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Fire Hydrant Color-Coding Systems

October 15, 2012

Fire HydrantIt seems like more and more cities and towns are opting to paint their fire hydrants to look like Dalmatians, multicolored flowers, or other designs or colors to match the feel of their community. But do you know that many hydrants are painted specific colors to quickly and efficiently convey information to responding fire departments during an emergency?

In responding to a fire, every second counts. This is why the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that hydrants be uniformly color-coded to indicate the water flow capabilities of that hydrant (at 20 psi residual pressure). Knowing the rated capabilities of a hydrant can help fire personnel to determine the size of hose needed, the need for pumps, and whether another hydrant in the area may be more effective, without having to waste time figuring it out through trial and error.

NFPA recommends that the body of all public fire hydrants be painted chrome yellow, unless another color has already been adopted as a standard for that community. The tops and nozzle caps should be coded with the following color scheme to indicate the rated capacity:

           Light Blue            1500 gpm or greater

     Green                    1000 – 1499 gpm

Orange                  500 – 999 gpm

          Red                         Less than 500 gpm

NFPA also recommends the use of reflective paint, for increased visibility at night, and that private hydrants be painted red or another color distinguishing them from public hydrants. Any hydrant with a rating under 20 psi should be stenciled in black on the top and nozzle caps with the rated pressure. This is also a good idea for hydrants with very high ratings to ensure proper precautions are taken. Though hydrants which are permanently out of service should be removed, many municipalities have opted to simply paint them black to indicate that they are inoperable.

Not all fire districts use hydrant color-coding. In many areas, hydrants are painted by the water district instead of the fire departments, so it is up to the municipality to decided if and how to use color-coding. In other areas, it may be decided at city council or town hall meetings. In a poll conducted on Firehouse.com, a forum for fire service professionals, in 2005, 47% of the 72 responders indicated that their fire department uses hydrant color-coding. 44% did not and 8% don’t have hydrants in their districts.

Some argue that it is an out dated system which has been replaced by information easily accessible on laptops or mobile devices. Others consider it an invaluable tool for conveying important information quickly and effectively.

Do you know if your community uses fire hydrant color-coding? Do you see the value in using these systems? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Learn more about fire safety issues.

Article by: April Green

Source: NFPA 291, 2013 edition

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    April 9, 2014 1:28 am

    Yes to my knowledge all local villages and hamlets with hydrants are color coded. But quite a few hydrants are plain yellow. The village I live in has the main body of the hydrant color coded. Another has some hydrants with their own threads so some are yellow w/coded caps and others are coded body w/silver caps.

  2. April 9, 2014 8:02 am

    Thanks for the observations, Tim! It’s interesting how communities choose to color their hydrants. While the above are NFPA recommendations, every community can choose to code them their own way.

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