Does the fire hydrant in front of your home actually work?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Does the fire hydrant in front of your home or your child's school actually work?

41 Action News started asking that question a year ago, and the city promised progress. But there is still a big lag in the time it takes for Kansas City to get your hydrant fixed.

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Our questions began after a fire ravaged Josh Priest's home in April of 2012.
"Thank God for my child, who saved us," Priest told 41 Action News in front of his charred house last year.

Firefighters lost precious time because the nearest hydrant did not work. Flames engulfed Priest's home in just 12 minutes.

"They told me they couldn't access the hydrant," Priest explained through tears.

Soon after, the city's Water Services department, which is in charge of hydrant repair, got rid of its antiquated, 23,000-page paper system.

Under that old system, it often took many months before the department even knew a hydrant was inoperable.

At that time, it was common for the city to have 800 or more non-working hydrants on any given day.

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The city promised change -- and it delivered. The number of faulty hydrants is now down to 132.

"That's roughly .06 percent," said Andy Shively, an engineering manager with Water Services.

He explained that with more resources and more crews, the city has cut repair time in half.

But 41 Action News found out it still takes four months on average for repairs.

"Some may take seven days, and some may take 100 days, depending on prioritization," Shively said.

Prioritization means that neighborhoods often come last and larger buildings should come first.

But Shively said he wants that number to improve.

Firefighters said they would like to see that repair lag speed up, too.

"I would like to see anything that can make government processes, city government processes move faster," said Deputy Chief Mitch Mauer.

This summer, the city plans to improve the inspection system even more.

It will implement a new state-of-the-art iPad technology that Water Services designed.

Under the new system,  firefighters will be able to report the results of their yearly inspections of 23,000 hydrants instantaneously.

"They (firefighters) were like: Why haven't we been doing this years ago," Mauer said.

The city promises the new technology will lead to repairs in days -- not months or years.

Mauer said he believes the city is safer since the improvements.

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