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The Colors Of Fire Hydrants: What Is Their Meaning?

Updated on March 13, 2017
The colors of fire hydrants : What is the meaning of fire hydrant colors.
The colors of fire hydrants : What is the meaning of fire hydrant colors. | Source

Colors Are Not The Law

Unfortunately, NFPA code 291 are only guidelines and are not laws. This means that the agency or service that maintains fire hydrants in there district are not required to paint them in this manner. The code is designed so that any firemen can go anywhere in the United States and know how much water he or she should expect out of a particular fire hydrant. It is estimated that only half paint hydrants according to the code.

Why We Need Colors

Fighting fire is a very hard and stressful task, the job comes with many obstacles that firemen must overcome to save and preserve property. One huge obstacle is, you guessed it, WATER! You are probably thinking to yourself that water is everywhere and so are fire hydrants. Well you would be correct but honestly getting water to the fire truck and on to the fire is a struggle in many cases. Being out in a rural setting far from the water treatment plant poses an issue for water pressure and quantity. Many firemen found themselves at a huge fire and not enough water. How is one to know that the fire hydrant they are getting water out of can not possibly support the huge quantity the firetruck requires? This grew to be such a problem that the National Fire Protection Agency, commonly known as the NFPA set up NFPA code 291. This code gives guidelines pertaining to fire hydrants. The guidelines recommended are as follows, below 500GPM should be painted red, 500-999 GPM should be painted orange, 1000-1499 GPM should be painted green, and 1500 GPM or more should be painted blue. The guidelines primarily talk about the top of the hydrants and suggest painting the bottom of the hydrants yellow.

Hydrant Class
Color
(GPM) Gallons Per Minute
Class AA
Blue
1500 or more
Class A
Green
1000-1499
Class B
Orange
500-999
Class C
Red
Less than 500

No Hydrants

If you do not have fire hydrants in your area don't worry, the fire department can still get plenty of water in most cases. Most heavily populated areas have fire hydrants, however smaller less populated communities may not have the luxury. Most of these places have wells vs city water. Without fire hydrants readily available fire departments are forced to look for more natural resources. Fire departments are able to find water in lakes, rivers, and have been known to empty a few swimming pools. Getting water out of these sources is fairly easy but take a good bit of valuable time. Obtaining water this way involves leaving the scene of the fire, driving to the water source, using a hard suction hose to suck the water out of the source until the tank is filled, and driving back to the fire scene before any water can be sprayed. With fire hydrant's it is as easy as hooking a hose up, sucking and spraying water at the same time, and never having to drive anywhere. In areas that seem to lack fire hydrants and large bodies of water, fire departments use in ground tanks spaced carefully throughout the fire district. These tanks are a few feet underground and are very large. These tanks hold thousands of gallons of water. Fire departments will keep these tanks full all of the time, use them when needed, and then refill them at the first available opportunity.

Hard suction line used to suck water out of rivers, lakes, and swimming pools.
Hard suction line used to suck water out of rivers, lakes, and swimming pools. | Source

Poll

Are Fire Hydrants painted to follow NFPA 291 guidelines in your area?

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Other Markings

Many other markings have been known to be used in identifying certain characteristics of fire hydrants. Though the NFPA suggests that the body of the fire hydrant be painted chrome yellow, some departments use the body to identify ownership or uses of the hydrant. An example of this would be painting the body White to show the hydrant is a Public system hydrant, Yellow for Private hydrant connected to a public water system, Red for a special operations, meaning for special purposes and situations only, and Violet suggesting that the water is non potable.

Some hydrants have the water caps painted different colors to distinguish the waters pressure. An example of this would be painting water caps green which means the hydrant was previously tested at 120 psi or more. This means that who ever uses the hydrant should use caution due to the extreme pressure. Water caps can be painted orange also, which suggests a pressure of 50-119 psi. When water pressure is below 50, water caps would be painted red. When firemen see a red capped hydrant he knows that the water will not free flow and must be pumped.

The colors of fire hydrants : What is the meaning of fire hydrant colors
The colors of fire hydrants : What is the meaning of fire hydrant colors | Source

Summary

With water being of utmost importance when fighting a fire it crucial that fire personnel know exactly what to expect when opening up a fire hydrant. The National Fire Protection Agency has done an amazing job at providing a fail proof solution towards common colors and flow rates. It is now up to the appropriate agencies to utilize these guidelines leading everyone to a more common system.

So now it is up to you wonderful guys and gals, I would love for you to comment below. Do you have fire hydrants in your area? If so, do the hydrants follow the NFPA 291 guidelines? If they are not painted according to the suggested guidelines what do you feel needs to be done to accomplish this being put in to action? Do you feel that these guidelines make sense and would help your local firemen to be safer and more proficient at their jobs? Also, do no hesitate to comment below if you feel you have a better idea as to what may work better or more efficient. Technology is growing at a faster than ever rate and it is important to use this technology and ideas to keep our service men and women safer at all costs.

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    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      This is another one which was very interesting Justin. I voted "Yes" to the fire hydrants being up to standards, but I am just guessing. The hydrants here are all chrome except for the entire green caps. When the firemen use them, I have seen them hook up to the pumps and nothing else. So I guess that is okay.

      I voted this up, shared and pinned it.

      Kevin

    • Justin Frye profile image
      Author

      Justin Frye 2 years ago

      Thank you!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I think the color coding is an excellent idea. It's too bad it's just a guideline and not a law because there is no way to depend on the color of the fire hydrant, especially the ones that I've seen painted to look like animals or people. I learned something new by reading this and really enjoy it a lot.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very interesting and informative. I never knew this about the different colors of fire hydrants and what they mean. The fire hydrant in my cul de sac is completely painted red. Now I may know what it means. I will be on the lookout for more hydrants and note their color. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Justin Frye profile image
      Author

      Justin Frye 2 years ago

      So glad you all enjoyed it. Hydrant colors is something that most people just overlook and have no idea what they mean until someone points them out.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      I had never even thought about hydrant colors before I read this. Very interesting topic.

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