Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
An intensive fire-hydrant repair programme being undertaken by the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) has seen hundreds of out-of-commission hydrants restored in recent weeks.
In December 2012, The Sunday Gleaner reported that a mapping survey conducted by the Jamaica Fire Brigade - in tandem with the National Water Commission - revealed that close to 5,000 or roughly 40 per cent of Jamaica's 13,000 fire hydrants were out of commission. Not anymore.
"Since we did the survey, which ended in early 2012, we have serviced 750 fire hydrants," said Senior Deputy Superintendent Floyd McLean, acting chief fire prevention officer at the JFB.
He told our news team that servicing included the cleaning of valve pits so that the hydrants can be turned on, greasing, painting, flushing and the replacing of blank caps.
In addition to the 750 hydrants serviced in 2012, another 48 were repaired and 2,580 hydrants were assessed to determine the specific needs. "Teams will be deployed to do the necessary repairs to those," said McLean.
Up to February 15 of this year, the JFB has serviced another 61 fire hydrants and repaired five. The maintenance, repair and replacement works are being done by two fire hydrant maintenance teams.
The team tackling the Kingston Metropolitan Region, which has the most fire hydrants, has five members, and the crew working out of Montego Bay, St James has three members.
The acting chief fire prevention officer also pointed out that the JFB plans to do maintenance work on 400 fire hydrants per quarter in a bid to further reduce the total number of hydrants that are out of commission. The fire service will also attempt to repair 100 fire hydrants per quarter.
"Where there is a need for replacement, we are looking at a figure of 30 for any one quarter," said McLean.
He added: "We are attacking all three (servicing, repairs and replacement of hydrants) simultaneously. By the end of the year, more than 60 to 70 per cent of the out-of-commission hydrants should be restored."
Last year, Laurie Williams, commissioner of the JFB, told The Sunday Gleaner that the fire service was in the process of procuring $2.5 million worth of hydrants. McLean told our news team last Friday that that money was able to buy roughly 50 brand-new hydrants. He explained that the plan was to install at least two in each of the 14 parishes across the island.
While accepting that a lot more work is left to be done to restore all the damaged hydrants across the island, McLean is confident that the job will be done as long as there is money in the brigade's coffers.
"We are optimistic and, as long as we can get the subvention from the Government, we don't have a problem," said McLean.
The acting chief fire prevention officer also asked Jamaicans to join in the thrust to keep the hydrants functional. "We are asking citizens to help us care for the hydrants and, where possible, they can adopt a fire hydrant," McLean encouraged.
The 2012 mapping survey showed that almost 1,300 fire hydrants were listed in the not-working line since the previous national survey that was done some six years before.
Data contained in a 2012 report prepared by Assistant Commissioner Samuel McIntosh, the brigade's chief fire prevention officer, revealed that the number of fire hydrants across the island jumped by roughly 13 per cent from approximately 11,699 in 2006 to 13,207 in 2012.
In April 2009, it was reported that more than 3,600 of the country's 11,699 fire hydrants were in a state of disrepair.
The latest hydrant-mapping survey started in October 2011 and was estimated to take three months to complete. But the mapping programme was not completed until July last year.
According to the survey, some 62.8 per cent (or 8,288 fire hydrants) were adjudged to be in working condition.
The Jamaica Fire Brigade is urging Jamaicans not to: