Building Fire Stations

When constructing or renovationg fire stations, the primary concern should be for the safety of the men and women who must call this place home for 24 hours at a time.  Conducting a review for a fire station facility in my jurisdiction (Martin County, FL), brought several thoughts and code concerns to the forefront of my mind.

Applicable codes for fire station facilities include NFPA 1 Uniform Fire Code, NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, and NFPA 1581 Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program.

We will break down the application regulations by standard.

NFPA 1: buildings housing emergency fire, rescue, or ambulance services shall be protected throughout by approved automatic sprinkler systems.

Sprinkler systems are the most valuable tool in life safety, and property preservation.  If we want to preach home fire sprinklers for individual residences, why would we not want to sprinkle our own facilities? (see, "Eating Your Own Cooking")  Do not forget about cooking equipment. Per NFPA 1:50 cooking equipment used in processes producing smoke or grease-laden vapors shall be equipped with a hood and suppression system.

NFPA 1500:9.1.3 -  All existing and new fire stations shall be provided with smoke detectors in work, sleeping, and general storage areas.

1500: - When activated, these detectors shall sound an alarm throughout the fire station.

1500:9.1.4All existing and new fire department facilities shall have carbon monoxide detectors installed in locations in sleeping and living areas, such that any source of carbon monoxide would be detected before endangering the members.

Fire alarms in stations are required.

1500:9.1.6 - The fire department shall prevent exposure to fire fighters and contamination of living and sleeping areas to exhaust emissions.

Is there suitable means to exhaust the harmful fumes and gases that are emitted by running fire truck and ambulance engines?  This can include a simple fan system that sucks these fumes out of the bay area, or a more elaborate HVAC system that moves these fumes directly out of the building.

1500:9.1.2 - Fire departments shall provide facilities for disinfecting, cleaning, and storage in accordance with NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program.

1581:5.7* - Fire departments that provide emergency medical services shall provide or have access to disinfecting facilities for the cleaning and disinfecting of emergency medical equipment.

1581:A5.7.1Where the fire department provides only emergency medical services at the first responder level, there should be at least one disinfecting facility available. Where the fire department provides basic life-support or advanced life-support emergency medical services, there should be a disinfecting facility in each fire station from which such services are provided.

This is a must have to prevent the transmission of harmful and deadly diseases and pathogens.

1500:9.2.1 - All fire department facilities shall be inspected at least annually to provide for compliance with Section 9.1. (See Annex G.)

1500:9.2.2 - Inspections shall be documented and recorded.

1500:9.2.3 - All fire department facilities shall be inspected at least monthly to identify and provide correction of any safety or health hazards.

Annex G of NFPA 1500 provides a detailed inspection checklist that should serve as a model for fire department facility inspections.
As well as, the above codes, the typical codes also still apply (exit/emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, "No Smoking" signage, etc.).

These are things to consider when planning for new emergency services housing facilities.  During renovations of stations, other temporary housing needs to meet this same criteria.

As fire inspectors, our first concern is the safety of our own.  Many times fire station construction runs into the millions of dollars,  there is no need to try to skimp and save a few dollars on essential fire prevention applications that will protect our first responders.

How about your jurisdiction? Are your stations code compliant?  What are some other concerns that may be considered?

Other useful resources:

Recommendations for Fire Station Design
Fire Station Symposium