Metro, Newton

Newton Fire Department Implements New Technology to Review Fire Hydrants

The City of Newton plans to increase fire hydrant review efficiency through a new logging software system. 

Newton Fire Department Chief of Operations Gregory Gentile and Public Works Director of Utilities Theodore Jerdee led the discussion about the current status and condition of fire hydrants at Wednesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting. 

The fire department conducts annual tests on Newton’s approximately 2,500 hydrants from mid-August until the end of September, Gentile said. The department is now using iPads to log information about the city’s hydrants, Gentile said. 

“Each fire apparatus has an iPad with a map that has all the hydrants on it, now we’re able to interact with that map and actually give in real time what the status of that hydrant is,” Gentile said. 

If there are no problems with a hydrant after inspection, the hydrant appears green on the map. If there are issues with a hydrant, such as drainage problems or the misplacement of a hydrant, the location will be logged using the map, Gentile said. 

The new log system entirely automates the work-order process for hydrant maintenance using the Geographic Information System (GIS). When there is an issue with a fire hydrant and it appears red on the map, this automatically sends a work-order to the Newton Department of Public Works (DPW), according to Public Works Commissioner James McGonagle.

Through the GIS system, a daily report of hydrants can be conducted. In the past, the fire department had to manually communicate with the DPW to place work-orders for hydrants, McGonagle said.

The new logging system will help to effectively communicate the status of fire hydrants and send information to respective agencies in order to repair them, Gentile said. The testing and repair process for the hydrants is the same, Gentile said. 

“We believe that this is really going to help the communication between the fire department and the DPW in making sure that our hydrants are up and operating,” Gentile said.

Gentile said hydrants are inspected and tended to through greasing, repainting, or being completely replaced. Since 2009, the fire department and public works have installed 307 new hydrants, Jerdee said. 

Terry Sauro, a Newton resident, expressed her gratitude for the new efforts with the log system that the Newton Fire Department has made toward maintaining the hydrants in the city. Sauro was the victim of a fire. The fire hydrant was frozen over, which led to a delay in the department’s ability to extinguish the flames, according to Sauro. 

“I needed to have this meeting, I needed to hear, not just for me but for the entire city, to make sure that hydrants are working, even though we have the best crew and the best public works in Newton,” Sauro said. “I walk around the city and I go, ‘Oh my god is this hydrant working?’ because it’s so rusted.” 

Several city councilors took turns asking questions to both Gentile and Jerdee, including a question by Councilor Julia Malakie as to whether the interactive map could be made available for public viewing, as to help ease the minds of residents. Jerdee said that he will look into making the map publicly available. 

“I’ve been on the job 17 years now, and we do [test hydrants] once a year, but that communication I think is the key piece and I think that’s the piece that we’ve really, really focused on,” Gentile said.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff

September 27, 2021