Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Did You Know: Standardized Fire Hose Couplings

Did you know that one of the first things to be standardized in the US was --- the diameter of hose couplings for fire hoses? I know. Who knows, let alone cares about that sort of detail? None other than yours truly. Since I'm certain you now also want to know the scoop, I'll fill you in.

The Port of Baltimore (in Maryland) was founded as a tobacco port in 1706. It played a part in the Revolution and the War of 1812. While in Baltimore Francis Scott Key wrote a poem, The Star Spangled Banner, about a battle held at Fort McHenry. It went on to be set to music and become our National Anthem. Baltimore was also a port of significance during the Civil War.

Being such an old city, Baltimore has been the site of countless technological innovations. Among the most impressive is the standardization of the fire hose coupling. In 1904, a massive fire decimated over 1500 buildings in Baltimore in the course of 30 hours. Engine companies from up and down the coast made their way to Baltimore to help. When they arrived, they were unable to connect their hoses to the water supplies and tankers. They had no choice but to stand by and watch the city burn.

As a result, a move was made to standardize hose couplings so that all fire companies could work together. Some variances remain but the bulk of the couplings are made to spec, allowing fire companies today to respond and do more than watch helplessly.

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