If you don' know what a hydrant marking stick is, it's a reflective piece of metal that stands tall up above a fire hydrant, marking its location to make it easier for firefighters to locate the hydrant in the event of an emergency, and if that emergency happens before the hydrants can be shoveled out. The Southern Tier is one of the few places on the East Coast that doesn't have reflective sticks on fire hydrants.

Now that you've managed to dig out your car, sidewalk, and driveway from the several inches of snow that the winter storm dumped on us over the weekend, I encourage you to do with your kids what my husband and I did with our son - shovel out around the hydrants on your street.

A lot of people don't think about clearing snow from around the fire hydrants in their neighborhood, especially when they're feeling overwhelmed with the task of trying to shovel out buried vehicles, but every second is precious when it comes to fighting a fire. By taking a couple of minutes to clear out the snow around your fire hydrant, it could mean the difference between life and death.

Traci Taylor

According to my husband’s uncle, Jeffrey Wentworth, retired fire chief with the Collegeville, Pennsylvania Fire Department, and current Collegeville Emergency Management Coordinator, sometimes the snow is so deep that it is virtually impossible for fire crews to find a hydrant, especially in the dark of night. Additionally, if the hydrant is covered in ice, even more, valuable time is lost when there is a fire and firefighters have to focus their efforts on uncovering a fire hydrant.

The bottom line is this- by taking a couple of minutes to remove the snow from your fire hydrant, you’re not only helping our local fire departments, but you’re helping to prevent waste of time that could mean the difference between life and death.

Traci Taylor

One more thing to note is that according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, it is illegal to park "Within 15 feet (5 m) of a fire hydrant, unless a licensed driver remains in the vehicle to move it in an emergency."

[via New York State Department of Motor Vehicles]