Friday, June 25, 2010

Hydrants a no-no for summer cooling

Opening fire hydrants is a hot weather ritual in many cities.   And while DC fire department members once opened hydrants for too-hot residents, the practice is no more.

DC Water (formerly WASA) and DC Fire and EMS are reminding residents that opening fire hydrants is a legal no-no.   The practice is dangerous; the force of water coming out of a hydrant can result in injury, especially to children.   The practice is also dangerous for drivers and, of course, for those who have structure or other fires.

DC Water and the fire department are encouraging residents to take some obvious steps to beat the heat:

  • Use air conditioning
  • Visit a city pool
  • Take advantage of a cooling center on days when the heat index is at least 95 degrees
  • Avail yourself of public facilities like libraries and recreation centers

And while all of the other ways to cool off make sense, the fact is that a significant number of DC residents do not have air conditioning or if they do cannot afford to operate the units.   And pools operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation are not an all-day option for children whose parents work full time.   It is true that there are recreation opportunities available for children and youth throughout the city and many are free.   Hopefully, kids are cool when it is hot, hot, hot outside.

But if the city expects a catchy phrase (Beat the Heat, But Leave Fire Hydrants Alone!) or the threat of legal action to deter hydrant opening, they are misguided.   I appreciate the reasons why.   But I am not the audience or an offender.   Has DC Water, the fire department, rec department, or elected officials (yes, City Council members, this is a great job for you!) tried to determine why hydrants are opened and what it would take to change the behavior?

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