Station Design Supplement: Part 2 - Outfitting Your Fire Station

When the bricks-and-mortar phase of building a fire station has been completed, many items still must go into it. Beds, recliners, garage doors, engine exhaust systems, alert systems and turnout gear storage systems are just a few of the items needed to...


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Because station beds are often used by different people, responders often do what is called “hot bunking,” where they strip their own linens and store them for later use, a practice that requires a clean storage place, Barth said. And because firefighters and responders work hard at their jobs, a quality mattress is not only a nicety, but should be a requirement, he said. “They don’t want a cheap mattress when they get back from a call,” Barth said. “Firefighters should have a quality mattress.” He added that vinyl-covered mattresses for easy cleaning and to minimize bed bug infestations should be considered.


When it comes to budgeting for fire stations, unfortunately, furniture is often skimped when financial constraints hit, Barth said, adding that he thinks that is a mistake.


Dave Woods, the owner and founder of Fire Station Outfitters, based in Empire, CA, said recliners and comfortable upholstered furniture are popular in fire stations. His company makes not only recliners, but upholstered love seats and sofas for fire stations. “I have six different-sized recliners to fit all body types,” Woods said, noting that small men and many women find very large recliners cumbersome and difficult to operate. “There are a lot of women in EMS and they like things built for their comfort.”


When fire departments are considering recliners, it is tempting to go to the local discount furniture store and buy something there, a decision its members may come to regret. “They’re just not meant for the kind of use they’ll see at a fire station and they won’t stand up,” Woods said. He added the furniture his company makes has hardwood frames with heavy-machined reclining mechanisms.


Woods said Fire Station Outfitters also carries furniture provided by other vendors as a service to his customers, but recliners are his specialty. “When it comes to comfortable recliners, one size does not fit all,” said Woods, who has been in business since 2008. “My focus has been on customer service. It’s important to make sure responders get what they need.”

 

Specifying the bay doors

Apparatus bay doors are an important feature of fire stations. They must work quickly, they must be energy efficient and they must look good. Hörmann Flexon is a company based in Leetsdale, PA, that makes a wide variety of high-speed doors for fire stations, according to the company’s marketing director, Alice Permigiani. There are several door designs for fire stations, from solid designs, to ones with windows, to all glass panes, Permigiani said.


“Doors need to be low-maintenance and high speed,” she said, noting that Hörmann Flexon doors open at a rate of 80 inches per second. For vehicles responding to emergencies, door opening speeds are important and, for energy conservation in hot or cold climates, doors that close quickly too are an important feature. Door insulation and “R” values are important as well, she said. Doors also can add a lot to the look of a fire station by design and color, Permigiani said. Doors with lots of windows and glass provide lots of light in the apparatus bay and the building, which may have an aesthetic appeal that appeals to a department or chief, she said. Solid doors offer other benefits and design elements, she added.


“Doors contribute a lot to the façade and function of a building,” Permigiani said. “That’s why it’s important that fire chiefs are involved. They’ll have to live with them a long time.”

 

Alerting the crews

Station alerting is one of those critical items that sometimes is overlooked when communities are building new fire stations, said Westnet’s marketing director, Kelly McGeorge. “We often get these calls from fire departments who say, ‘We’ve got this beautiful, new fire station, but we forgot the alerting system,’” he said. “When you’re building a new fire station, that’s the time to think about installing a station alerting system…when all the walls are open.”


Westnet, based in Huntington Beach, CA, is the maker of First-In Fire Station Alerting Systems used to create an intelligent and interactive fire station. McGeorge said the company’s station alerting system is an advanced and updated version of the one featured on the 1970s television show “Emergency.” The system alerts firefighters in a station to a call through a master control unit in the station, which is activated by a dispatcher when a call is received. It alerts firefighters and medics to calls, McGeorge said.