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Yes, the color of your nearby fire hydrant matters...

...and here's why.

You will find White, Red, Yellow and Violet colored fire hydrants pretty much everywhere.  But there's a reason for this - and it's because of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  This association has issued guidelines for color coding standards for fire hydrants.  These color codes from the body of the hydrant, top of the hydrant, and in some municipalities the outlet caps are designed to allow fire fighters to know what type of system, water flow rate (Gallons Per Minute or GPM), and level of water pressure.  This guideline is known as NFPA 291 and is intended to be used universally throughout the United States.

The NFPA guidelines are specific to the body and the top cap of the hydrant.  If a hydrant is WHITE or YELLOW - it means that it is connected to a public/municipal water system.  If a hydrant is RED - the hydrant is connected to a private system, typically a well.  These are most common in rural or unincorporated areas. Red is a recommendation by the NFPA - the guideline is that it should be a color that distinguishes itself from the public system.  Finally, PURPLE hydrants means that the hydrant is connected to a non-potable water supply.

Our fire hydrant conversion in progress
The top cap color is meant to signify the water flow rate or GPM of the hydrant.  A BLUE top means that the water flow rate is over 1500 GPM.  GREEN is for a flow rate of 1,000 - 1,499 GPM and is acceptable for most residential areas.  ORANGE is a rate of 500 - 999 GPM and is considered marginally adequate.  Finally, RED is a flow rate of below 500 GPM and is considered inadequate to fight fires. 

Again, these are only guidelines as many municipalities have added colors for water pressure levels or use a different color for hydrants connected to a public system.

Earlier this year, the fire hydrant in front of our home changed from red to yellow.  The photos in the entry chronicle the transformation from red to yellow and silver.  You'd think that it wouldn't be noticed, but our neighborhood message board were filled with questions asking why their fire hydrant was being repainted and why does it have to be yellow.   Even a year later, the repainting of the hydrants were still being talked about.




https://twitter.com/WNFIV/status/938093442512637955The reason is that all hydrants connected to the City of Raleigh water system were being painted yellow to meet the NFPA 291 guidelines.  This included municipalities throughout Wake County - such as Wake Forest, Knightdale, Garner - that receive water from the Raleigh system.  It was also noted that municipalities could qualify for lower insurance rates if they follow the NFPA guidelines.

The finished product.
So the next time you see a fire hydrant.  Check the colors of it - it may be telling you something.  Especially if it is purple!

Comments

Unknown said…
Hi Tom F.

Hah, back in 1976, 1 year out of the Navy I moved to Manhattan Beach. My new neighbors joined me for a summer drinking fest. We lived about 5 blocks up and got soooo drunk, we started opening our common area hydrant to cars passing by. Our mission? Cool off the people, it was very hot out.

Needless to say, a few got busted, tossed into the drunk tank, me among them. My fine was no jail and 10 days community service and given three buckets of paint. Guess what my fine was? I learned a lot about the color codes...up close and personal.

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