Fire departments have a number of options for turnout gear storage, from purpose-built locker-type units with lockable security doors to units open to the air that allow turnout gear to dry faster.
Turnout storage lockers come in single-, double-, triple-, and six-pack versions as well as the length of a wall for a custom built setup. Turnout gear storage units have pros and cons, and their use is closely related to the interior style of the fire station, the amount of space available, the budget to purchase them, and aesthetic considerations.
John Groves, vice president of sales and marketing for Groves Inc., manufacturer of both the Ready Rack and the Red Rack, says, “In 1984, my brother Hank became the distributor of the first commercially-designed turnout gear storage racks that were put on the wall of the firehouse at the Cary (IL) Fire Department. The fire department had hooks on the wall for turnout coats with the bunker pants and boots on the floor, so the gear didn’t dry out, got moldy, mildewed, and deteriorated. The Ready Rack solved that problem by using a hanger and rack to dry the turnout gear quickly and allowed it to last longer.”
|1 Groves Inc. makes its Red Rack in two-, four-, and six-locker units and also in single- and double-sided versions. Shown are Red Racks wall-mounted and, at the right, a three-unit mobile Red Rack. (Photo courtesy of Groves Inc.) 2 Gear Grid made this custom six-unit double-sided freestanding turnout gear storage unit for the Forest Lake (MN) Fire Department. Note Gear Grid’s wall-mounted gear storage unit on the rear wall. (Photo courtesy of Gear Grid.)|
Anna Aho, marketing specialist for Gear Grid, says her company’s wall-mount lockers are its most popular offering in the turnout gear storage market. “The wall-mount lockers are all steel and are built in our shop and set up on site in the fire station,” Aho says. “They can be customized where you have six lockers on one wall and 10 on another, or whatever configuration the fire department needs. All of the firefighter’s turnout gear fits inside the locker, which can be enclosed with a door and lock if necessary. We also manufacture stainless steel hangers for the turnout gear to hold it open to dry inside the locker.”
Gear Grid also makes freestanding turnout gear lockers with adjustable feet to account for uneven floors, Aho points out. “They also are made out of steel and can be bolted to the floor if that’s what is needed. We’ve also done some custom jobs in the middle of a room where we run power to the lockers to take advantage of our power bars that can charge cell phones, hand lights, and radios in the locker.”
Groves says that the standard Red Rack is a three-locker unit, although the company also makes Red Racks in two-, four-, and six-locker units and also in single- or double-sided models. “The two- and three-locker units are only single-sided,” he notes, “but the four- and six-locker units can be either single- or double-sided. And for our mobile Red Racks, they are available in multiple size lockers, either single- or double-sided.”
|2 Gear Grid made this custom six-unit double-sided freestanding turnout gear storage unit for the Forest Lake (MN) Fire Department. Note Gear Grid’s wall-mounted gear storage unit on the rear wall. (Photo courtesy of Gear Grid.)|
Aho says that Gear Grid uses a powder coat finish on all its nonstainless steel lockers that’s ultraviolet-resistant. “Our mobile locker systems are becoming more popular, especially because they can be adapted to different situations like emergency medical services (EMS),” she says. “We also make dive lockers that are taller than a standard locker and have an open top where the hanging dive gear can be hydraulically lifted above the top of the locker to dry.”
The Ready Rack is chrome steel with chrome shelving and accessories to hold all a firefighter’s gear, Groves notes. “Then we came out with the Red Rack, which is an all-steel, heavier-duty rack made of 1¼-inch modular steel tubing, which can be made in either wall-mount or mobile units.”
|3 The Ready Rack made by Groves Inc. is made of chrome steel with chrome shelving and accessories to hold gear. (Photo courtesy of Groves Inc.)|
The Red Rack is based on a shelf system, Groves points out. “We put dividers in between the shelves, and each shelf will hold up to 800 pounds. These units can be installed as wall mounts or on posts and casters. We build the Red Rack’s back frame first, then add a divider, then add shelves. The male and female ends of the back frame marry with each other and the divider, allowing us to do one or 100 sections that can be wall-mounted, mobile, or freestanding.”
Jim Zwerg, facility manager for the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department and a licensed architect, has been with Phoenix Fire for 15 years and spent 15 years prior to that with a Tucson, Arizona, architectural firm, 10 of which he spent designing and renovating fire stations. “In the city of Phoenix, we have 57 fire stations, plus two in Paradise Valley where we contract our services,” Zwerg says. “In all of those stations, we have what I’ll call a cornucopia of turnout gear storage solutions.”
The difference in Phoenix Fire’s turnout gear storage lies in the age of the fire stations. “New construction is our opportunity to set up a fire station the way we want,” Zwerg says. “So for all new stations since 2000, we have created ancillary space adjacent to the apparatus room for firefighters’ turnout gear storage. For those 15 stations, we’ve created an open style gear storage area that uses Gear Grid, Groves, and custom fabrication storage solutions.”
|4 The FDNY chose Gear Grid for its Seattle System single-sided freestanding lockers for its emergency medical services (EMS) units. Note the turnout gear storage in the center, self-contained breathing apparatus bottles on the left, and EMS bags on the right (Photo courtesy of Gear Grid.)|
On some of Phoenix’s older fire stations, there still are coat hooks on the walls along the apparatus bay, Zwerg notes, along with shelves for additional gear and seats for firefighters to sit on to pull on their boots and bunker pants. “Firefighters who are on duty leave their turnout coats on the truck and their pants and boots at the door of the truck,” Zwerg says. “It’s for the off-duty firefighters where we need the turnout gear storage.”
|5 When on duty, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department firefighters keep their turnout coats on their apparatus and their bunker pants and boots near the rig. When personnel are off duty, turnout gear is stored in a room adjacent to the apparatus room in newer stations and in separate storage rooms as shown here. [Photo courtesy of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department.]|
For those older stations that don’t have the designated turnout gear storage space alongside the apparatus room, Phoenix Fire has purchased shed-type structures and steel Conex shipping containers that are set up immediately outside the station, installed electrical and air conditioning, and set up locker space inside them. “That’s what we do when we don’t have the footprint inside an older station to house the off-duty turnout gear,” Zwerg points out. “Phoenix firefighters work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, so we have a great need for taking care of off-duty turnout gear. And in our climate, we don’t want any turnout gear exposed to the sunlight.”
|6 At Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department’s Station 37, one of the older stations among its 57 stations, a turnout room uses hooks, shelves, and benches to house firefighters’ turnout gear. (Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Fire Department.)|
Zwerg adds that Phoenix Fire does not perform any turnout gear laundering in fire stations. “All our turnout laundering is done at the Fire Resources facility,” he says. “None of that is done at the stations.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.
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