Fire hydrant water supplies: What they are and why they’re crucial

16 January 2024 in Building, Commercial

Fire hydrant water supplies: What they are and why they’re crucial

Fire hydrant water supplies: What they are and why they’re crucial

Fire hydrants water supplies may look like bright, silent bystanders on city streets. Many people may have only seen them come to life when they’re knocked over by stunt cars in action movies, sending fountains of water into the air. Yet fire hydrants are much more than movie props. They play a crucial part in fire suppression for large facilities such as schools, hospitals, and factories. Learn more about fire hydrants, hoses and reels, and why these fast-delivery fire suppression solutions are crucial for fire safety, particularly for larger facilities.

What is the purpose of a fire hydrant?

Instead of supplying water from a contained, pressurized canister, like a fire extinguisher, a fire hydrant either taps directly into water mains or a separate larger water supply.
Fire hydrants are ideal for large environments such as schools, hospitals, and factories where fire outbreaks pose high risk to lives as well as goods and equipment.

What is a fire hose or hose reel?

    Fire hose reels provide a flexible, manoeuvrable way to distribute water or fire suppressant, much the same as a garden hose enables you to deliver irrigation to a specific area. 

    Unlike a common garden hose, a fire hose is designed for high heat- and corrosion-resistance and is usually much longer to ensure that areas are accessible for firefighting. 

    A hose reel cabinet may be standard or designed using stainless steel for extra corrosion resistance in harsher industrial environs such as chemical or open-air facilities.

    Where should you install fire hydrant water supplies?

    Along roads, fire hydrants should be installed far away enough from the edge of the pavement to avoid damage caused by moving vehicles. They should be installed in a clear and accessible area and highlighted for total visibility to firefighters and the public. 

    There are requirements for the number of hydrants to install and other technical considerations when installing hydrants inside a facility. To ensure compliance and full coverage, it is best to enlist the services of registered fire safety professionals when installing hydrants. 

    According to fire safety standards and regulations, hydrants should be installed with easy access to an appropriate fire hose of at least 24 m in length. Hydrants should only be connected to water mains that are adequately sized to handle fire flows. 

    Types of fire hydrants, hoses and reels 

    There are different types of fire hydrants, hoses and reels, so it is not safe to assume that every hose will be compatible with every hydrant system. 

    A reason why the fire at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in April 2021 was so catastrophic was because the available fire hydrant couplings were incompatible with the Johannesburg fire service’s fire engines. 

    It is thus crucial to ensure not only that hydrants are fully functional and clear of any block-creating debris, but that functioning, compatible fire hoses are immediately available, too. 

    Common types of fire hydrant

    Types of fire hydrant casting materials include brass and cast iron. 

    Tamper proof brass hydrants differ from the type that has a wheel-operated valve, as this is a part of a fire hydrant that is sensitive to tampering if the hydrant is publicly accessible.
    A tamper proof hydrant uses a tamper-proof key instead of a wheel to release the valve. 

    Two types of fire hydrant systems (regarding how water is stored and released) are dry barrel and wet barrel systems. 

    In a wet barrel fire hydrant, the hydrant holds a constant water supply that is readily available. In a dry barrel hydrant, water only fills the hydrant once you release the valve.

    Common types of fire hose reel

    The two most used fire hose reel types are fixed wall-mounted reels and ‘swing-way’ reels which are installed in a reel cabinet. Swing-way reels are designed in such a way that a hinge allows the whole reel to be swung out of the storage cabinet immediately, for more rapid access. 

    How often should you inspect and service fire hydrants?

    Fire hydrants and fire hose reels should be inspected annually at the minimum by a certified fire safety inspection professional. 

    In servicing fire hydrants, all parts of valves should be checked to ensure they are clean and not suffering any blockage. 

    The wheel should be easily turned without struggle, as in the event of emergency it is crucial that firefighters are able to release a deluge fast. 

    The lug or double lug outlet on a fire hydrant should also move freely so that a hose may be connected to the hydrant quickly and easily. 

    Contact ERF Group today if you require fire hydrant installation, inspection or servicing.

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