ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The County’s Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Utilities has begun its annual Fire Hydrant Inspection program, which inspects all 10,111 fire hydrants located throughout the county to ensure they are fully operational.

With our water distribution system continuously being affected by age, scheduled maintenance, construction and other activities, this program is vital to ensuring our system is at its peak efficiency and our fire personnel can effectively do their jobs to protect life and property. This annual program has resulted in tremendous improvement in the overall readiness of these critical assets and I want to thank our Bureau of Utilities staff for all that they do to keep this system fully operational.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

Launched in 2012, the Bureau’s annual Fire Hydrant Inspection program effectively identifies out-of-service hydrants, low pressure areas, verifies water system reliability, freshens the water supply and identifies needed repairs. As part of the program, the Bureau also performs periodic hydrant pressure testing to confirm water distribution system capacities, locate low-pressure areas, analyze hydrant pressures to identify areas affected by valve closures, and more.

Fire Hydrants are perhaps the most popular and iconic piece of public infrastructure and our mission is to keep them in a constant state of readiness given their impact on our community’s safety and well-being. It is estimated that there are over 10 million hydrants in the U.S., with new ones being added everyday as municipalities expand.

Art Shapiro
Chief, Bureau of Utilities

In addition to its annual Fire Hydrant Inspection program, the Bureau, along with the County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS), is also gearing up for the County’s pending Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) audit. The leading source of information about risk for the property and casualty insurance, the ISO is used by insurance companies to evaluate fire departments for the purpose of establishing insurance premiums in the local areas. The audit measures how well a fire department is able to serve its community and whether a community has sufficient water supply for fire suppression beyond maximum daily consumption. 

“The continued investment into the maintenance of the county's network of fire hydrants is indispensable for the community's safety,” said Fire Chief Lou Winston. “Programs like these are vital to ensuring reliable access to water sources so our firefighters can effectively do the job of protecting and serving our community, especially in emergency situations.”

At the conclusion of the audit, DFRS will be awarded a Public Protection Classification (PPC), with a classification of one being the best and 10 the worst as a result of no recognized fire protection. A higher PPC can result in increased home insurance rates in a community.

“As part of its annual Fire Hydrant Inspection program, the Bureau maintains comprehensive records indicating all testing and maintenance performed. These records provided with annual inspections helps lower the County’s ISO rating and in turn, our community’s home insurance rates,” added Ball.

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