on water agencies that maintain significant amounts of debris and sediment in their water mains. Flushing the mains clear every year eliminates this problem and also purges low demand portions of the system of a variety of contaminants such as fecal coliforms which oftentimes build up. In this respect the fire department is actually helping the water agency maintain water quality without water agency employees having to constantly go around and blow off water mains.

    If you have any other questions or issues, please don't hesitate to contact me.

    ":O) Willis Lamm,
    Captain / Water Supply Officer Moraga-Orinda FD


    [editor's note: this question was received as a follow-up to the message above]

    #9 - The statement was made by one Water Board member that there were no laws or regulations governing the pressures or flows from a hydrant.

    You need to eat this elephant one bite at a time. My advice to you is:

    1. Determine if the Uniform Fire Code has been adopted in your state and/or municipality. If it is, this is a slam dunk for you.

    2. Contact a good municipal lawyer for an opinion as to the liability incurred by the water agency in the event they fail to act in good faith with the fire department, and have him/her serve the water agency with a formal notice of liability in the event of further damage to fire department equipment, loss of private property and loss of life resulting from an improperly maintained water system.

    3. Contact the AWWA for information with respect to hydrant standards. A point of entry would be Mr. Jim Wailes who should be able to direct you to the appropriate member of AWWA for information. His email address is jwailes@awwa.org

    Best regards,

    ":O) Willis Lamm,
    Captain / Water Supply Officer Moraga-Orinda FD


    #10 - Is there a law or laws that dictate what is considered using a fire hydrant abusively? It seems that police in Philadelphia, PA are turning on fire hydrants in certain sections of Philly to curb away street racers but they turn up upwards to 4 fire hydrants per street. Thousands of gallons of water is wasted during this, even at times of drought conditions.

    If you don't know of any laws of fire hydrant abuse, could you please tell me who I may talk to to find out this info or some place of resource where I can gather this information. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    I am aware of two sections of the Uniform Fire Code that could apply to this situation which are quoted below.

    UNIFORM FIRE CODE:

    1001.6.1 Fire department property. Apparatus, equipment and appurtenances belonging to or under the supervision and control of the fire department shall not be molested, tampered with, damaged or otherwise disturbed unless authorized by the chief.

    1001.6.2 Fire hydrants and fire appliances. Fire hydrants and fire appliances required by this code to be installed or maintained shall not be removed, tampered with or otherwise disturbed except for the purpose of extinguishing fire, training, recharging or making repairs, or when allowed by the fire department. When a fire appliance is removed as herein allowed, it shall be replaced or reinstalled as soon as the purpose for which it was removed has been accomplished.

    (End Quotes)

    Unless there is a specific local ordinance that supersedes the Uniform Fire Code, fire hydrants fall under the jurisdiction of the water agency with respect to supply and repairs, and the Fire Chief for authority for use for non-fire related activities. Assuming that there is no such ordinance, unless the Fire Chief (or his designate) has authorized opening of fire hydrants by the police department, such actions are in violation of the Uniform Fire Code.

    The police department should also be aware that in some states the courts have found persons flowing hydrants into streets and then leaving them flowing unattended to be civilly liable when children attracted into the streets to play in the water have been struck by automobiles. These claims have been based largely on the premise that a reasonable person would recognize the "attractive nuisance" created by the flowing hydrant and the inherent risks involved with children playing in the street, the compromised visibility and decreased vehicular traction due to the flowing water, and the present danger which results. In many states this is considered gross negligence and/or willful disregard for public safety which can pierce a municipality's general immunity from liability and result in large damage settlements, especially if the plaintiffs can prove that the discharges are unauthorized.

    Bottom line:

    Hydrants are not approved traffic control devices.

    Flowing hydrants increase risk of vehicle vs. child accidents.

    Flowing hydrants decrease fire fighting ability in the immediate area.

    The police cannot discharge fire hydrants without some specific authority.

    The city may incur significant liability if a child is struck and killed or permanently disabled while playing in the water.

    Hope this information helps.

    ":O) Willis Lamm,
    Captain / Water Supply Officer Moraga-Orinda FD


    #11 - I am an Officer with the Charlotte Mecklenburg police department and I am trying to find a way to prevent our neighborhood kids from opening the hydrants and playing in the water. I was wondering, is there any type of safety device that can be attached to the hydrant to prevent the hydrants from being opened by kids or citizens. The problem we are experiencing is that when the hydrants are opened, they don't open 1 but 7 at a time and the neighborhood looses it's water pressure. This has greatly concerned the neighborhood as well as the Police and Fire Dept. Any information you would be able to provide would be very helpful. If you could point me in the direction I may need to go to or a company who I would be able to contact, who could help me with this problem. Thank You...

    One of the issues you need to consider involved mutual aid from jurisdictions outside the City. If the tamper resistant devices are going to be used in border areas, the cost of supplying other agencies with special wrenches comes into play. If these are inner city areas, it's not so much of an issue.

    In our area we use the Hydra Shield. Since we utilize wet barrel hydrants, the McGard product would be hard to work with. However if you have hydrants that the McGard would fit, that might be the most practical approach.

    One of the things we are experimenting with is attaching bubblers to specific hydrants, where it is safe to do so in poorer neighborhoods, for the kids to play in on hot days. Being able to maintain control over the valve setting using the McGard device would minimize the possibility of someone cranking up the pressure and creating a hazardous situation. The water district also bought a bunch of cheap wading pools at Toys-R-Us for neighborhood watch people to hand out to be used in safe places on scorching days.

    Good luck with this. From our experience in California, if you don't find a solution to this problem early on, it expands exponentially!

    ":O) Willis Lamm,
    Captain / Water Supply Officer Moraga-Orinda FD


    #12 - Do you have any information on the average leakage rate of the weepholes at various pressures? A contractor has got into trouble by partially opening a dry barrel hydrant, and the city is saying he used 500,000 gallons in a two week period? I am just looking for averages, as I know the flow rate would depend on many factors.

    If a hydrant with one (1) hole, " dia., in the seat ring were to be left in the partially open position so that the flow thru- the hole was unimpeded the hole could be modeled as a sharp edged orifice. If the line pressure was 60 psi the flow thru- a single " dia. orifice would be more or less 175,000 Gallons in 14 days. If there were (2) holes in the seat ring the flow would double. Incidentally, the ground would be saturated.

    Louie Carl
    Senior Engineer
    Kennedy Valve


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