Hydrant Locations Go on the Map

By REBECCA LERNER STAFF WRITER

WOODBRIDGE — One by one, the location of each of the 3,000 fire hydrants in the municipality has been beamed to outer space, triangulated upon by floating satellites and sent back to Earth to be stored in a hand-held GPS device, an expensive item carefully operated by two firefighters.

The eight-week, $4,000 project is the beginning of the township’s larger plan to enter the entirety of its infrastructure — every street, building and manhole cover — into a Geographic Information Systems map, Mayor Frank Pelzman said.

“This is going to help the town tremendously,” he said, adding the endeavor will put vital information “at the fingertips” of emergency-management and homeland security personnel.

The fire-hydrant project will be ready for use in September or October, said Chris Andreasen, director of engineering for Middlesex Water Co.

It will aid firefighters by giving them fast access to key information, Fire Commissioner John Kenny said.

They’ll quickly know the location of hydrants near a fire, the distance between two hydrants, which water main powers each hydrant, the strength of a hydrant’s water pressure, and more, he said.

“It makes our job faster and easier,” Fire Commissioner Patrick Kenny said.

Presently, firefighters have to manually consult paper street maps to find fires and hydrants before responding to emergencies, he said.

The hydrant project is a partnership between the township, Middlesex Water Co. and Woodbridge District 1 Fire Department. The water company is providing the GPS equipment and the fire department has provided two workers, Fire Inspectors Matt Lokos and Tom McNamara.

The water company plans to share data with the fire department and the township, said Dennis Doll, Middlesex Water Co. president.

The full township-wide GIS program is expected to be completed within two to three years, the mayor said. Two of the five phases of the project have already been completed, he said, and the remaining projects are up for bid. Money for the program comes from the township’s Capital Improvement Fund, he said.

Doll said the water company plans to extend the GPS project to the other municipalities it serves, including Avenel, Carteret, Colonia, Edison, Fords, Hopelawn, Iselin, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Metuchen, Port Reading, Sewaren, South Amboy and South Plainfield.

“GIS is something that us utilities are focused on across the country,” the water company president said. “It has critical value.”