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Storing the equipment
Fire departments make substantial investments in equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) and it makes sense to take care of it. GearGrid, headquartered in Lake Forest, MN, designs and manufactures open-air, durable steel tubing and wire products for a variety of storage applications. Bob Foht, president of GearGrid, said fire station storage has evolved tremendously in the past 15 years. Firefighters and chiefs now better understand the value of taking care of their gear and equipment, which can represent a significant investment for a community.
For decades, Foht said, PPE was stored in what amounts to wooden boxes or sometimes even school locker systems. Neither allowed gear to dry out and both systems collected the off-gassing of materials collected on the gear – not a good situation for the firefighters.
“Firefighters around the world may call their PPE different names, but they all want it to be dry,” Foht said.
Because there is so much gear and equipment to be stowed – not just the PPE, but items like hoses and SCBA bottles – storage is needed throughout a fire station. Foht said astute architects and designers can integrate storage systems into the design of the fire station and make it an aesthetic element. “They can become a focal point of the design,” Foht said, noting that gear hanging in the apparatus bay is an iconic image of a firehouse. “Given the fact that the storage system is so prominent in the station, they can be designed to be complementary with other elements.”
Foht said fire chiefs know the high cost of the equipment they purchase and the gear issued to firefighters. It just make sense to build in ways to take care of it when they are building new stations.
“Fire chiefs are building 50-year stations,” he said. “They want things they put in it to last just as long. That’s why it’s important to include high-quality, open air storage systems.”
Groves Inc., the maker of Ready Rack, has made a business out of manufacturing and distributing open-air storage and drying rack solutions for more than two decades.
John Groves, founder of the Woodstock, IL-based company, said the business started nearly 30 years ago with a simple hook on the wall to meet the need to get PPE off the floor. From there, the company developed an open-air rack system that has wall-mounted components as well as portable and wheel-mounted storage systems. The systems can be used for turnout gear, hose and any of the myriad other items found in a fire station.
“This is a way to get everything up and off the floor and store it neatly,” said Groves, who added that turnout gear dries better and lasts longer when it is stored in open-air racks. Groves said open-air racks are simple, “not very expensive” to use and install, help maintain order in the station and preserve and protect equipment.
The first “ready rack” system Groves built was constructed 27 years ago for Gary, IL, and is still in service, Groves said as a testimony for the durability of the system. Ready Rack systems are constructed of tubular steel, with wire grid shelves in zinc chromate finishes or virtually any powder coat finish, Groves said. He said fire stations today have started to incorporate turnout gear rooms to isolate potentially contaminated PPE from the rest of the facility and to give a place for the gear to be cleaned and dried. And Ready Racks are good for those uses too. “Things have changed over the years,” he said.
Furnishing the fire station
No fire station is complete without furniture and All A Board has rugged chairs, beds, storage cabinets and wardrobes that will stand up to the use and abuse firefighters can dish out, said Andy Barth, the co-founder of the Richmond, VA, manufacturer. “When it comes to firehouses, twin beds, bunk beds and under-the-bed storage bins and wardrobes are very popular,” he said. As a manufacturer, Barth said, All A Board can custom-make cabinets and wardrobes to fit any height, width and depth. Shelving and hanging units are also popular, he said.