If you’ve had the opportunity to view some of our recent Commercial Painting Project photos, you may be wondering why some of the fire hydrants we’ve painted are dual-toned, in silver and blue, while others are yellow and green. Look deeper into our body of work, and you’ll see hydrants painted in solid yellow and solid red, too.
This is not because the commercial property owner has an affinity for a certain sports team or has been studying color theory. In fact, these colors are rooted in firefighting safety.
The Reason Behind Fire Hydrant Colors
When a fire starts, one of the first challenges is finding a suitable water source that provides enough water for the specific type of emergency. Common sense tells us that a small, burning car will need much less water than a scorching office park.
Mathematical formulas help firefighters determine approximately how much water is needed to fight a given blaze. Fire hydrants are commonly color coded to indicate how much water a particular hydrant will provide, allowing for quick decision making during an emergency.
In an effort to make color coding uniform, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that fire departments and water districts follow a national, set standard of hydrant color coding, known as NFPA 291.
According to the standard, fire hydrants using public water supply systems should be painted chrome yellow, and their tops and caps should indicate the available gallons per minute, or GPM. The hydrant that we painted below has a green cap, indicating 1000-1499 GPM.
Other color coding indications are as follows:
- Below 500 GPM: Red
- 500-999 GPM: Orange
- 1500+ GPM: Blue
If a hydrant is not hooked up to a public water system, but is instead accessing a private system, like a shared well, for instance – the hydrant should be painted a color distinguishing it from the public system. Although there are no set restrictions, the NFPA recommends the classic, tried and true hue – fire engine red.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) further recommends that a hydrant is painted violet if the water is non-potable, and black if inoperable. If a hydrant is only inoperable for a short time, a black plastic bag over the hydrant will suffice.
In the end, these are just guidelines. Not every area will follow these recommendations, and many municipalities create their own:
The photo above is an example of color guidelines that didn’t necessary adhere to the NFPA guidelines. This is OK, as long as everyone is on board in the area or municipality – the only style of fire hydrant that isn’t appreciated by OSHA and the NFPA are those painted with graffiti or other pieces of street artwork.
Good for you! You learned something new today.
Now Tell Us: What is the last color combination of fire hydrant YOU saw? Was it a color or combination of colors other than red?
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