Boro teens teach hydrant safety

Boro teens teach hydrant safety
Photo courtesy of NYC DEP

On a hot July day with temperatures rising about 100 degrees and heat advisories in effect, a fire hydrant can be the perfect relief.

Just be sure to open it legally or prepare to pay the price.

NYC hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a city-approved spray cap, which can be obtained by an adult 18 or over, free of charge at any city firehouse.

To help spread the word, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently launched the 2013 Hydrant Education Action Team (HEAT) program.

The program deploys teams of teens hired through the city Department of Youth and Community Development’s Summer Youth Employment Program and SoBro to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of illegally opening fire hydrants.

HEAT teams distribute literature, posters, and other informational materials about fire hydrant safety at community events, parades, greenmarkets, churches, and libraries.

The outreach campaign is focusing on neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the Bronx that have historically seen high rates of unauthorized fire hydrant use during heat waves.

The teams also distribute reusable water bottles, flyers, visors, and other souvenirs that promote the safe operation of fire hydrants.

Opening a hydrant illegally can result in fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.

Illegally opened fire hydrants release more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute and can reduce water pressure in neighborhoods making it difficult to fight fires.

Hydrants equipped with a city-approved spray cap, releases only 20 to 25 gallons per minute, ensuring adequate water pressure and reducing the risk that a child could be knocked over and injured by the force of the water.

After six years of successful HEAT outreach campaigns, reports of illegally opened hydrants have fallen by more than 50 percent during June and July.

“Our HEAT volunteers provide a great service to their communities by spreading the message that illegally opening a fire hydrant is not just wasteful, it is dangerous,” DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said. “During the hottest days of summer everyone looks for ways to cool off, and fire hydrants can be a great solution – but only if they are operated properly and fitted with an approved spray cap.”

“The HEAT program engages youth to become advocates and leaders in their communities, educating residents about the safety and environmental hazards of fire hydrant misuse, and providing them with information on safer, alternative ways to stay cool in the summer,” said Johanna Dejesus, vice president of Youth, Education and Career Development Services for SoBro.

DEP is urging New Yorkers to report illegally opened fire hydrants to 311 immediately.

For more information, go to or contact your local fire department.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3394