WSSC gets patent for Universal Fire Hydrant Tool

WSSC Water has received a patent from the United States Patent Office for its Universal Fire Hydrant Tool, developed by employees to simplify maintenance and repairs. The one tool replaces many tools needed by WSSC Water crews to repair five different types of hydrants in a network of 42,000 hydrants strategically positioned throughout a 1,000-square-mile distribution system.

“Fire hydrants are crucial to protecting public health and safety,” said WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “This one tool will allow our crews to more quickly and efficiently make repairs to hydrants – safeguarding our customers and saving money. The Universal Fire Hydrant Tool and this patent represent our commitment to fostering and maintaining an innovative, can-do culture here at WSSC Water.”

In 2019, WSSC Water Utility Technician Terry Hartle discussed the need to simplify the fire hydrant repair process. He noted that crews had to carry approximately 10-15 tools per hydrant in their trucks to ensure they were ready to fix any hydrant they came across. When a tool was unavailable or broke during use, crews would have to dig up the hydrant to make repairs – a process that cost approximately $8,000 per dig.

To solve this problem, James Haldeman, a principal engineer from WSSC Water’s Strategy and Innovation Office, worked with field technicians and the utility’s trade shop to develop a universal fire hydrant tool. This tool uses a variety of interchangeable adapters to operate every type of hydrant main valve in WSSC Water’s distribution system. Its lightweight design provides maximum leverage to handle even the most challenging repairs. The innovative design will result in significant cost savings and repair time.

The issuance of a patent allows WSSC Water to work with a manufacturer and distributor to market and sell the Universal Fire Hydrant Tool to other water utilities in the United States and around the globe. WSSC Water’s Strategy and Innovation Office is currently developing this business plan.

Check out the short video above to see the tool in action. For more information on the developing business plan, contact WSSC’s Strategy and Innovation Office at 301-206-8001 or email

This is not the first patent WSSC Water has received. In 2008, the utility received a patent for a universal adjustable plate manhole repair tool.

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