Hydrants could be giving false sense of security - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Hydrants could be giving false sense of security

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MT. JULIET, TN (WSMV) -

Residents in rural Wilson County are concerned about their homes, because they say there is no guarantee nearby fire hydrants will work in the case of a fire.

When emergency strikes, seconds count. But if you think having a fire hydrant nearby somehow makes you safer, some say it could instead be giving you false sense of security.

Two fire hydrants malfunctioned when crews recently tried to fight flames at one Wilson County home. Officials said the house was already fully engulfed when they arrived, and the hydrants would not have made a difference, but it still raises questions about whether it could happen again.

"It happens enough that we are aware of the fact that it can be an issue," said Wilson County Emergency Management Director John Jewell.

The hydrants are owned by the Wilson County Water Authority, which uses them for flushing its lines. They say the term "fire hydrant" is misleading, and they don't schedule routine checks of hydrants.

"Probably roughly every five years, generally speaking," said Chris Leauber, director of the Wilson County Water Authority.

Still, that doesn't mean they are able to be used in a fire emergency.

"We're not in charge of making them fire-ready," Leauber said.

And it happens more than you might think. Leauber calls it a reality of rural utilities.

"Our manpower is very limited. We have to focus on provided safe drinking water," he said.

Right now, WCWA is working to install electronic readers on its home water meters.

"So technology is going to free up manpower to do that," Leauber said.

Until that happens, the people in rural Wilson County can hope their nearby hydrants work, but that's about it.

"If they're not capable of working, then they ought to do something about it," said homeowner Brenda Merrick.

There are home sprinkler systems that homeowners can choose to install. Typically, new homes will come with those included, and Leauber said he will recommend every new home has a system installed.

Channel 4 News checked to see how other counties maintain fire hydrants.

In both Davidson and Rutherford counties, firefighters are in charge of checking all hydrants once a year.

If there is a problem, they report it to the utility districts, which they say are fast about making repairs.

And there's a way you can check the pressure of fire hydrants near you, just by looking at them: check the color of the caps. They indicate water flow.

According to experts, a blue cap has a very good flow at 1,500 gallons a minute or more.

Green is good for residential areas.

Orange is marginally adequate.

And red is inadequate, with a water flow of below 500 gallons a minute.

For more information, visit: http://www.firehydrant.org/info/hycolor.html.

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