The Modern Day Fire Station
Modern day fire stations are arguably one of the most important things that a community must build, but many people are unaware of the multiple roles that stations serve. The mission of the fire department 40 years ago was simply firefighting, but in today’s world the roles of first responders have shifted immensely. Most stations serve the community as “multi-unit” stations that house the primary first responders to most emergencies. What is more, building the station correctly has a legacy effect on the community. The building must be an efficient use of the taxpayers’ money while providing a space that is functional, durable, efficient, and comfortable.
The first responders in modern day calls are primarily emergency medical providers. Because of this, the needs of the stations have changed. Up until the early 2000s most stations were alerted to a call by some type of bell or alerting sound. The lights came on, the doors went up and it was a sudden jolt to the senses for every person in the station as they were called to action. Today, stations house multi-unit first responders, so the alert systems much be more sensitive to only waking those that need to be on a specific call and allowing others to get much needed rest. In addition, the stations must accommodate specialized equipment and maximum efficiency. The apparatus bays of a fire station must be large enough to house trucks between forty and fifty feet long. The common areas need to be comfortable and allow personnel to rest, exercise, and eat healthy meals. In addition, many stations serve as education centers for the community and need common areas that can also teach classes.
For example, the Emergency Medical Station that is underway on Shanklin Road in northern Beaufort County will house two ambulances as well as four sleeping quarters, an exercise room and a kitchen/dry room for personnel. This way response times for all emergency types will be greatly decreased for the Burton area of Beaufort County. The architect designed the station in a Lowcountry style with stucco, shiplap siding and farm style shutters.
In the Lowcountry and coastal communities, fire and EMS stations often serve as command centers for natural disaster response such as hurricanes. This means that the stations must be category 5 reinforced buildings able to withstand winds up to 140 miles per hour. In addition, the Lowcountry area is considered one of the higher seismic regions in the world. Fire stations are often in areas that require Earthquake drains during site work in order to deal with soil liquefaction. Details about earthquake drains and their requirements can be found in a previous blog HERE.
The fire station must meet all the requirements of functionality while simultaneously standing as a landmark of the community. Fire stations are expected to serve the community for 40 to 50 years, meaning they should be designed not only with durability, but with the ability to accommodate growth within a community. In communities like Bluffton, SC blending into the historic aspects of the architectural landscape is essential to fire stations serving as community landmarks. Given this, they must be designed with an aesthetic that will stand the test of time instead of quickly looking dated. For example, it was very important that Bluffton Township Fire Department Station 30, highlighted in our project portfolio HERE include a brick façade that fit with the Town of Bluffton architecture.