Station Design Tips: Apparatus Floors and Exercise Areas

AXIS Architecture + Interiors designed Hammond (IN) Fire Station No. 8. The 13,197-square-foot facility features living quarters with a kitchen, office, sleeping, and locker room spaces as well as an apparatus bay area with three bays. Exterior materials include brick, formed metal wall panel siding, EIFS soffits, storefront glazing, and TPO roofing. (Photo Courtesy of AXIS Architecture + Interiors.)

Tips Courtesy of the Fire Industry Education Resource Organization (F.I.E.R.O.)

The following are 10 station design tips compiled by members of F.I.E.R.O. compiled by its Jurors years of experience in designing fire stations as well as judging station designs for its Fire Station Design Symposium awards entries.

  1. Joints in the concrete of the apron and apparatus floor make a difference in backing apparatus into the station. Make sure the joints are placed so that they become an aid, not a hindrance.
  2. Drains must be placed under the fire apparatus to prevent water from becoming a slip hazard.
  3. Drains must be equipped with a fuel and water separator.
  4. The apparatus room should not be a storage room for anything except the apparatus. Provide apparatus support spaces to the side and/or back of the apparatus floor.
  5. A good idea is to place a small roll up or pivoting garage door, 8’ x 8’ or so, that goes from your workout room to an outside space around the station. This has several benefits. If you use a significant amount of glass in the door, it will allow natural light into the space, which is always helpful in a workout room. If the weather is nice, the door can be opened to allow fresh air into the workout area or allow part of the workout to be done outside. Finally when moving heavy exercise equipment into the facility, if the door is located next to a walk or drive, the equipment can be easily moved from trucks to the workout area without having to bang and scuff their way down the hallways of the fire stations.
  6. Decontamination areas in the fire station should be located in the bay area preferably next to the most heavily used piece of apparatus. The decontamination area should contain at least a double sink and storage areas for numerous cleaners as well as stock to refurbish the medical kits. Try to avoid freestanding units that are elevated on legs as they are difficult to clean. It is better to use a regular cabinet system that is impervious to water as it is easier to clean and will provide some of the storage needs. The backsplashes behind the sink area should be quite tall—2 to 3 feet—and also be easy to clean. Finally if space permits, it is advisable to have an outside entrance and shower at the decontamination area so heavily contaminated firefighters or items can be easily cleaned without going long distances through the stations.
  7. In placing a space or room for physical training gym equipment, make sure the room or space is in a high traffic area. Any enclosed room should be easily looked into by anyone passing by to ensure a firefighter having trouble is noticed. There have been line-of-duty deaths in workout rooms that were isolated and unobservable.
  8. Apparatus bays should be 18 feet wide. If the lot is narrow, bay widths can be reduced, but should never be less than 14 feet wide. Bay widths of 18 feet easily allow the layout of equipment beside the apparatus during daily “check-offs,” monthly “deep cleaning,” etc. With bays narrower than 18 feet, consider roll-up doors on the apparatus sides.
  9. The newest version of the International Building Code requires a “hardened” crew area within structures erected for emergency services. Apparatus floors are not required to be hardened on the theory that mutual aid companies will bring apparatus and equipment. With local crew survivability, arriving mutual aid units will have personnel familiar with the area to direct resource placements.
  10. To accommodate today’s fire apparatus, apparatus bay door opening widths should never be less than 14 feet wide (USDOT regulations allow “commercial” vehicles to be up to 8.53 feet wide). Keep in mind, this allowance excludes mirrors and safety devices such as running lights mounted on the ends of rubber stems. Apparatus bay door heights less than 14 feet will limit a fire department’s options with respect to apparatus with aerial devices and top-mounted features on engines. Special-purpose AARF vehicles are typically 12 feet wide and need a correspondingly wider door. The exception to the standard width and height of 14 might be in a renovation of an existing station where local historic district guidelines will not allow wholesale alteration of the façade.

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