Purdy fire hydrant study finds numerous weak areas

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Purdy Fire District Chief Nick Mercer showed city council members findings of a system-wide evaluation of fire hydrants in Purdy. Blue hydrants at the center of the map showed strong producers, whereas hydrants further north showed very little capacity. Murray Bishoff/times-news@monett-times.com

City takes steps to improve ISO rating review

Having conducted the first system-wide assessment of the fire hydrants in Purdy, Fire Chief Nick Mercer described the challenges facing residents and the department as it heads into a review of its firefighting system by the Insurance Services Organization (ISO).

Mercer reported the city had 32 fire hydrants that could produce 1,500 gallons of water a minute or more. Most were located in the center of the city. Ten hydrants produced between 1,000 and 1,499 gallons a minute. Mercer wants to color code the hydrants with rings or tape, identifying the top producers with blue and the next with green.

In addition, the city has 11 hydrants that will only produce 500 to 999 gallons a minute, and 12 other hydrants that produce even less. These Mercer wanted to code as orange and red. Four of the "red" hydrants have been taken out of service. These came from a specific non-standard 
manufacturer and have become too hard to turn. One produced water, but it took two men two minutes to activate it. Mercer noted all of these hydrants were located in the center of the city, where strong producing hydrants sat nearby.

The pattern revealed by the hydrant ratings shows all the hydrants north of Jefferson Street produce at a low volume. Mercer said the fire district would have to take a tanker into those neighborhoods to fight any blazes.

Mayor Steve Roden said the size of the water mains on the north end of town might also contribute to the low volume. Mercer noted many of the city's water lines stop at hydrants or dead ends. He suggested running a major main around the northwest corner of the city to loop the mains would help. Pressure reads adequate for home use, but very little comes out of a hydrant if tapped.

All of the firefighters have copies of a map with Mercer's color-coding on their phones. A similar map went to the Barry County 911 center. Roden wanted documentation for the city as well.

The review followed a visit from an ISO inspector who plans to evaluate the city's system later this year. Marking hydrants for volume output would contribute to a better city rating, Mercer said. Aldermen favored the ring strategy.

Mercer planned to conduct future system-wide tests to develop a three-year average for what each hydrant will deliver. He also asked the council to update the city's safety code, which would also improve the city's points.

ISO will base its assessment on the number of hydrants in town, whether they work or not. Roden instructed Public Works Supervisor Dave Gatewood to remove one of the hydrants that had been disconnected but left in the ground. Aldermen talked about possibly replacing flush hydrants at the end of the system, around the city's edges, with something else to avoid negative points for hydrants that cannot produce.

ISO standards have changed this year, Mercer said. The fire district will be evaluated as a whole and not as a city and a rural portion. The city had a rating of 5 and the rural area had a 9, the worst rating for having a firefighting service. Mercer expected the rural area's assessment would improve by including the city. Residents in the city would likely end up with a less desirable rating, which could boost the cost of fire insurance premiums.

The city can only have its ISO rating changed every five years, Mercer said. Once the preliminary assessment came back, the city would have until the end of the year to respond to the findings and make adjustments before the rating became part of the official record.

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