Why are the fire hydrants locked at my Home Depot?

The fire hydrants in the parking lot of my local Home Depot are conspicuously locked with a contraption made of metal bars that fit over all the openings and locked with padlock. It seems intended to keep anyone other than the fire department from messing with the hydrants.

But I’ve only seen these locks in this one shopping center, which is in an upscale neighborhood and not at all a high crime area. In addition to the Home Depot, there are other stores in the shopping center.

Any idea why these particular hydrants need such security?

Have you contacted Home Depot of the local fire marshal?

According to this article: http://www.defendyourh2o.com/threat/threat.html locking fire hydrants is a Homeland Security regulation. Terrorist could put chemicals into the water supply via the hydrant with no backflow preventer.

Are they really hydrants or sprinkler control valves? The valves are required to be locked on. I will need to do some nibbing around the next time I shop.

Probably a locked hydrant, like this one. I’ve seen different locking mechanisms, but I’m guessing the OP means something similar.

They’re normal fire hydrants like you see on streets all over. The shopping center has several throughout the parking lot.

Yep, exactly like that. Except the lock is an attractive red and the hydrant doesn’t look nearly so beat up.

I’m sorry, but just trying to read that site makes my head hurt. From what I could gather (without registering so I could see their ‘secure section’) it seems to be run by a company that patented a backflow preventer that they’re trying to sell.

They also make reference to the ‘United States Office of Domestic Preparedness’, which even Google hasn’t seem to have heard of.

Have you got a better link, perhaps one which actually mentions whatever ‘Homeland Security’ regulation this is?

For that matter, can anyone tell me how putting poison into a fire hydrant will lead it to the general water supply? Seems a little tin-foil hat to me.

Huh, well whaddaya know?

I was looking at a message board for firefighters and apparently millions of gallons are stolen every year by all sorts of contractors: tankers, construction equipment etc. Also people were opening hydrants, either due to hot weather or basic vandalism, which was killing the water pressure further down the line where… it was needed for a real fire.

Considering that a hydrant is under so much pressure, how could you introduce something into the water supply using it? It sounds like the company is trying to scare people into buying their product.

The first linked story said that a house burned down because the fire department couldn’t find the key to unlock the hydrant. That seems incompetent; they already need to carry several keys (elevator key, Knox box key, etc) so why wouldn’t they have the hydrant key on the same keychain?

Yeah, sure, but in all three links, they refer to Homeland Security as to the reason for the locks on the hydrants.

Would there not be a mention of that on the actual Homeland Security website, or are news agencies just perpetuating myths?

Even if there’s not a specific directive for putting locks on fire hydrants, Homeland Security regs are being interpreted or being used as the reason for some jurisdictions for putting locks on their hydrants. Seems like other jurisdictions are putting them on to prevent theft of water.

The OP needs to contact the local fire department to inquire as to the reason there are locks on the ones in front of his own Home Depot.

I imagine that if a terrorist were inclined to use a hydrant to contaminate the water supply (still not clear on how that would work), he wouldn’t mind having to break the lock off this thing. It all seems like a terrible idea.

I had suspected that they were put on to deter contractors from loading up with free water at Home Depot. Delaying a fire response by even a few minutes seems crazy for the one-in-a-zillion chance that a terrorist is going to target that fire hydrant.

They probably couldn’t find a key becaue they weren’t given one. On one of the firefighting forums I looked at, it was a regional water company that did it. There’s an example here: some place called Belfair locked all their hydrants and the fire department was refused a key.

I agree on both points. If we are making the terrorists smart enough to hatch this plan, surely the relatively flimsy lock will provide no protection at all.

And I’m 99.9% certain that my local HD uses the city hydrants during the spring season when they roll the garden and landscaping display out into the parking lot. The hydrant was outfitted with a reducer for a standard garden hose. I assume this is with the consent of the city. Can anyone confirm this?

I do a lot of festivals in the summer. Often the fire hydrants are tapped to provide water for the concessions. Sometimes there is a meter between the hydrant and the hose connectors. Other times it may be the city’s contribution to the festival. I don’t know who pays for the electricity all the fat cords plug into.

As for the terrorists. fire hydrants provide access to high volumes. I think many city water systems run about 90 psi. Pumps able to produce 150 psi are common, and even higher pressures are easy enough. So you could roll a truck with a tank of poison and a pump up to a hydrant. Connect it to the hydrant, start the pump, and open the valve. The poison would be pumped back into the system and go wherever water was being used. I can’t imagine so well equipped terrorist being stymied by a padlock.

Back flow preventers are required on most residential systems now and perhaps commercial and industrial ones too.

AFAICT, it doesn’t say that anywhere on that page. It mentions Homeland Security and a terrorist threat to water supplies. Nowhere does it say that Homeland Security or anyone else has made rules requiring locking hydrants.

If I’ve missed it please cite the relevant text.

I’m gonna go with “water theft” as the most plausible explanation. Especially since the fire hydrant in question in the OP was next to a Home Depot, where all types of contractors are known to frequent.