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Scottish Water and emergency services warning on fire hydrant vandalism

Written by William Ancell.
Published at 19:21 GMT on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013.

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Scottish Water, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are warning vandals who set off fire hydrants that they can endanger lives and property and cause substantial disruption to water services.

With the school holidays approaching, the three organisations are calling on people not to set off fire hydrants and to consider the effect their actions might have and urging anyone who witnesses such incidents to report them to the police immediately.

Fire hydrants are a connection point to water mains and allow access to the water network, primarily for fire fighting purposes.

The frequency of fire hydrant vandalism incidents can increase during warm, dry weather and in previous years there have been a number of incidents, particularly in parts of the Glasgow area.

Fire hydrant vandalism can result in thousands of properties suffering disruption to their water supply or reduced water pressure. 

Reduced water pressure can hamper the ability of firefighters to tackle fires and the vandalism can also cause localised flooding in streets.

Mr Jim Hassan, Scottish Water’s water operations manager in the Glasgow area, said: “Setting off a fire hydrant is wrongly regarded by some people as a fun prank, something that some children, teenagers and adults carry out without thinking through the serious, and potentially-fatal, consequences.

“Fire hydrants are essential for firefighting and an inadequate water supply can endanger lives and property. 

“Fire hydrant vandalism can reduce vital water supplies to thousands of homes and can affect whole communities, including care homes, medical centres, hospitals, schools and businesses.

“Whenever there are a number of these incidents Scottish Water has to bring in extra resources to tackle the problem. This means our ability to deal with water-related issues elsewhere can be adversely affected.

“In addition, fire hydrant vandalism can cause road flooding and affect road traffic. People setting off high-powered hydrants or passing pedestrians or motorists could be injured or killed as a result of this flooding or the high pressure in the water as it comes out of the hydrant.

“This mindless vandalism is a very serious community problem in some areas and we are urging people in communities where it happens to help us tackle the problem by reporting any incidents to the police immediately. That call could help save lives.” 

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Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, the Director of Prevention and Protection for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fire can strike anywhere at any time and having the right resources available is vital if crews are to prevent devastation to lives and property. Quite simply – firefighters need water to fight fires.
“Children are usually responsible for hydrant vandalism so we need parents to warn them of the real danger they are causing to themselves, pedestrians and road users. It is far from harmless fun as the water can cause serious injury. 
“Anyone considering damaging hydrants should think how they would feel if their actions injured someone, meant firefighters could not stop a house burning down, or were unable to rescue people trapped by fire. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service aims to work together with local people and partner agencies for a safer Scotland. By ensuring hydrants are not vandalised, members of the public could be saving lives.”

Superintendent Alan Cunningham, of Police Scotland, said: “Setting off or damaging fire hydrants can have serious consequences and can endanger lives. If a high-powered fire hydrant is set off in a street it could injure passers-by or distract passing motorists resulting in someone being injured.  We would ask the public to report any incidents or acts of vandalism involving fire hydrants.  Anyone found misusing or vandalising them can be assured that police will take the necessary action.”

The call from Scottish Water, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service follows the publication of a new leaflet which highlights the impact such incidents can have on residents and their communities.

The leaflet warns that fire hydrants can be accessed legally only by Scottish Water, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and anyone who has been given permission from Scottish Water and states that vandalising or setting off a fire hydrant is a serious offence and could lead to a fine of up to £5000.

The leaflet also urges people who know anyone responsible for fire hydrant vandalism to call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or give the information anonymously on, which is part of Crimestoppers.

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