If a fire breaks out near your house, are the nearby fire hydrants working in proper condition?

Flickr User Rachaelvoorhees

Mike Gallagher, the Middlesex County Fire Marshal, says the Uniform Fire Code calls for once a year service.

"Which would be greasing the threads, checking the water, flowing it and doing a pressure test - making sure that we have pressure to the hydrant, and everything is working correctly…And the water companies will flow them once or twice a year, just to get any residue that's built up in the pipes- to flow out and make sure there's water to all the hydrants."

He says, "If there isn't sufficient water pressure, normally what will happen is the fire department can call the water company and ask them to boost the pressure if can do that. If it's owned by a municipality that has a water department they might be able to do that."

If there is a problem Gallagher said, "There could be a water main break underground - if they see water coming up in certain areas contact the water company or contact the municipality and they'll get a hold of the water company. Most water companies will see they're losing pressure if there is a break somewhere and then they'll come out and find it and fix it."

But if there's a sudden drop, "it has happened. It does put a dilemma, when it happens to get water."

Gallagher points out most counties have tanker trucks available to respond to fire, and if there is a water pressure problem, they will respond.

He also says at this time of year snowfall can cover the hydrant, or snow-plowers may bury it.

"So we do ask all residents throughout the state. If they're near a hydrant, to shovel around it to keep it clear, so in the event of an emergency, it doesn't delay the fire department in any way - where they'd have to dig out the hydrant to get the water."

State officials say the BPU Division of Reliability and Security, or the DEP will investigate complaints about water pressure, but the towns themselves have the ultimate responsibility for the water company authorities.