In January 2022, the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Department Registry estimated 27,164 fire departments in the United States. These fire departments staff an estimated 1.2 million personnel. While the core goal of protecting and serving the public is the same throughout the country, what that means in terms of service provided can vary drastically.
All fire departments have fire stations that must be tailored to serve their respective communities. For example, 63% of fire departments must build to prepare for wildfire response, 21% provide EMS ambulance transport, 35% provide specialized rescue services, 8% of fire departments serve airport and aviation communities. Every Fire Department provides unique but critical services for their municipalities and regions. While every fire station should be built to best support their community and their services, some common trends should be kept in mind when building or retrofitting a new station.
One of the first and most important considerations is that a Fire Station is more than a workplace. Unlike other municipal or government buildings, these stations accommodate firefighters for 24-hour shifts, making these stations act as a living space and a workspace. Outside sound mitigation, temperature control, privacy space, while necessary in any facility, has an oversized value in a constantly occupied building. New stations must be built as if this will be a home away from home for first responders. This includes ensuring living spaces are secured and separated from public and entry spaces.
Another thing that must be accounted for is potentially contaminated tools, uniforms, and equipment. Firefighters have a 9% higher chance of developing cancer than the average population and are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma compared to the average person. Much of that increase can be tied to carcinogen exposure while on the job. Fire Departments must do everything possible to reduce contact and exposure to carcinogens and toxic material by as much as possible. Stations should have transition zones where any contaminated material can be removed and cleaned before compromising the station or other public space.
Another consideration is response time. Regardless of what service a station provides when the emergency call goes through, every moment counts. To ensure that First Responders can reach emergencies on time, these stations need to be built to reduce response time to the second. Ways to minimize response time include reducing circulation space minimizing the impact office and lobby space have on the footprint of the building. In addition, having every hallway and walkway lead directly to the apparatus bays and every door opening to these hallways can dramatically cut down turnout and response time.
Our First Responders continue to provide some of the most vital work of keeping us safe. We owe them to make sure their facilities provide them with everything they need and keep them safe. Biltmore Construction is currently working on multiple First Response and Emergency Service centers for the cities of Clearwater and South Pasadena. We have to make sure that every facility we complete will serve them and their communities well for many years to come.