City fire hydrant tests and inspections

City Public Affairs spokesperson Cathy DuPont asked Historic City News to communicate with our readers as the St. Augustine Fire Department continues to conduct fire hydrant tests and inspections.

The testing sometimes causes a discoloration in the water, for a brief period of time, as sediment in the lines is disturbed. However, this is a necessary consequence to ensure that the hydrants we depend on for fire suppression activities are operational, provide adequate water flow, and can maintain adequate pressure.

There are two different tests performed.

First, a flow test is conducted and, as the name implies, this requires flowing a large amount of water. A piece of equipment called a ‘diffuser’ is used to break up the water stream to minimize damage to nearby yards and driveways. During this test, static pressure, flow pressure, and residual pressure are all documented and any problems with the operation of the hydrant are noted and reported to the Public Works Department for immediate repair.

After the flow testing is completed on all hydrants in the city, the second test is begun. This test is a flushing of each hydrant within the city. Water is flowed until it runs clear, then the static pressure is recorded and the hydrants are checked for any problems. Once again, problems noted are reported to the Public Works Department for repair. All testing is based on National Fire Prevention Association and the American Water Works Association standards.

Florida Statutes section 633.025 requires that all wet barrel hydrants are to be tested annually. Additionally, the Insurance Service Office (ISO) requires that all hydrants must be flow tested twice annually in order to receive the highest rating. Maintaining a good ISO rating is critical to the city because the rating helps set the cost of the homeowner’s and commercial insurance within the city.

Flow testing also provides the newer firefighters the opportunity to learn where the hydrants are located and what kind of flows they can expect during fire operations. With 571 hydrants within the city limits, that means they get around a lot.

When you see a fire department team flow testing in your neighborhood, be assured that the intentions are not to waste water, damage yards or create dirty water in your system — they are working to ensure your safety in the event of a fire.

The fire department makes every effort to notify businesses before tests begin and conducts the tests only Monday through Thursday from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (never on a holiday) in order to lessen the impact on the citizens and visitors to our city.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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