What’s in Your Bay?

By Robert Tutterow

This is the third in a series of columns about apparatus bays. Previously topics included floors and bay doors.

This month’s column will focus on other issues and considerations related to bays – especially the items stored, or kept, in bays that probably should not be there.

Because bays are the largest inside space of a station, they become home for lots of things. Rarely does a station have enough storage space, and the bay area becomes the accumulator of all things that that won’t go elsewhere. Granted, many stations were built decades ago when the station inventory contained considerably less than today. Many older metro fire department stations were built during the horse-drawn apparatus days or when apparatus were about half as wide and half as tall as they are today. In those situations, departments are limited in how they handle storage.

Ice Machines, Turnout Gear, and Breathing Air Compressors

There are items often stored on apparatus bays that should be stored elsewhere. Critical to firefighter health are ice machines, turnout gear, and breathing air.

Even with diesel exhaust capture systems coupled with other ventilation systems, there are carcinogens and other gases emitted into the bay from equipment. For this reason, ice makers should never be stored in the bay. There have been cases where an ice machine fails because of power outages or mechanical reasons, and all the ice melts. Because of the contaminated bay area, oil slicks have been found on the water from the melted ice. That’s not good. Space has to be made available elsewhere in the station for ice machines. If your station has an ice machine in the bay, look for accumulated soot on the machine, especially where it might not get regular cleaning.

Turnout gear has historically been stored along the walls of apparatus bays. It was a natural place, convenient to the apparatus, and out of the living and sleeping areas. However, we now know of three very valid reasons to store turnout gear off the bay floor:

  1. UV degradation.
  2. Exposure to contaminants in the bay from contaminated equipment off gassing and residual diesel exhaust not collected from removal systems.
  3. Proper ventilation.

Turnout gear should be stored in a separate dedicated room located just off the bay. The room should remain dark except when occupied by a firefighter to prevent UV degradation from sunlight and artificial light. Motion-sensor lights are an ideal application for this environment. And, the room should have its own dedicated ventilation system to remove off gases and aid in keeping PPE dry.

Breathing air compressors should not be on apparatus bay floors for the same reasons listed above. Their filtration systems should not have to filter contaminants that can be avoided altogether.

New Stations and Station Expansion

Many readers might wonder what they can do about this unless they are building a new station. By all means, these factors should be considered in the design of a new station. However, as service demands grow and firefighter health and safety concerns are better understood, all departments should have a plan to expand their stations if enough land is available. When talking expansion to older stations, consider adding fitness rooms and decontamination rooms.

Other Safety and Health Tidbits

There are other small and affordable items to consider that relate to apparatus bays. Think about the doors leading to and from the bay. Is there at least a small window so people walking in opposite directions as they approach the door know someone is within the swing path of it?

Hand sanitizers should be placed throughout the station but especially on the apparatus floor. A rule of thumb is a sanitizer dispenser at every door leading off the bay.

Take advantage of natural lighting if possible. Install artificial lighting directly over foot pathways rather than directly over apparatus. This will eliminate shadows in pathways.

Most apparatus bays are a few inches lower than the rest of the station. This makes sense – water from spills, leaks, and floor cleaning does not enter the rest of the station. The transition from the bay to the rest of the station should be a ramp rather than a step to minimize trips and falls.

Place bollards where there are items subject to being struck by apparatus. For example, place a bollard in front of each overhead door track or just outside the swing space for four-fold doors.

What’s in your bay?

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 Education Resource Organization (F.I.E.R.O.).

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