Identifying Fire Hydrants with Limited Access


Identifying and responding to concerns regarding the safety of
residents is always a top priority of local government. The ability of a
community to respond to a concern varies based, among other things, on
the nature of the concern, the availability of funds, and the
availability of staff. In some cases, the best solution to an issue is
simply to notify a community that there is a problem so they can
determine an appropriate course of action. For the City of Des Plaines,
IL identifying fire hydrant locations that may be inaccessible to the
Fire department serves as an example of identifying a potential problem
before it becomes a bigger issue that negatively impacts community

Two of the biggest problem areas for fire hydrant access are along
the two interstates that border the eastern and southern edges of the
city. To assist with identifying hydrants in these areas with limited
accessibility, the city’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department
generated a map showing the extent of each interstate with the city’s
fire hydrant information included. While this helped to show proximity
of the hydrants to the interstates, it failed to show any impedances
that may restrict how and when a hydrant can be used. To resolve that
issue, the GIS department staff used plans provided by the Engineering
department to map out all sound walls and other features along the
interstates that could prevent a hydrant from being accessed in the
event of an emergency.

With a resource for visualizing the current hydrant locations, along
with their potential impedances, the Fire Department was able to easily
identify hotspots along each road where a hydrant’s accessibility was
either partially or completely restricted. Knowing about these hotspot
areas before an emergency occurs allows the department to plan for
alternate solutions and be better equipped to respond appropriately to
each event.