The Keystone Habit of Flushing a Fire Hydrant 🚒

They teach new drivers at the fire company to flush your nearest hydrant on EVERY fire call, but 90%+ of our calls are false alarms so is it really worth doing?

If you don’t know, flushing a hydrant simply means to open it for several seconds to let the dirty water run out so it doesn’t clog up the engine pump. Most calls we respond to don’t end up needing any water, because most don’t end up having any fire. They’re often either a faulty detector, someone’s overcooked dinner, or a prank pull on a fire alarm. 🤦🏼‍♂️

But the reason they teach drivers to get in the habit of flushing the hydrant on every call is so that we’re always ready with a water supply should the need arise. Given that the need doesn’t arise very often, I sometimes feel like it’s a fruitless activity. But recently I had an interesting insight after thinking backwards through the chain of events that go into the seemingly simple action of flushing a hydrant:

5. 💦 Flush the hydrant

4. 🔧 Attach the hydrant wrench to the hydrant

3. 🏃‍♂️Go to the hydrant

2. 🚒 Position near the hydrant

  1. 🗺 Identify the nearest hydrant on a map

Maybe this seems like a pedantic breakdown of the steps but consider the first step: 🗺 Identifying the nearest hydrant. In order to do this you need to pull up the specialized firefighting mapping app on the engine’s tablet. And it turns out that pulling up that app before you even leave the station is a good habit to get into it anyways because it can provide valuable navigation details. So the practice of flushing the hydrant helps reinforce the practice of pulling up the mapping app. 👌

🚒 Positioning the engine near a hydrant is just an undebatable good habit to get into, and practicing it can raise important questions (how can I position without blocking the next incoming unit?)

👁 How about going to the hydrant? Well, turns out that when you work the night shift, things tend to be a bit dark. 🌃 One habit that many experienced drivers have is to turn on the engine’s scene lights as soon as they turn on to the destination street. And if you need to spot a hydrant, what better way to do it than to turn on the scene lights as you approach? So, boom 💥, another good habit reinforced.

🔧 And attaching the hydrant wrench? If you don’t know, hydrant wrenches have a screwing mechanism to adjust the width of their grip, and that mechanism can easily get rusty as its exposed to water. When you go to attach the wrench, you’re getting a free tool checkup: If you’re struggling to get the wrench to tighten down, you might want to WD-40 that when you get back to the station. And maybe check your other tools as well. Boom, good habit reinforced. 👍

💦 Finally, flushing the hydrant is just a good practice in general. It requires physical strength, endurance (it takes about 21 revolutions to open it), muscle memory of the steps and a consciousness of safety procedures (so you don’t get a kneecap hit by a surprise popped-off stud). Also, it can be a friendly reminder to be aware of the weather, because if you flush a hydrant in the middle of winter then you’ve just created an ice skating rink for someone to discover at 0530 as they get in their car in the morning. 🥶

So there you go. 💁🏻‍♂️

The simple practice of flushing a hydrant on every call ends up reinforcing good habits around mapping, positioning, lighting, tool maintenance, physical health, and weather awareness. Wins across the board. 💯💯💯 Who wudda thunk it?