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9 July 2024 in Fire Protection

Hydrant Flow Tests: Keep Hydrants Ready for Action

fire monitor for hydrant pressure testing

The fire hydrant is the unsung hero of fire safety. A little like a superhero’s cape, it is dormant until needed, but essential equipment for saving the day. Hydrant flow tests are crucial for fire hydrant testing, because a malfunctioning hydrant is about as useful to firefighters as kryptonite is to Superman. Keep reading to learn how to keep hydrants ready for life-saving action.

Why are Hydrant Flow Tests Important?

Testing fire hydrants’ flow helps to ensure community safety and the safety of your employees, while protecting property. 

Conducting tests regularly helps to:

  1. Maintain sufficient, reliable water availability:  Firefighters need to know there is enough flow of water to combat fires effectively.
  2. Check fire hydrants’ pressure and flow capabilities: Knowing the pressure and rate of flow of water possible at specific points in a network of fire protection installations.
  3. Uncover water distribution problems: Hydrant flow tests help to reveal issues such as closed or partially closed water mains valves. 
  4. Provide actionable infrastructure assessment data: For example, year to year tests may reveal any degradation in water infrastructure due to pressure and other changes. 
  5. Colour code fire hydrants for better community safety: Once the strength of a hydrant is known, it may be colour coded so that firefighters can see at a glance what hydrants’ capabilities are, enabling faster decisions.

Hydrant flow tests directly impact fire service efficiency and response times by keeping knowledge of local systems up-to-date. In the city of Hinesville, Georgia, annual testing in January 2024 revealed seventeen faulty hydrants — a discovery that could have helped avoid serious disaster in the event of a fire during the later summer months.

How are Hydrant Flow Tests Conducted?

The procedure for conducting hydrant flow tests follows these steps:

  1. The hydrant is opened, then the flow of water is measured through a device such as a flow meter. 
  2. The pressure at the hydrant itself is also measured using a pressure gauge. 
  3. The results of the test are used to determine whether the hydrant is in a suitable condition for firefighting purposes, or whether it needs to be repaired or replaced. 

Employee and community engagement in fire safety is important, and municipalities and fire safety professionals liaise to ensure that tests are conducted safely with as little disruption as possible to local water supply. 

How is Data from Hydrant Testing Analysed and Used?

During hydrant flow tests, several important metrics are gathered to be analysed:

  1. Static Pressure: The pressure in the water system when water isn’t flowing. This provides a baseline metric for the water supply’s potential rate of flow.
  2. Residual Pressure: The pressure remaining in the system while water is flowing from the hydrant. This indicates the WDS’s (water distribution system) ability to maintain pressure under a continued rate of flow. 
  3. Flow Rate: The volume of water discharged via the hydrant over a measured period. This is typically measured in litres per second. 
  4. Pitot-static Pressure: The pressure of the water stream produced by the hydrant when the water is flowing, measured using a Pitot pressure gauge. 

The measurements from hydrant flow testing are used to determine the ‘coefficient of discharge’ (the hydrant’s efficiency in delivering water, according to the flow rate and the amount the pressure drops once the hydrant is opened). 

Fire services use this data to determine any weak points in a network of fire safety measures so that systems may be maintained, repaired or upgraded. 

As a case study of what can happen when hydrant testing and fire safety and prevention is neglected, the Grenfell Tower incident in the UK is a reminder of the need for proactive testing and continuous awareness and improvement of weak points in fire safety. 

The Importance of Hydrant Flow Tests for Fire Services

Working fire hydrants are the unmasked, non-cape-wearing heroes of fire safety around the world. It’s crucial to keep this pivotal firefighting equipment fully-tested and functioning.
East Rand Fire services include hydrant testing. Book an inspection today by East Rand fire hydrant testing experts to maintain better community safety .

Call to book your fire hydrant test today.

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