One of the most important issues in fire station construction is the selection of a site. This decision will be the driving factor of nearly all of the subsequent decisions for the project.
Finding an adequate site for your fire station can become a really huge issue, and a few of the key issues to consider are:
• The process of site selection and acquisition can be tedious and difficult. Sometimes the community will already own a site that will work, sometimes a resident will donate land; but usually the land must be purchased.
• Donated land. This is a great idea, but quite often the site does not meet the requirements, zoning or response criteria.
• There is no perfect site, but with good site planning and design team, there will be options to explore.
Obtaining a site that meets your requirements can take a while and is a somewhat complicated process, but take your time and carefully explore all options.
In site evaluations, response times within the station’s geographic area is a critical factor. A careful analysis needs to be conducted that includes all factors such as:
• Site should be located on, or adjacent to a main travel artery that will provide good access, visibility and egress for emergency apparatus, and adequate alerting of the public of the departing fire equipment.
• The site should provide acceptable access to secondary streets to allow fire equipment and personnel to respond.
• Streets should have adequate width and shoulder width so that vehicles can safely pull over when fire equipment is coming up behind them.
• The main travel artery should not be a heavily congested area with an overabundance of traffic signals or stop signs if at all possible.
• Another factor to consider is the proximity of rail road crossings, churches, schools or other factors which could cause safety hazards and delays for emergency equipment.
Additionally, the site should also provide rapid response time to areas in your community that are target “hazard” areas such as factories, assisted living homes, nursing homes and hospitals. You will also need to consider areas of the community that has inadequate water supplies, water pressure or water volume issues which could seriously hamper the ability to extinguish a fire.
Heavily congested downtown areas are another concern because the buildings often share common firewalls, which in most cases have been breached and this can cause significant flame spread from building to building. Additionally, older buildings may lack fire detection systems and fire sprinkler systems which can make the situation even worse.
Traffic Intervention Systems
There are some tools to assist making a high-traffic site more acceptable. These systems use electronic beam to change traffic signals for responding fire apparatus in areas of high-density traffic flows in intersections. Typically the beam coming from responding emergency equipment changes a traffic light for the cross traffic to red and for the through traffic (responding fire apparatus) this changes to green so they can quickly move through the intersection. In addition to this type of system, there are also hardline connections to traffic signal controls that can be used.
A perfect site for your fire station may not be possible, but a “good” site is very possible to find in an established community as well as in a new development; you just have to take the time, and remember that this could be one of the most important decisions you will make for the station.