shrug-l: Numbering Hydrants - Establishing the Use-Cases

Rick Labs rick at
Wed May 25 14:34:50 EDT 2016

With upcoming Memorial Day parades pondered the "numbering hydrants" 
challenge a bit more based on some excellent feedback.

Here are some hydrant label working candidates:
geo:30.434478,-84.277222 	use the web link model. Viable and explicit, 
but long for "over the phone" communication
	drop the longitude negative sign unless this scheme is adopted  outside 
of the US.)
	6 digit geo 0-9,A-Z (eliminating o,l,i,z) includes sign, quickly 
converted on any smartphone, browser, etc.

Feedback Notes:

  * trucks can’t be guided by 911 dispatch...have  GPS/GIS elves at each
    fire station (one for each shift) that would have a tablet with WAAS
    GPS ( $250 Garmin WAAS-corrected units provide better accuracy)
  * an information rich label such as this really identifies a location
    and not the hydrant itself. If asset management is important, when a
    hydrant is moved then the label for that hydrant would change. From
    a database design standpoint that is an problematic system since you
    then have the identifier for an object changing.


  * Sounds like 911 is typically "thin staffed" (can't for example geo
    direct a fireman to a fire) . Also know that 911 really scrambles
    activating multiple fire departments to larger fires and arranging
    "coverage" for the fire departments who are "depleted" when they
    respond to the original event. Not sure on command chain on a fire?
    Local FD calls the shots I until "relieved" by county, state,
    federal? Not sure how much "intel/recon" command and control 911
    does but it is clearly involved past one fire department responding.
    Pretty sure 911 coordinates in county owned heavy equipment (likely
    from highway) if needed?
  * Would not suggest lat/lon as a (unique) key field in a database.
    Would suggest using a machine generated (and enforced unique key),
    probably hidden from most users except the DBM. In the rare event
    you had multiple hydrants all inside 1 sq meter could use an
    additional, optional index number on forms and screens (visible to
    maintenance users, and labeled on the hydrant #1, #2, #3....).
    Data/compute resources are now very cheap, no need to "economize" on
  * National Grid system appears too coarse and too complicated to
    encode/decode, especially when 1 meter accuracy is desired.

Thought it might be best to develop a list of *Use-Cases * involving the 
hydrant label. [/list of actions or event steps, typically defining the 
interactions between a role (actor) and a system, to achieve a goal/] 
Started that below. This could help guide things.

But first, a bit of backgrounding research to help focus.

*Background *

(from random sources - quick and dirty, not complete.)

  * /"The faster we can get water on the fire, the faster conditions
    will improve "/
  * /"It does us no good to get to the fire, only to find that we don't
    have enough GPM to decrease the BTUs. That means the fire doesn't go
  * The Insurance Services Office(ISO) sets standards which regulate
    insurance premiums in a fire department's response area. One
    standard is to flow 250 gallons per minute for two hours
    uninterrupted. In the city, no problem hook up to a hydrant and flow
    250 GPM for the rest of the day. In rural areas other means are
    necessary to get the water to the fire.
  * On a large industrial fire, one million gallons of water might be
    used over a 24 hour period (700 GPM or more). This can easily/exceed
    a city's water supply. /
  * Most hydrants are set up on a grid system (fed from multiple
    directions). Each open hydrant reduces pressure and flow throughout
    the grid. Flow rate quickly becomes an issue.
  * "Portable ponds" may be set up (similar to above ground pools) for
    close-in water storage, then dozens of tank trucks are used to
    shuttle water from nearby supplies to those ponds, rapidly dumping
    their loads and making many round trips. Many tank trucks (sometimes
    dozens or more) can be drawn in from surrounding areas, some located
    as much as an hour or more away.
  * The  more rural an area is, the more water capacity is needed to be
    immediately trucked to the location, before a solid /local /water
    supply can be established, hence /larger tanks on suburban fire trucks./
      o A typical large urban fire truck holds 400 to 500 gallons of
        water, which is only enough to put out a car fire. Any real
        structure fire rapidly requires at least one supply line from a
      o A typical suburban fire truck holds abut 750 gallons, with some
        holding 1000-1500.
      o Tank trucks (used to shuttle water) are typically 2000 gallons,
        with some as large as 5000 (like a highway truck that halls gas)
      o Large wildfire airplanes typically hold 3000 gallons of fire
        retardant chemicals. (have no idea where they deploy from and
      o Typical county search/rescue/police helicopters can only carry
        250 gallons of water and are of very limited practical use
        during wildfire, except for the most immediate response
        (minutes) prior to it spreading.
      o The supply line hose on most fire trucks is 1000, 1500 or 2000
        feet. However runs up to 6000 feet are possible see: (can realistically
        take 30+ minutes after being on location to deploy the supply
        hose under ideal conditions, with a large, well trained crew.)
  * Wild fires pose especially difficult challenges
      o Early stages of wildfire can /double in size every minute.
        /Early pinpoint accuracy and fast response are critical.
      o Hydrants are rarely available
      o Nearby neighborhoods open hydrants to "wet things down" quickly
        causing pressure problems
      o /Immense /volumes of water are required.
      o Shifting winds push heat and smoke in odd ways, making stopping
        the fire's advance difficult. Firefighters and personnel "down
        wind" need fire-suits and respirators, and many are needed.
      o Large areas of woods and fields /without fire roads/ greatly
        limit the speed in which fire trucks can get water to "the fire
        line" to limit expansion. Impeded access allows the fire to expand.
      o the larger the fire the more fire departments will be called to
        respond (40-50 local fire departments for a 100 acre fire is not
        unusual) A great many of people will be involved.
      o Emergency deployment of County owned and volunteered equipment
        will be part of the containment/extinguishment effort.
          + Ambulance and EMTs to help injured victims, and firefighters
          + /Bulldozers and earth moving equipmen//t/ (including any
            heavy equipment resources in the area)
          + Chainsaws, brush hogs, Indian pumps, shovels and rakes
            (hauled to location, along with firefighters)
          + ATVs and Gators to quickly move firefighters
          + Food, water, and shelter for large numbers of firefighters,
            sometimes over extended periods


A higher priory than physically labeling the individual hydrants appears 
to be having, /at the minimum/, a very good, up to date, database /of 
exact hydrant locations/, with relevant capacity/flow rates, etc. Other 
GIS priorities: up to date fire road  information (hopefully well 
maintained), very good water information (natural and man made) near any 
higher risk fields and forests. Also very beneficial, knowing "in near 
real time" where heavy earth moving equipment is located? And, being 
able to communicate detailed GIS information, intelligently, in real 
time, under stress, with other resources such as: US Forestry, National 
Guard, Army Engineers, etc.


(This is just a starter list, and not prioritized for "hydrant labels" 
alone. )

*1. FIRE!**
*A person is in a neighborhood and is the first to report an active fire 
to 911 or an area fire department.

The majority of people will telephone and verbally report something like:
/Directional, Number, street Name, Suffox, Apartment #//
//And ideally: "near the corner of ABC St. and DEF St." /
[I'm guessing here] The 911 may pick up a geolocation from a cell phone, 
however that is frequently unavailable or
unreliable. If the person is calling from a VoIP phone the location is 
at the town or city level,
and may be way off.
It would be rare, in the first reporting, for anyone to have a hydrant 
code (whatever the format is), when calling to report a fire.
Need for a hydrant code here: MINIMAL

/"It’s tough for _volunteer_ firefighters to know where all those fire 
hydrants are...
It’s //important to know where a hydrant is to decide how many feet of 
hose is needed,
what type of //connector is needed and what the pumping capability" /

A. From directional, number, street Name, Suffix, Apartment # reported, 
received over the
A cell phone ap could go from the above info to the county GIS and 
likely get get centroid of
largest building on a lookup of the parcelID of the above street address 
(tax database has
building shape files). Once the centroid is known do a radius sweep of 
the hydrant database. Also
include any other water supplies (lakes, ponds, deep rivers, storm water 
run off ponds.)
Cell phone map application could show fire building, and could zoom in 
and out showing all
hydrants. Of critical importance to fireman is visualizing a location he 
can relate to when under stress
(streets, cross streets, common building names for larger buildings, 
navigatible alleys and parking lots,
etc.) At the hydrant symbol on the map he may need GPM, hydrant 
connector types, etc.

B. Fireman on scene, arrived from general location information such as: 
"Fire near corner of ABC St. and
DEF St." or "Right next to the Hills Building", etc.
Cell phone GIS map application. Fireman views map, locates position of 
fire on map
with a finger point. App brings up all hydrants in area as above.


O.K. its not a hydrant label challenge but is very relevant none the 
less. Quickly RULE OUT hydrants if they are not available or have 
insufficient capacity. Quickly find water! Quickly Geolocate where the 
needed portable ponds could be located. Quickly optimized transport 
routes from water supply to the portable ponds. Coordinate with 911 
activating tanker trucks and direct them. Pinpoint portable ponds for 
them to drop at.

/"the lowly fire hydrant is one of the few things that can survive a 
disaster intact"/

This is a "general" use-case: In large urban areas the fire hydrants can 
be used as /physical land markers/ during and after a disaster.

Hydrants might be of some value, particularly where human density is high.


  * geophysical- earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic activity,
    wildfires/urban fires
  * hydrological - avalanches and floods
  * climatological - storms, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, extreme
    temperatures, drought
  * meteorological - cyclones and storms/wave surges
  * biological - disease epidemics and insect/animal plagues


  * "complex" emergencies - conflicts, violence, terrorism, riots,
    insurrection, bombs, war, chemical/biological ,etc.
  * food/famine insecurity
  * post incident breakdown of law and order - chaos, anarchy, looting,
    civil disturbances, gangs, rapes, shootings, assorted psychiatric
    issues, hindrance/violence towards rescue and restoration workers.
  * displaced populations - including active (sometimes violent)
    resistance to emergency evacuation
  * evacuation/relocation,/long term displacement /from numerous
    storm/flood damaged homes
  * ready access to needed medications plus skilled nursing/assisted
    living, or "friends and family" based care
  * children without parents/guardians
  * pets, farm animals, wildlife etc.
  * industrial accidents*
  * transport accidents*

*Including large scale emergency medical needs, release of hazardous 
materials, significant
supply chain and transport disruptions

*5. Reduce Ongoing Insurance Costs*

This needs to be developed. I believe each home is rated by distance to 
a functional hydrant? Who supplies the data and makes the ratings? How 
is risk measured and how does it impact the long term cost of insurance? 
How are fire hydrants budgeted, planned, placed and maintained? Can good 
planning reduce insurance costs?

*6. Inventory Maintenance*

Not sure on maintenance use cases? Blowing out lines, replacing damaged 
hydrants, periodic testing, insurance certifications.


O.K., its just a starter list of potential use-cases. It does point up 
many GIS needs. The actual label on the hydrant seems only a small but 
important part of it. Quality GIS info is at the top of the list, and 
simple, easy to understand applications to *quickly *exploit all the 
great GIS data that is likely available are clearly critical.


> *From:*SHRUG-L [mailto:shrug-l-bounces at] *On 
> Behalf Of *Rick Labs
> *Sent:* Tuesday, May 17, 2016 2:56 PM
> *To:* Bassett, Seth; Scott Warner; shrug-l at
> *Subject:* Re: shrug-l: Numbering Hydrants
> Scott, Seth, others who may be interested,
> I worked up a demo spreadsheet that shows how you can label anything 
> with a simple *12 character code* (for instance hydrants, or even 
> mail/packages) and have that code encapsulate 6 decimal accuracy geo 
> coding (about 1 meter accuracy).  The code is designed to be compact 
> and easy to speak. Case is not important and the letters O, I, L, and 
> Z are not used because of frequent confusion with numbers (0,1,2).
> The spreadsheet both encodes and decodes. Unambiguous, universal 
> format works worldwide down to a meter.
> You can get the file named *encodelatlon.xls* from this directory:
> There are no macros (or VBA code) in the spreadsheet but you will 
> likely have to "allow editing" if you want to play around with it.
> Rick
> -- 
> Richard J. Labs, CFA, CPA
> CL&B Capital Management, LLC
> Phone: 315-637-0915
> E-mail (preferred for efficiency):rick at <mailto:rick at>
> Mailing address: 8 Laureldale Dr., Pittsford, NY 14534-3508

Richard J. Labs, CFA, CPA
CL&B Capital Management, LLC
Phone: 315-637-0915
E-mail (preferred for efficiency): rick at
Mailing address: 8 Laureldale Dr., Pittsford, NY 14534-3508

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