A fire captain from Irving, Texas, recently wrote to me about a growing problem: Thieves are stealing brass Fire Department Connections and building placards and selling the pieces to scrap-metal recycling centers.
Such thefts are becoming a problem across the country. Chicago Fire Department Chief Michael Fox said FDC brass connections have been stolen, missing or vandalized from more than 200 buildings in Chicago. The department searched for solutions and opted for a product that can be carried on an engine and fitted quickly.
"It's been a terrible problem," Fox said. "We've applied for a grant to buy two adapters for each engine."
That solution — the Speed Swivel — was developed by Mike Cornelius, a retired Phoenix fire captain who saw the problem with stolen or missing brass fittings from buildings and set out to create an adapter that firefighters could easily carry on their vehicles and quickly connect to the building or hydrant. Cornelius product, "speed swivel," is an adapter that attaches to the vandalized FDC and replaces the connector. He started marketing his Speed Swivel last January and has been pleased with the response.
"If the FDCs have been vandalized and if the swivels are missing off the FDCs for sprinklers and standpipes in large buildings, they won't be able to get water into the building," Cornelius said.
Mesa Fire Department recently ordered about 40 adapters. "We have them all out on resource," Capt. Forest Smith said. "What we're going to do next is go through a process where we train our firefighters on how to use these devices. And then at that point, once we've done training, we're going to put them on our fire trucks and we plan on using them."
Cornelius said there's nothing more important than getting water onto the fire. The NFPA would seem to agree: The NFPA 13-E committee concluded that fire departments should have an alternate water supply when the FDC has been damaged by arsonists or removed by scrap-metal thieves.
"As brass values continue to go up, it doesn't matter what size of town," said Cornelius. "People have no conscience about stealing FDCs from buildings or even schools."
Has your department experienced a problem with stolen or missing FDCs? What solution did you find?