Measure Standardization:

Disaster and Slow Progress...

The ... lack of uniform threads had been largely responsible for the raging destruction of the great Baltimore fire back in February of that year [1904]. Engine companies, arriving by special train from Washington within 3 hours after the fire began, found themselves helpless when their hoses would not fit Baltimore hydrants. As one by one "completely fire-proofed" buildings burned like torches all that day and the next, and the fire raced through block after block of the business district, additional fire units from the nearby counties, from New York, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Wilmington, Chester, York, Altoona, and Harrisburg, arrived in the city only to discover that few of their hoses matched any other or fitted the local hydrants.

"If there had been nozzles enough, we could have flooded the burning district," the Baltimore Fire Chief said afterward, for at no time was there any shortage of water. Instead, 1,526 buildings and all electric light, telegraph, telephone, and power facilities in an area of more than 70 city blocks in the business district were razed before the fire burned out, 30 hours after it began.

For over a quarter of a century the National Board of Fire Underwriters and the National Fire Protection Association had been advocating standard couplings for all fire departments but had received little support. Shortly after the disaster, a Baltimore steamship line called on the Secretary of Commerce for help with shipboard hose and couplings and the Bureau of Standards was asked to investigate. ... Before the investigation ended, over 600 sizes and variations in fire-hose couplings were collected across the country.

Despite progress, as late as 1964 firefighters in at least one county adjacent to Baltimore were confronted with two types of hydrants in use, one with the national standard thread and the other with the Baltimore steamer thread.

Raymond E. Cochrane (1966) Measures for Progress. A History of the National Bureau of Standards. Washington D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Commerce. 84-6

But: "Presently there are at least 4 different hydrant thread sizes or types in Erie county. Starting in 1998 the Erie County [Pa.] Water Department will begin converting a few hundred hydrants each year and hope to have the project completed within 3 to 5 years."

Measure Standardization. Cochrane R.E. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2001, 15:1 p.797

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