What You Didn’t Know About Fire Hydrants

Even though you likely pass fire hydrants regularly on your daily walk or commute, you may be surprised by what you don’t know about them. Who is responsible for maintaining fire hydrants? Why are they painted the colors they are? Consider a few interesting and helpful facts about these life-saving water access points.

How They Work

Fire hydrants do not work quite like the faucets in your house. For one thing, water is not stored in the hydrant itself. Underground pipes contain the water hydrants use, but it only reaches the surface when a valve is turned. This valve is not like any household mechanism either, as it requires an uncommonly shaped tool to turn it. Both of these oddities have a purpose. Namely, it is vital that water does not freeze in the hydrant and that people cannot use it for non-emergency purposes.

Who Maintains Them

Another perhaps little-known fact about hydrants is that they are not all public. Private hydrants are mandated by government regulations, yet the property owner bears some responsibility in caring for them. While the city usually handles matters like fire flow testing, homeowners with private hydrants must do their part to keep the hydrants accessible. This includes cutting back vegetation and removing large obstructions from the area.

The Meaning Behind the Colors

A final interesting fact about fire hydrants is that they are not painted simply for visual appeal; those colors have meanings. Namely, the color of the top of a fire hydrant often indicates the water flow rate of that particular hydrant. The ubiquitous red hydrants you may see around your town actually have the lowest water flow rate.

It is easy to walk by something everyday and to allow it to become part of the background. Fire hydrants, however, are used to save lives and property and must be carefully maintained year after year.