A guide to mapping Fire Hydrants in the UK

 

In the West Midlands our fire hydrant signs are generally placed on lamp posts:

The black H on a yellow background I believe to be a UK standard. The upper number is the diameter of the underlying water main in mm. The lower number is the distance in feet to the fire hydrant from the sign with the arrow showing the direction to the actual hydrant. There is also a reference number at the foot of the sign. So, having spotted the sign, the actual fire hydrant has to be found. The signs can get swivelled on the lamposts through maintenance interventions or general neglect and the arrows point in the wrong direction!

To complicate matters further, there are some fire hydrants that do not have a sign, and some older variants of the signs. These older signs tend to be attached to buildings or walls and I have no idea what the numbers refer to.

So you have to on the lookout on the ground as well as spotting yellow H  signs.Fire hydrant covers generally have FH on them to identify them, although some older ones can have just H only. Whether the older style ones are still operational I don’t know, but they get mapped anyway.

 

And of course it’s always good to see public organisations collaborating successfully with each other!

The basic tag is emergency=fire_hydrant with more details on the OSM wiki

Why the sudden interest in fire hydrants? In the UK, they’ve languished as an item that gets mapped.

At our last mappamercia pub meeting Andy Mabbett regaled us with his saga of trying to get West Midlands Fire Service to release the locations of fire hydrants under Freedom of Information legislation.

The full saga can be found here

WMFS refused to release the information on the grounds of national security viz: “publishing information about water  networks and other parts of the critical national infrastructure could  expose vulnerabilities in the network and pose a serious risk to public health either through non availability of water resource or
contamination of supplies. There does not have to be any evidence that this is being planned but it is a possibility given the current threat level in the United Kingdom.”

An appeal by Andy against WMFS to the first-tier information rights tribunal mainly on the grounds that other Fire Services in the UK had already released their information on fire hydrants was rejected. The judges agreed with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) assessment:

“The ICO concluded that the withholding of the information was reasonably necessary for national security and a listing of hydrants and their locations would assist in the planning of an attack by poisoning on water supply infrastructure by identifying access points. Such an attack on the infrastructure would be in the domain of national security. While hydrants are visible a comprehensive list of the precise location of every hydrant would place in the public domain more information than is available through hydrants being visible. WMFS supplied a list of attacks and attempted attacks on water supplies.The ICO considered that such an attack was plausible.”

There is a method for contaminating the water supply known as backflow contamination, which is considered to be reasonably easy according to an excellent paper here which quotes extensively from US military and homeland security sources. Fire hydrants are one possible source to generate backflow.

My limited understanding of water networks is that backflow is a general problem for the water supply industry, which can mitigate the effects with backflow prevention devices. Just how extensive and successful this mitigation is in the UK (and thus how safe we are from backflow attacks) will remain a commercial mystery, as our water supply is in the hands of private companies who are under no obligation to reveal such information. ( I have another story about water networks and open information which will be the subject of a later blog)

Given the cult of secrecy that exists at all levels of official Britain, it also seems unlikely there will be any disclosure of the risk levels of such an attack vector so that we might make up our own minds based on the data. We will have to make do with the assurances of “those that know best”. The public’s role seems to be limited primarily to that of potential or actual victims.

This issue does raise some interesting ethical challenges for OpenStreetMap as it seems to be sending us back several centuries when accurate maps were regarded as military secrets. Or to the days of the Cold War when our national mapping agency the Ordnance Survey would obligingly leave blank spaces on their maps at the sites of military installations. Would a map of fire hydrants in the West Midlands be construed as offence under ss57&58 of the Terrorism Act 2000: collecting, possessing or making a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism? Should we be standing up for opendata, one of the founding principles of OpenStreetMap, or protecting  (supposedly) national security? What is the position in other jurisdictions where there are more draconian restrictions about identifying and mapping military installations and “national critical infrastructure”? Are mappers more circumspect there?  What’s the legal postion- is the OSMF liable for prosecution or just the contributing mapper or both? Should OSMF comply with a demand to remove information on the grounds of national security? Or to refrain from collecting it in the first instance?

According to taginfo there are only 1786 fire hydrants mapped in the UK, of which there are now about 300  in the West Midlands. Prior to my interest being piqued by this sorry tale there were only about 5 fire hydrants mapped in the West Midlands. Judging by the density of fire hydrants I’ve discovered so far, there are probably thousands in the West Midlands so I seriously doubt whether we’ll ever crowdsource the location of all of them,(or even many more than we have already).

Nonetheless, it’s been an education in another aspect of urban infrastructure I wasn’t really aware of, and a confirmation of the patrician “you don’t need to know about that” attitude of much of British officialdom.

(all of the images are my own and are published here as public domain)

.

OpenStreetMap UK Local Chapter officially exists

posted in: Participate | 0
On Saturday morning I received from Companies House the Certicifate of Incorporation for OpenStreetMap United Kingdom Community Interest Company Ltd. It is a private limited company, limited by guarantee.

It’s taken us a year to get this far, through a protracted and  often tedious process of agreeing Memorandum and Articles of Association,Community Interest Statement, form-filling, and signature gathering. Thankyou to everyone who participated, especially the volunteers who agreed to be the first directors necessary to get the thing off the ground.

Now we can start doing the fun stuff of how we make this work and transform it into a living organisation.(Although I’m sure we’ll still have our share of bureaucratic process to navigate).

Congratulations!

posted in: Participate | 1

Congratulations to everyone who has participated in the various UK Quarterly Projects. We were nominated for an award at the recent international State of the Map 2016 conference in Brussels.

Unfortunately we weren’t awsome enough to win, but it’s nice to be recognised, even though that’s not why we do things. It’s just fun!

Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

Anyway here’s  the nice certificate that Rob brought back from Brussels

osm-award

UK Summer Quarterly Project

Today saw us pass the 1,000 total for farmyards added during this project(1008 to be precise).

Well done to everyone who has participated. What has been the most unusual farm name anyone has come across?

stone_built_slurry_tank_at_moel_y_mab-_part_of_the_leighton_model_farm

Picture Wikimedia Commons: Rod Trevaskus       cc0

Only a couple of weeks left – time to start thinking about our next quarterly project, while we see how many more farmyards we can add.

Busy days

posted in: Participate, Use The Map | 1

Yesterday I attended the Landor Future Highways Conference at the new iCentrum building on Birmingham Science Park, at the invitation of the Birmingham ODI (Open Data Institute) node. It was good to see so many OSM maps being used by presenters (thankyou Devon County Council and TransportAPI). I  was provided an adhoc slot into the programme to deliver a lightning 5 minute presentation about OpenStreetMap (thankyou Birmingham ODI node). It was a bit daunting presenting to highway professionals, especially in front of a screen the size of an IMAX cinema!

Then it was off to Leicester to train new volunteers in editing with iD, as part of Leicester City Council’s walking-mapping project which is an  extension of their weekly Leicester health Walks. Thanks to Sara for organising the training and to Chris, Alan, Stan and AJ who took their first steps editing OpenStreetMap. We all look forward to you increasing the data coverage in Leicester.

I’ve just about finished the edits from our June mini-mapping party in Kidderminster  from 2 weeks ago, when guess what?  Our July mini-mapping party is tonight in Tamworth – everyone welcome. We’ll be meeting in the Globe Inn Lower Gungate, Tamworth B79 7AT at 8pm.

 

Summer Programme

posted in: Mapping Party, Participate | 1

To take advantage of the good weather and light evenings during the summer months we tour around the region mapping areas which look either interesting or not well-mapped.

So far this year we have visited Stratford-upon-Avon where we attempted to map all the tourist accommodation (it is the 400th annivarsary of Shakespeare’s death and this town is a global tourist destination). The ongoing project is to map all the buildings – help appreciated!

Last week saw us in Atherstone where our mapping effort was eclectic to say the least

We have mapped out the remainder of the venues:

June will be Kidderminster on a Saturday ( pub & date tbc)

July will be Tamworth Wed July 6th (Globe Inn, Lower Gungate)

August is the 10th anniversary of mappamercia so we’re going to map as much of WR10 as possible, centred on Pershore (pub & date tbc)

September will be somewhere in Herefordshire (some input from mappers in Herefordshire appreciated – given the distance involved for most attendees this will probably be a Saturday too)

Becoming mobile: MAPS.ME and Geopedia

posted in: Map Improvements, Participate | 0

Back in June of last year we shared with you Richard Fairhurst’s State of the Map US talk in which he set out the case for more mobile OpenStreetMap apps. One of the key message was that “we need to think about smartphone editors” as a way to continue growing OpenStreetMap. This month we got a new mobile editor and a new app to help you explore your surroundings.

Firstly the new editor. This comes in the form of an update to the popular MAPS.ME. Even before this update MAPS.ME was a essential app for any OpenStreetMapper. It provides a simple to use offline map with voice over guidance for travel directions by car or on foot. It’s interface is simple and effective: for example, clicking on a map feature brings up a slider at the bottom of the screen providing more information.

On April 5th 2016, MAPS.ME developer Ilya Zverev explained how you can now edit the map information direct from the app. This is perfect for adding addresses, phone numbers and opening hours to existing map features whilst out and about.

Editing OpenStreetMap with Maps.Me
Editing OpenStreetMap with MAPS.ME

With more than 7 million monthly active users MAPS.ME is aiming to be the number one OpenStreetMap editor. Although OpenStreetMap’s editor usage stats are a little out of date, it’s already clear that MAPS.ME is the most used mobile editor measured by number of users.

The second addition to mobile comes in the form of Geopedia. This is a neat little app that takes the OpenStreetMap base map and overlays the wikipedia database. Clicking on the map shows you all the nearby features that have a wikipedia article (we understand this is based on wikipedia’s latitude/longitude data rather than the wikipedia tag stored within OpenStreetMap).

Searching for nearby attractions with geopedia.
Searching for nearby attractions with geopedia.

As this links to wikipedia you can view the articles in multiple languages and view an image if one is available. It works well to find new and exciting places to explore in your neighbourhood, or whilst away travelling. And of course you can use it as a prompt to add text and photos to wikipedia, and map details to OpenStreetMap – perhaps via MAPS.ME!

Welcome to Night School (1st March)

posted in: Mapping Party, Participate | 0

This quarter the UK OpenStreetMap community is mapping schools. So far over 250 people have made 10,000 edits – a hugely impressive feat! There’s still time to get involved and on Tuesday 1st March we are holding “Night School”, an online mapathon.

Night School is experiment for the UK Quarterly Project; on the evening of Tuesday 1st March let’s join together as one big community to map schools. There are no rules, simply start when you like and finish when you like and map where you like! Follow along with the progress on the school edit tracker and our live map of edits (to show up on the map simply add “#OSMschools” to the comment box when you save your map edit).

Birmingham Business School, at night. CC-BY-SA
Birmingham Business School, at night. CC-BY-SA

If you don’t know how to map schools in OpenStreetMap check out our handy picture tutorial. You can always contact us for more support should you need it.

Ideas for making the evening more fun are welcome! Don’t forget the discussions on Schools Quarterly Project that are taking place here on Loomio as a trial for a possible platform for UK member decision-making.

Even at this stage of the project new people are joining, so spread the word on other channels to see who we might attract.

Schools project: When we map

posted in: Observations, Participate | 0

In order to assist a conversation on Loomio about when to hold a “Night School” mapathon, I took a look at when mappers are most involved in the quarterly project to map schools. Data is based on Harry Wood’s School Edits website.

Starting with average number of mappers per day we see that Wednesday leads, whilst Friday and Saturday have the lowest number of mappers. Nothing unusual here then!

WhenMap_Day

Although Monday has fewer mappers, in terms of total edits it is still up there with Tuesday and Wednesday.WhenMap_Day2

If we look at the time of day we find that 19:00 is the best hour for mappers.

WhenMap_Hour

How to map a school in OpenStreetMap

posted in: Participate | 2

During the first quarter of 2016, the UK OpenStreetMap community are helping each other to map schools. If you have never mapped anything in OpenStreetMap before then here is a really simple picture guide to get you started.

Step 1: Find a school to map

The first step is to find a missing school. Head over to the dedicated “OSM School Progress by Postcode Area” website and click on the map to pick a region. The blue circles on the map are schools from the official lists that haven’t been matched to anything already in OpenStreetMap – that is, they are missing from OpenStreetMap. Click on one and then click on the postcode in the pop-up.

Pick a school to map. The blue circles show missing schools.
Pick a school to map. The blue circles show missing schools.

 

Step 2: Open iD editor

When you click on the schools postcode it will take you to the same place in the map in OpenStreetMap. To start editing the map click “Edit with iD (in-browser editor)” as shown below. If you have not already signed in to OpenStreetMap go ahead and do so, or register as a new user.

Select "Edit in iD" to get open the map editor.
Select “Edit in iD” to get open the map editor.

 

Step 3: Click “Area”

The first time the iD editor opens you will be offered a walkthrough tutorial to mapping. We highly recommend you follow this. If it doesn’t appear press H to bring up the help dialogue where you can start the walkthrough.

After the walkthrough zoom and move the map to the area of the school. The background imagery can be used to help you locate the school – they are usually easy to identify but if in doubt skip this school and pick another one.

Click on “Area”.

Zoom in on the school and click "Area" to start adding an area around the school boundary.
Zoom in on the school and click “Area” to start adding an area around the school boundary.

 

Step 4: Draw around the school

The aim here is to draw around the school boundary including any playing fields and surrounding grounds. Start by clicking in one corner of the school grounds and then continue around the school grounds clicking in each corner to form an area. Tip: If you click and hold the mouse button down you can drag the map.

When you get to the last corner, click it again to finish the area.

Draw around the school grounds, clicking the last point twice to finish tracing the area.
Draw around the school grounds, clicking the last point twice to finish tracing the area.

 

Step 5: Mark the area as a School Grounds

With the area traced we now need to tell the iD editor that this is a school grounds. Under “select feature type” click in the search box and type “school”. Click on the School Grounds option in the list below.

Select "School Grounds" as the feature type.
Select “School Grounds” as the feature type.

 

Step 6: Add the school name

In the school grounds detail box add the schools name and any other info you may have, for example the address.

Add the school name.
Add the school name.

 

Step 7: Save with a comment

Finally select “Save”. Add a comment in the dialogue box and press Save. Here I have type “Added St Marie’s Catholic Primary School #OSMSchools”. The #OSMSchools enables us to see how many people are contributing to the quarterly project to map schools.

Save your edit with a comment.
Save your edit with a comment.

 

Congratulations! You have added a school to OpenStreetMap. How easy was that!

 

Optional extras: Add more details

You may want to add more detail to the map such as the school buildings, playing fields, and so on. Here I have followed a very similar set of steps as above to add the school buildings and a service road.

If you get stuck and need any help feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help out!

Optionally add more detail following similar steps as above.
Optionally add more detail following similar steps as above.
1 2 3 4 6