Contrary to the systems in many countries, fire hydrants in the United States may be privately or publicly owned. In the case of public fire hydrants, towns and states are responsible for their maintenance and inspection. If a fire hydrant is privately owned, it is up to owner to take care of it and in a large majority of cases, maintenance is not carried out correctly. In fact, the number of discoveries of non-compliance with maintenance procedures found on fire hydrants is quite alarming as many of them become clearly unusable. This is the case for the city of Detroit, where the consequences of fires are far worse than they should be. This was the case in November 2015 when fire broke out in the Tiki bar in Detroit. It spread to a 3-storey house and caused over a million dollars of damage.
Today, state budgets do not allow fire hydrant maintenance to be considered as a priority in towns and cities. Once again in the case of Detroit, out of a total of 20,000 fire hydrants over 1,500 of them are not in working order. The city does not possess the resources required for repairing them. But certain risks are also run by the operator, which undeniably plays a role as to whether maintenance is carried out or not.
The different potential problems related to manual maintenance:
Risks of road accidents:
The position of fire-hydrants is not always ideal or even conducive to the safety of operators who have to take care of them:
They are often close to roadways, which increases the risk of accidents. Whenever an operator needs to open or close a hydrant, he is concentrating on his job and does not watch out for traffic. A fire hydrant can be opened or closed in total safety with a portable valve actuator as the operator does not need to move and he can keep a worry-free eye on the traffic whilst the valve is being opened.
Risks of MSK (musculoskeletal) pain:
Certain fire hydrants are extremely difficult to operate as they have not been opened for several years, which means that their plugs and pipes may be rusty or have even been repainted. This considerably complicates the task of opening them. As a result, when opening the hydrant, the operator has to exert an extra effort which may cause injury, especially to the arms and back. Moreover, repeating movements that require excessive effort may give rise to serious injury such as pain in the hips, musculoskeletal pain, tendinitis and other injuries. Thanks to the Modec portable valve actuator, we eliminate any risk of muscular injury, as it is the actuator that exerts the torque required for opening and reclosing the valve.
When carrying out maintenance operations on fire hydrants, several stages must be scrupulously followed (URL to the first article). The procedure may take time, and even more time when disrepair parameters and the state of the hydrant (rust, frost, debris, age) are added. Consequently, operators do not have the means of carrying out operations completely due to a lack of time. Opening a fire hydrant on a sentinel hydrant takes seventeen ¼ turns. We can easily imagine that an operator assigned to maintenance operations on several fire hydrants in his day’s work will not be able to carry out all his missions due to insufficient time, fatigue or unsatisfactory working conditions.
Damage to the valve:
If a hydrant is difficult to more, the operator will undeniably need to use more force and, as we have seen above, run the risk of physically injuring himself. Moreover, he also risks breaking and/or distorting the hydrant by not having total control over his gestures and exerting too much pressure. By controlling both torque and speed, the Modec valve actuator considerable reduces risks of breakage and therefore any need to replace the hydrant.
Using fire hydrants is an operation that can prove to be dangerous for operators. Even so, it is an essential activity in every town and village. Therefore, we highly recommend that personnel are provided with tools that are adequate for protecting them and enabling them to do their work under the best possible conditions.
The catastrophic fires in California are a reminder that fires represent an extremely high risk for the population and can cause material damage that is extremely expensive for the municipality. Whenever this type of emergency arises, every minute counts. Having permanently available equipment in good working order gives precious help to fire brigades. With the help of rapid, high-performance tools, you can provide your equipment with sustainable maintenance.