Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Hydrant Inspector

The following photos are from Ann T. Hathaway Archive's extensive collection of Fire Hydrant Studies. A limited edition print can be yours for the modest sum of one thousand dollars. Kick in an extra hundred and it will arrive at your home, matted and framed in either Rustic, Silver, or Golden splendor (specify, please).

These photos are accompanied by trivia about fire hydrants. So that you know more than not to park next to one. For instance, some of them are made on very high stacks for rising above snowdrifts. I forget where I read this--a Japanese site. Others take advantage of lake water instead of municipal pipes.

In the United States, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) both promulgate standards on fire hydrants and inspection regimens. Since 1881, the AWWA has concerned itself with all kinds of water management and water quality, including safe drinking water and safe sewer disposal. The NFPA promulgates safety standards for buildings, especially electrical codes and sprinkler codes for buildings, the use of smoke alarms, and other fire-fighting standards.

This is where engineers, scientists, fire-fighters and city managers get together to transform science and safety into law. In short, they are also lobbyists on the national, state, and local level. Their lobbying efforts are based on factual information and definite preferences for safety. All official standards are available to the public for a relatively modest price. Organizations like these stretch from government to private industry. They are part of the good foundation for an advanced economy.

There are also world-wide standard promulgated for fire hydrants, published by the International Standards Organization (ISO), based in Europe. Another world-wide standard comes from the American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers (ASTM), "an open forum for the development of high-quality, market-relevant international standards used around the globe."

The reason the ASTM standard is international is because the U.S. still has much clout world-wide, based upon our manufacturing and research reputation. Many businesses around the world use ASTM or ISO standards in airline repair, tool design, shipping standards, and, apparently, fire protection. International corporations implement ISO pretty stringently--it cuts their costs because it's standard and helps them with insurance costs.  ISO and/or ASTM is a voluntary program, frequently  enforced by the insurance industry or by treaty around the world. It is one reason why it is safe to travel internationally, or that a container coming from Brazil has similar specs as one coming from India. That a fire-fighting crew in Manila, for an international factory, has similar tools and specs to work with, even if they were born in France.

I don't say it always works out in practice, however. Because:

Smaller corporations find it very hard/expensive to get into compliance with international standards. Cities also are generally not in full ISO compliance. It's part of the 'aging infrastructure' challenge. On the good side, the standards are there to work towards. It's harder to make a 'mistaken' investment if the standard is there.

Most city laws don't specify a standard. They say something like: "The department shall adopt rules and regulations that it determines are reasonably consistent with generally recognized fire protection standards, governing conditions relating to the prevention of fire or for the protection of life and property against fire" and leave the specs to the experts. It also frees the pols up to meddle in other affairs. But no, they wouldn't do that.

For historical preservation districts, there are 'retro-looking' but modern-standard hydrants, as shown HERE. There are also communities that paint their hydrants to look like little people, or a face, or whatever seems to strike their fancy. This latter whimsy might be cute, but it's not exactly helpful for a fire.

Historical preservation or whimsy aside, hydrant colors should actually Mean things. From Wikipedia:
In the United States, the AWWA and NFPA recommend hydrants be colored chrome yellow for rapid identification apart from the bonnet and nozzle caps which should be coded according to their available flow. Class AA hydrants (>1500gpm) should have their nozzle caps and bonnet colored light blue, Class A hydrants (1000-1499gpm), green, Class B hydrants (500-999gpm), orange, and Class C hydrants (0-499gpm), red. This aids arriving firefighters in determining how much water is available and whether to call for additional resources, or locate another hydrant. Other codings can be and frequently are used, some of greater complexity, incorporating pressure information, others more simplistic.
Ann T. Hathaway, Volunteer Hydrant Inspector, has determined that HotWinds is not in full compliance. But she called in an expert to be sure, all the way from New York City. His resume is impressive:

This is a fine art photograph by Bryan Hochman. You will have to work out your price and framing details for this photo with him.

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meleah rebeccah said...

OMG! These are such cool photos!

Ann T. said...

Thanks Meleah!
Ann T.