Firefighters display their valor every day by confronting dangerous situations on behalf of a grateful American public. We owe it to them to ensure they have the most state-of-the-art equipment available, and give them every possible advantage to courageously combat the unimaginable environments they face where human lives are often at stake.
A particular technology has helped an increasing number of firefighters perform their heroism under optimum working conditions in recent decades. Surprisingly, many of them have likely never seen it, because it lies underground. And while this advancement doesn’t receive much praise or attention, it’s expected to be a centerpiece of the upcoming Congressional effort to improve our nation’s water infrastructure.
It’s PVC water pipe. And communities nationwide are using it to replace failing iron pipe at a record pace. That’s understandable, because PVC pipe is the more sustainable, long-term choice for meeting the needs of Americans, including our nation’s firefighters. Its lightweight composition requires less energy to transport compared to heavy iron pipe. And its longevity results in fewer breakages and road repairs, which in turn reduces traffic disruptions that not only frustrate commuters, but can create costly delays for our firefighters, too.
Iron pipe is prone to corrosion (PVC pipe is not), which is largely why iron pipes have been breaking at an alarming rate. Reports of iron pipe failures skyrocketed during the stretch of freezing temperatures that blanketed the east coast in recent months. One such iron pipe break in the DC-Metro area caused a horrific mix of water and sewage to damage at least six local residences.
Iron pipe’s limitations create real world complications for firefighters. These brave men and women depend on good pressure to arrest the spread of fire. Corrosion not only weakens iron pipe, but over time, the diameter of iron pipe narrows, which restricts the flow of water and reduces overall water pressure. This is one of the many reasons why Burton, MI Mayor Paula Zelenko elected to replace her city’s broken iron pipe system with PVC pipe. “Fire protection is, indeed, improved by PVC in Burton,” she wrote. “The lower costs of PVC allowed us to replace more lines, servicing more homes, hydrants, and getting the water to the fire with good pressure instead of it failing through the corrosion of old pipes or breaking the old lines entirely due to water pressure.”
Firefighters can’t afford to question whether high-pressure water will be available to them when they arrive at a scene when every second counts. We can’t risk a broken iron water main, or a corroded iron pipe that can’t deliver, to impede their ability to do their job when lives are on the line. Firefighters put themselves at risk every day in the name of public safety. The least we can do is provide them with the most advanced tools and material resources that will best equip them to pursue their noble mission.