More Painless Cost Cutting

By Robert Tutterow

Last month I discussed a long-term cost-cutting opportunity that is painless-building or modifying sustainable fire stations. The premise is that 49 percent of a building’s lifespan costs are ongoing costs for utilities, maintenance, and replacement of furnishings. Now let’s discuss materials selection.

Building Interior and Exterior

To continue with the exterior, a metal roof is a cost-effective and long-term choice if the station has a pitched roof.

Bollards are short posts strategically placed to protect the station and other fixtures on the station property. They are common at the apparatus bay door openings to protect the station. They are also used to protect outside fixtures such as storage buildings, fuel pumps, and generators. Bollards should be embedded in concrete that is isolated from the rest of the apparatus apron or bay floor. This is done so that if the bollard is hit, the impact does not damage concrete other than the base in which it is installed.

Wall material is another example for sustainability. Painted concrete blocks are an excellent choice for apparatus bays. They can also be used in the interior. However, most interior walls are drywall. If drywall is used, then fire departments should consider abuse-resistant drywall. It is a harder material that will minimize the need for wall patching from accidental damage. The abuse-resistant drywall is not that much more expensive than regular drywall. At a minimum, at least the lower four feet of drywall should be abuse-resistant.

Entry and Exit Points

Apparatus bay doors are other high-maintenance items. For extremely busy stations, horizontally hinged four-fold doors provide for low maintenance and long-term durability. For other stations with conventional roll-up sectional doors, three important criteria should be considered.

First, assuming the doors have glass panels (important so the public can see the equipment that serves them), the glass should have UV blockers. This will prevent UV degradation to firefighters’ PPE that might be stored in an area that receives sunlight. Second, the lower panel should be nonglass. This is because when overhead roll-up doors “attack” apparatus, the damage is usually to the lower panel, and it is cheaper to replace than glass panels. The lower panel being nonglass does not detract from the public’s ability to see the apparatus. Third, the metal frame of the door should be clear anodized aluminum for the lowest maintenance costs.

Bay doors are not the only doors to take into consideration for long-term sustainability. Walk-through doors have durability and safety considerations. Never use wood doors. Hollow core metal doors are a much better choice. Also, if the door is a passageway door (lots of foot traffic), then a glass panel should be installed so people on the other side can be seen before the door is pushed open into them. All passage doors should be oversized in width, and other doors that access areas such as storage rooms are often better suited for double doors. Any room that might house large equipment should have double doors.


There is longevity in upholstered furniture if the furniture is leather (especially recliners) or the cushions are not attached to the frame. With nonattached cushions, the cushions are easily replaced and often the covers are removable for washing. In addition to longevity, this allows for a cleaner, healthier, and better looking environment.

As more and more fire stations install washers/extractors to clean turnout gear, there are several issues to address. First, a washer/extractor needs to be mounted on a thickened, reinforced slab. Also, the machines might require special drain requirements. The decontamination equipment, such as tables and sinks, should be all stainless steel with hands-free valve capability. And, there should be an eye-wash station installed-which can be integrated into the faucet of the decontamination sink. Keeping these issues in mind will minimize maintenance costs and improve firefighter safety. Another safety consideration is installing floor drains to any room where water exists. The cost is minimal compared to the potential of a workers’ compensation claim from a slip and fall.

ROBERT TUTTEROW retired as safety coordinator for the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. His 34-year career includes 10 as a volunteer. He has been very active in the National Fire Protection Association through service on the Fire Service Section Executive Board and technical committees involved with safety, apparatus, and personal protective equipment. He is a founding member and president of the Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization (F.I.E.R.O.).

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