Thursday, March 6, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Disappearing Fire Hydrants (3/6)

Question: If there’s one thing we’ve had plenty of this winter it is snow. Whose responsibility is it to remove snow from around fire hydrants?

Answer: Snow-covered fire hydrants are just another reason to look forward to a spring thaw. Accumulated snow can bury fire hydrants, making them hard to find and access in an emergency. Finding and digging out fire hydrants can take up valuable time during an emergency and divert firefighters from fighting a fire.

Yikes.

 There is no state law that addresses who is responsible for removing snow from fire hydrants. Some cities assign public works crews to remove snow from fire hydrants. Other cities simply do not have the resources to remove snow from what could be thousands of fire hydrants.

When that’s the case:

 • Cities may request by newsletter and on the city website that citizens remove snow from fire hydrants to protect their neighborhood.
 • Cities may establish an “Adopt-A-Hydrant” program where citizens volunteer to remove snow from specific fire hydrants in the city.

With consent from the volunteers, cities with Adopt-A-Hydrant programs might want to consider recognizing volunteers by featuring their names and the hydrant they have adopted on the city’s webpage or posting pictures of citizens with their adopted hydrants.

Whatever policy a city decides to adopt for removal of snow from fire hydrants, it is a good idea to document the policy and the reasons for it. This documentation will help protect the city if there is ever a legal challenge to the policy and the city’s response to fighting a fire.

Don’t forget, the League of Minnesota Cities Research Department can answer your questions about snow removal. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the weather.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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