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Save that APP!! Adopt-a-Hydrant Program

Save that APP!!  Adopt-A-Hydrant Program

In January 2012, Mayor Thomas M. Menino launched the  2012 Adopt-A-Hydrant program, a first-of-its-kind effort, designed to tap into community spirit.  With winter 2013 just around the corner, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics is preparing this digital app for its use in the 2013 winter season.

Be alert to the next announcement expected some time in January.  Take the time now to explore how it works and get ready to sign up.

Adopt-A-Hydrant provides a website (boston.adoptahydrant.org) where residents can volunteer to take on the wintry task of shoveling out hydrants in their neighborhoods - the ones they have officially adopted.

While the Boston Fire Department will continue to lead the effort to shovel out the City’s more than 13,000 hydrants, it is important to consider how critical the fire hydrants are in the overall safety of the city.  In 2011, the Boston Fire Department responded to 5,653 fires,so the SAFER approach is to guarantee rapid access to all fire hydrants at all times, not waiting for the Fire Department to arrive on the scene of a fire only to find the hydrant buried in snow.

January 2011 snowstorm
Dudley Street at Columbia Rd
January 2011 snowstorm
Stoughton at Burying Ground

Fire hydrants are shown from the January 14, 2011 snowstorm.  On the left, the hydrant is on Dudley Street at Foot Locker - this hydrant remained snowbound for days.  On the right, hydrant is on Stoughton Street and was cleared as part of shoveling the sidewalk adjacent to the Dorchester North Burying Ground.

Improving Neighborhood Safety

According to Boston Fire Commissioner Rod Fraser, "Our firefighters will always be the City’s first and last line of defense.  However, Adopt-A-Hydrant provides an easy way for residents interested in lending a hand to improve neighborhood safety."  He added:  “As the nation’s first fire department, we are always looking for innovative ways to improve fire prevention and response.”

Mayor Menino sees Adopt-A-Hydrant as a way "for our residents to show the great sense of volunteerism that shines in Boston all year, and it’s a great example of how we can use technology to build community and keep neighborhoods safe.”  Volunteers of all kinds are needed in all seasons.  "Coaching little league or helping to maintain a park, or signing up for Adopt-A-Hydrant - volunteers provide the foundation for strong neighborhoods in Boston."

The City's Director of Emergency Management, Don McGough, is enthusiastic about the program.  “Informed and engaged residents are key to the City’s ability to respond to any emergency – big or small.  Adopt-A-Hydrant offers a new format for engaging residents in the wake of some of our toughest storms.”

How the Adopt-A-Hydrant Works

Go to the website boston.adoptahydrant.org and sign in.  Enter an address close to where you want to "adopt" a hydrant.  Yellow anchors will appear on the map where all hydrants in that geographic vicinity are located.  Choose the hydrant(s) you would like to volunteer to shovel out from the selected geographic area.

You will have the opportunity to name your adopted hydrants.  Furthermore, during winter snowstorms the City will remind you about the hydrants as well as appropriate snow shoveling protocols.

Under the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics

The Adopt-A-Hydrant application was developed by Erik Michaels-Ober, a Code for America fellow, who served with the City of Boston in 2011.  The City is piloting the application this year.  If successful, the City will explore how this application could be used to encourage adoption of other streetscape features, such as catch basins or trees.  The app also is available for other places to use and, to-date, three cities – Chicago, Honolulu, and Buenos Aires – already have all expressed an interest in adapting it for use by their residents.

“We were pleased to be one of the first cities to partner with Code for America and excited about the possibility of Adopt-A-Hydrant,” said Bill Oates, Boston’s Chief Information Officer.  “The innovative applications that came from this partnership are allowing us to provide new services to Boston residents and share new software and ideas with other cities.”


Adopt A Hydrant is a project of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Boston Fire Department. Mayor Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics focuses on piloting transformative City services that spark civic engagement and leverage new technology.

Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics



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Posted: December 1, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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