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

Scott Warner swarner at
Wed May 25 15:15:17 EDT 2016

I can tell everyone that I didn't expect this much feedback in the hydrant numbering suggestions.   I want to thank everyone for their input and I think I know what I need to do moving forward based on your suggestions and discussions.

I think if we go forward with renumbering them and can convince all agencies I'd like to use a truncated form of the USNG as its what is becoming a standard.  Probably just using the 5 digit Northings and 5 digit Eastings because Bay happens to fall within a grid that covers countywide.  We currently use numbers that have 6 digits or less but what's another 4 or so?

Not all Fire fighters know hydrant numbers the way they are today with the 6 digits, they just know whether there is one there or not. They usually jot down the number in our Collector App and record it that way. They also have have a 911 app on their phones that provides a map to the nearest one plus dispatch can relay to them the nearest hydrant to their location.   So the numbering is mainly for inventory while also giving a sense of location and I think the 1 meter area representation of the USNG will be good enough for numbering.  We also store a DD coordinate within the data and have our hydrants mapped with much precision for utilities purpose. But again these numbers are not used for 911 calls so USNG will likely be the way I will go if I can.

Again thanks for all the help.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: Rick Labs <rick at>
Date: 05/25/2016 1:35 PM (GMT-06:00)
To: shrug-l at
Subject: Re: shrug-l: Numbering Hydrants - Establishing the Use-Cases

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 fields.
  *   National Grid system appears too coarse and too complicated to encode/decode, especially when 1 meter accuracy is desired.

[cid:part1.7D170973.48DFDE2F at]

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.


(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 out."
  *   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.
     *   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 hydrant.
     *   A typical suburban fire truck holds abut 750 gallons, with some holding 1000-1500.
     *   Tank trucks (used to shuttle water) are typically 2000 gallons, with some as large as 5000 (like a highway truck that halls gas)
     *   Large wildfire airplanes typically hold 3000 gallons of fire retardant chemicals. (have no idea where they deploy from and timing?)
     *   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.
     *   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
     *   Early stages of wildfire can double in size every minute. Early pinpoint accuracy and fast response are critical.
     *   Hydrants are rarely available
     *   Nearby neighborhoods open hydrants to "wet things down" quickly causing pressure problems
     *   Immense volumes of water are required.
     *   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.
     *   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.
     *   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.
     *   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 equipment (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<mailto: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.



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<mailto:rick at>
Mailing address: 8 Laureldale Dr., Pittsford, NY 14534-3508

Please Note: Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.
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