This is because many hydrants, which are crucial for firefighting crews in emergencies, have been found to be defective throughout the metropolitan city of İstanbul. Experts caution that especially in the case of an earthquake, these defective fire hydrants would cause significant problems.
Of the 4,907 hydrants located throughout İstanbul, 2,165 have been found not to function properly. Most of these fire hydrants are not technically faulty, but are defective because they have been vandalized. In some cases hydrants located in narrow streets cannot be easily accessed by fire fighting vehicles, while others that are designated as the main water supply for emergency situations either have defective valves or do not have connections to the mains supply. Fire officials note that hydrants must be active so that fires can be quickly extinguished with minimal loss of life and property. Seismologists, too, are surprised to learn that half of the fire hydrants in İstanbul, a city that expects a major earthquake in some unknown future, are defective.
Turkish Earthquake Foundation (TDV) vice president and a lecturer at Boğaziçi University, Semih Tezcan, said that fires may be an inevitable consequence of earthquakes and that post-earthquake fires can be more deadly than earthquakes. Noted geophysicist Professor Ahmet Mete Işıkara stresses that people should be trained to deal with fires because, as seen in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, it was a fire that completely destroyed the city. Işıkara asserts that the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Fire Department should raise public awareness among İstanbul residents against a possible similar scenario.
Noting that it is essential that the defective fire hydrants be immediately repaired, Associate Professor Oğuz Gündoğdu from İstanbul Technical University (İTÜ) said that wooden buildings pose a significant risk of fire in the case of an earthquake.
It was found that most fire hydrants in İstanbul have generally been damaged following some form of physical impact; others may have defective parts that are not functioning properly; and in some cases hydrants have been buried during asphalt laying operations. The İstanbul Waterworks Authority (İSKİ) is responsible for the installation and maintenance of fire hydrants, while the İstanbul fire department is responsible for their use. İSKİ officials note that they respond quickly to repair broken hydrants as soon as they are reported.
According to statistics provided by the İstanbul Fire Department, out of the existing 4,907 fire hydrants, 2,165 are defective, and an additional 3,702 new fire hydrants are required to ensure a proper response to fires. A total of 1,445 of 3,203 hydrants located on the European side of the city are broken, and a further 2,032 new hydrants are needed. As for the Asian side of the city, 720 of 1,704 hydrants are defective and 1,670 more are needed. Hydrants must be available at all times, particularly for the fires that can be extinguished using water.
On a positive note, as a result of regular upgrades to firefighting equipment, the İstanbul Fire Department says that it can now extinguish a fire using one ton of water instead of seven tons, as was the case in the past. However, hydrants are vital to ensuring access to a sufficient water supply.
203 broken hydrants in Avcılar versus five in Maltepe
Avcılar has the highest number of fire hydrants among İstanbul’s districts. However, 203 of 397 existing hydrants are defective and 359 more are needed. In comparison, Maltepe has the least number of defective hydrants, where only five of a total of 190 hydrants are faulty. However, the district needs 203 new hydrants. International standards require a hydrant to be placed at 200-meter intervals, except for marketplaces, shopping malls and public areas, where they are required at every 100 meters. As they should be available for use at any time, those who park their cars in front of these hydrants face a fine of TL 62.
How hydrants are abused
Some people personally use the water supply from hydrants that have not been adequately secured, and some hydrants have been damaged in traffic accidents. City officials have found that some people have stolen parts of some hydrants or the copper fittings and stress that the community should take better care of fire hydrants.
Even Topkapı Palace has defective hydrants
There are two defective hydrants in Topkapı Palace, a major symbol of the historical peninsula. In addition, the two hydrants located in front and at the back of the Museum of Archeology are not functional due to defective mechanisms.