The last thing you need when a fire breaks out in your building is for the hydrant out front to not work when firefighters show up. Without proper fire hydrant maintenance, this kind of situation could easily spell the end for residential and commercial buildings alike. How do you know if you need fire hydrant testing, and how do you get it done? Start with these tips for inspection and maintenance.

When to Test

A fire hydrant’s function can be impaired by a number of factors, ranging from accidental damage during operation or accumulated wear-and-tear to environmental damage or direct vandalism. It’s recommended that you perform inspections and tests at least once or twice a year; inspections following operation or major incidents like storms or car accidents is a good idea, too. Additionally, the location and time of year may have an impact on the gradual wear fire hydrants receive, and areas prone to storms or freezing temperatures should take particular precaution.

Hydrant Testing Considerations

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) maintains a set of codes and standards on recommended practices for testing and marking hydrants. You don’t need to know absolutely all the details—professional inspectors are trained for that. However, you should take the time to learn the basics and keep these considerations in mind:

  • Testing procedures should be used to evaluate a hydrant’s flowing and static pressure, both of which are critical in confirming that the hydrant can be used to extinguish fires.
  • Testing should check both the closest hydrant to the property and at least one other hydrant in the vicinity to account for pressure changes.
  • Consult with the local water department on when peak water demand occurs during the day; often, this is either at 6-9 AM or 4-8 PM.
  • Make sure to consult with public officials on when to schedule testing. This includes being prepared to manage traffic in the area.
  • Order a flow test kit, or hire local contractors to use testing equipment. This should include pressure gauges, hydrant wrenches, necessary documentation and, optionally, tools for performing calculations.