What is a Fire Hydrant and How Does it Work?

Bright hydrant boosters in a row with metal pipes and red caps.

Fire emergencies are grave situations that significantly threaten life and property. Fire hydrants, amongst many other fire fighting equipment, play a vital role in the fire protection of buildings and premises. They serve as a primary water source for fire brigades and other firefighting services in combating fire emergencies.

As a building owner or a manager responsible for occupant safety, it's important to ensure your premises comply with Australian standards concerning fire safety regulations. Keep reading to learn more about fire hydrants and their types, how they work, their regulations, and fire hydrant testing and maintenance.

Fire Hydrant Systems

Fire hydrants are lifelines in a well-planned fire protection system. They serve as the key water source for firefighters and support the functioning of a building's internal fire hydrants and hoses.

Put simply, they are the pillars of a fire-fighting system connected to a series of underground pipes providing water flow at crucial moments.

A fire hydrant system typically consists of various components, each serving a unique function in aiding firefighting operations. Block plans outline the layout of the hydrant system, hydrant valves regulate flow of water, and firemen use fire hose reels to direct water onto the flames. Additionally, the system includes piping and valves that serve as the backbone, ensuring that water can move from the source to the required location efficiently.

The fire brigade boosters and booster pump sets are essential in these systems. These are especially vital in large buildings where water must travel significantly or overcome obstacles like elevation changes. The boosters help increase the water pressure, ensuring that water can be effectively dispensed to fight the fire.

Familiarity with these elements can lead to quicker, more effective responses in emergencies. It could prove crucial when lives are at stake, highlighting the value of fire hydrant systems beyond just compliance with safety regulations. Their reliability and functionality make them important in protecting life and property from the devastating impacts of fire.

Fire Hydrant System Components

The anatomy of fire hydrant parts in a system includes several components that work together to make it effective for firefighting. Here's a breakdown:

  1. Block Plan: A layout that shows the hydrant's location and the overall plumbing diagram for the fire hydrant system.
  2. Hydrant: The hydrant is a metal fixture installed at various points, connected to a robust water supply.
  3. Water Supply & Storage: For a fire hydrant to be effective, sufficient water supply and storage are crucial. Water supply sources include town water mains, tanks, and even dams.
  4. Fire Hose: Connected to the hydrant, the fire hose directs water to the fire. It comes with different nozzles and branch pipes for varying water flow rates.
  5. Piping & Valves: These control the water flow and include components such as hydrant valves, control valves, and coupling.
  6. Fire Brigade Booster & Booster Pumpsets: The fire brigade booster amplifies water pressure, and booster pump sets ensure that water reaches all areas where it's needed.

All these components, from the control valve to fire pumps and landing valves, must be in perfect working condition to ensure the effectiveness of the fire hydrant system in buildings. Regular Fire Safety Inspection is essential to ensure that you're in line with Australian standards for fire safety.

Types of Fire Hydrants

Here’s an overview of fire hydrant types:

  • Dry Barrel Fire Hydrants: They are common in colder climates, providing additional protection against freezing. That is due to the water supply being isolated below the frost line, ensuring the hydrant's operational integrity even during extreme weather conditions.
  • Wet Barrel Fire Hydrants: They are ideal for regions where freezing is not a concern. They allow immediate access to water but must get drained and serviced more frequently to prevent contamination. Wet barrel hydrants generally get used in warmer regions where the advantages of quick water access outweigh the disadvantages of potential water stagnation.
  • Combined Sprinkler and Hydrant Systems: These systems provide a double layer of protection by combining the features of sprinkler systems with fire hydrants. That is particularly useful in multi-story buildings or facilities with complex layouts where a unified system can lead to quicker response times in a fire emergency.

The concept of internal fire hydrants is also gaining popularity in modern building design. These make firefighting operations more efficient by reducing the hose run distance for firefighters. Internal hydrants can be strategically placed at various points within a building, reducing the time it takes to get water from the source to the fire. This type of system is particularly useful in high-rise buildings, large commercial properties, or structures with complex layouts.

Building owners and managers must make informed decisions about which system best suits their needs, always keeping in mind the safety of the building's occupants. Each system type comes with its requirements for installation, maintenance, and testing, making it crucial to consult fire safety experts and employ fire protection services to ensure compliance with Australian standards.

How Do Fire Hydrants Work?

Fire hydrants work in a surprisingly sophisticated manner that goes beyond simply releasing water when a valve gets turned.

When a fire emergency arises, a hose is first attached to the hydrant's valve.

Upon opening this valve, water rushes through the hydrant for firefighting. The initial surge causes a drop in water pressure within the hydrant, which triggers the booster system. This booster compensates for the pressure drop by pushing more water into the system, thus maintaining the necessary flow rates.

At this stage, a lay-flat hose, which is often pre-connected, is directed towards the base of the fire. The nozzle at the end of this hose can be adjusted to control the shape and direction of the water spray, optimising it for different types of fires.

Fire engines can also be used to boost the water supply further. They achieve this by connecting to a separate water source and linking it to the hydrant booster, providing a higher volume of water to fight fire effectively.

The hoses, valves, and pressure systems all working together makes fire hydrants effective in battling fires.

Australian Fire Hydrant Regulations

Several key regulations and standards govern fire hydrant installation, operation, and maintenance. These include Australian Standard AS2419, which outlines the requirements for fire hydrant installations; AS1851, which governs the maintenance of fire hydrants and other fire safety equipment; and the Building Code of Australia, which offers comprehensive guidelines for fire safety systems in buildings.

  • For installations, the general rule is that buildings with floor areas greater than 500 square metres require a fire hydrant system. Additionally, fire hose reels must be installed adjacent to fire hydrants. These hydrants should be easily accessible, and a fire hydrant block plan must be prominently displayed near each hydrant, providing necessary information like flow rates.
  • Testing includes a six-monthly inspection for wear and tear, a 12-monthly inspection including an annual flow test to gauge the system's efficiency, and a more comprehensive 5-yearly booster flow test.
  • Maintenance involves checking for component damage, replacing worn-out or broken parts, and monitoring water quality to ensure the system's efficiency is not compromised.

Staying Prepared

By now, you should have a robust understanding of fire hydrants and their intricate operation in fire safety. But knowledge alone is not enough. The key to effective fire safety is being prepared for unforeseen fire emergencies. An updated, accessible, and well-maintained fire hydrant system can differentiate between a close call and a catastrophe.

Complying with Australian standards is not just a legal requirement but a moral one. This compliance extends to all fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fire doors etc.

Regular testing and maintenance of fire hydrant systems in Melbourne and Geelong are not optional; they are necessary for the safety and well-being of people and properties.