First off, I must me transparent that I am not a firefighter, first responder or even in the industry. I am only a regular person that loves our first responders and cares for their safety along with the safety of our community. That being said, I truly would like to know everyone's feelings about the NFPA guidelines as a whole and more specifically NFPA-291,5.2 - "The Marking of Hydrants."
You're probably wondering why a regular person would even be concerned about this. Here's my story. I have always had a soft spot for anyone that is in our military or has a job as a first responder, police, firefighters, etc. A few years back, I was driving home from work when I just happened to notice that a lot of the fire hydrants, in the area that I lived, were basically "unnoticeable". For the most part, they were a rusty brown color and covered up in weeds and kudzu. The closer you got to the city, they were a little more noticeable but still had room for improvement. I thought to myself, "why is it that these hydrants are so unnoticeable to firefighters and first responders when precious seconds spent finding them could be a matter of life or death or, at the least, more extensive property damage?" That is when I started a fire-year journey in my contribution to make fire hydrants more noticeable for firefighters and first responders.
It's been fire-years since I started on a journey to develop a way that would help make fire hydrants more noticeable for firefighters and first responders. All along, I was hoping also to be able to save lives, save time and save property. Prior to this time, I was working on some projects that utilized "silicone". You probably have noticed that more products are now available to the public that also utilize silicone. For example, silicone is used to make oven gloves because of it's inherent heat resistant properties. Silicone has very stable thermal properties whereas it can go from wide temperatures that range from −100 to 250 °C (around -148 to 482 °F). Silicone also exhibits other useful characteristics that include low toxicity, low thermal conductivity, low chemical reaction, extremely weather resistant, does not support microbiological growth, extreme resistance to ultra-violet and more.
"Silicone also exhibits other useful characteristics that include low toxicity, low thermal conductivity, low chemical reaction, extremely weather resistant, does not support microbiological growth, extreme resistance to ultra-violet and more."
Another big plus for Silicone is the fact that it can be slightly "stretchy". All these characteristics plus the stretchy factor really started clicking in my mind so I came up with the idea for a Silicone Sleeve for Fire Hydrants that are in NFPA-291, 5.2 coloration and are highly reflective. I applied for a patent years ago and finally, on January 28, 2020, I was awarded a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This patent not only allows for a "stretchy" Silicone Fire Hydrant Bonnet Sleeve but I took it a step further to help everyone out. I incorporated near field communication into the patent. This "RFID" technology allows municipalities to preform maintenance on the fire hydrant and download the information to either an active or passive RFID chip inside the Silicone Bonnet. This information can then be uploaded to the records of the municipalities for better upkeep of fire hydrants. Information like a simplified electronic checklist can live with the fire hydrant and also be recorded at the fire station or office server of the governing authority.
- Gallon Flow Per Minute (GPM)
- Visual Inspection
- Clean and Lubricate Threads
- Replace Caps
- Fire Flow Test
- Check for Leakage
- Check Water Clarity
- Repair Damage
- Clean Debris or Foliage
- Much More!
With RFID, the future is also open to the Firefighter Fire Trucks having RFID readers themselves to help them find the fire hydrants as they enter subdivisions or the scene of the emergency.
Back to the Question
Back to the question that I first posed. How important is the NFPA-291 guideline to you, as a firefighter or first responder? The NFPA specifically calls out color guidelines in Code/Standard #291, 5.2. These colors are laid out but not necessarily followed. The Code #291 is just a recommendation, and as a result, not all governing bodies, municipalities or communities, public or private, follow it. In fact, some individual state and city regulations contradict the regulation that lead to even bigger problems. For example, there is a Texas law that requires all "nonfunctioning" fire hydrants to be painted black. Nonfunctioning in this instance is any fire hydrant that is rated at 250 gallons per minute or less. Many rural areas can't necessarily guarantee a steady and dependable flow rate so they end up painting all of their hydrants black to avoid any liability. This leaves firefighters confused and unable to tell them apart. Now back to my invention (and by the way, this is not about my invention, it's about NFPA-291). The Silicone Fire Hydrant Bonnet Sleeve can easily adapt to whatever GPM that the fire hydrant is rated at. Not only that, even if the fire hydrant is painted in black, my invention can simply stretch over the bonnet in a highly visible and reflective color notifying the first responder in an instant, by NFPA-291 coloration, the gallon flow per minute of the hydrant. This could be a life-saver in an emergency situation.
For those who don't know of the NFPA-291, 5.2 guideline, here's a summary of my understanding of the code but feel free to correct me. A blue top on a fire hydrant means that the fire hydrant is rated at 1,500 GPM or higher. A green top means that the fire hydrant is rated at 1,000 GPM to 1,499 GPM. An orange top means that the fire hydrant is rated at 501 GPM to 999 GPM. A red top means that the fire hydrant is rated at 500 GPM or less. This information, in an instant, lets the firefighter know whether a particular hydrant will provide the necessary GPM flow adequate enough to provide them with the proper amount of water that they will need to put out the fire that they are facing. It also tells them the site of hose to use, how best to pump the water, and a variety of other essential information that may be specific to state or federal code or to the municipality that the hydrant is in.
One of the goals of this post is to find out if anyone even adheres to practicing the guidelines as set forth by the NFPA. I think that "standardization" is a good thing and I would like to see the entire nation to abide by a standard code such as seen here with the NFPA. The other goal is possibly a little more selfish in that I would love to see the viability of my patented invention and to see if it would help those firefighters and first responders with the intentions that the NFPA meant of providing more information at the time of the emergency.
If you would like more information about this Silicone Fire Hydrant Bonnet Sleeve, go to www.FireHydrantSolutions.com or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact me or share this article if you feel like becoming a partner or licensee of this product.