Protecting Our First Responders and Their Facilities


CarolinaFireJournal - John Griffin and Ben Wilson
John Griffin and Ben Wilson
08/10/2016 -

Rural fire districts, volunteer fire stations and rural emergency response facilities are faced with the growing problem of keeping stations safe and secure. After equipment and facilities are in place, the security of the facility should be of paramount concern.

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How do you determine which measures need to be put in place to effectively avoid potential breaches? Three simple questions can start the dialogue:

  • What are the threats around which you need to build protection?
  • Do you need a security system?
  • What type of system best suits the station?

Once these three questions are investigated, fire departments can begin to formulate a plan to ensure station safety and security.

What Are the Threats That You Need to Build Protection Around?

Knowing that emergency facilities need protection is evident, but how can you gain insight into the location of potential weak points in a facility? The solution is in your backyard and with fellow first responders.

Reach out to local law enforcement and request a physical security assessment of your station. This external review can help define the areas of the fire station that may be subject to break-in. The local police can also advise on any criminal activity in the area that may place the facility at higher risk.

Understand how your station operates and where internal issues may exist. Once you recognize where both the external and internal vulnerabilities could occur, it is time to begin analyzing whether or not a security system is necessary for your facility.

Does Your Station Need a Security System or Some Type of Security Measures?

It’s not uncommon to think that a facility that protects the general public’s well-being should not be the victim of vandalism. That unfortunately does not reflect the realities of the world in which we live. The investments one makes in facilities, personnel and equipment is significant and should be protected at all times. You wouldn’t build a new station without an automatic sprinkler system to protect it from fire, so why would you leave the station and equipment at risk of vandalism or theft? Lives could potentially be the price of not properly protecting emergency facilities.

Vandalism or damage to equipment can cost lives or major injury when gear must work during emergency situations. In a time of need, it’s vital that you can guarantee with utmost confidence that equipment is in perfect working condition. Without knowing the facility is properly secured in the months, days and even hours before that call, you simply have to have that self-assurance.

What Security Options are Available?

Step one always starts with covering the basics: Ensure that the station has good doors and locks on all exterior access points, keep up with maintenance duties around the facility, and engage with the community. However when you go a step further by using a security system service and associated monitoring, stations discover more solutions that strengthen confidence and lessen vulnerabilities.

You can protect your station from trespassers entering from the exterior by using advanced devices such as keyless locks with key fobs, fingerprint locks, or cipher locks that require an entry code. The same exterior principles can be applied to the interior locks where sensitive information or expensive equipment is located.

A growing number of both full-time and volunteer fire stations now use these access control systems to protect the premises from vandals, both external and internal to the station environment. Most systems can be accessed by the administrator via a remote port such as a computer or phone, giving you the ability to monitor, unlock and secure any door from any location. Access control systems can also be tied to your overhead doors, allowing you to leave the facility for an emergency and automatically close unsecured doors. Keyless entry systems using single or multiple key fobs can easily be disabled when a member of your team is involuntarily relieved of service, without having to completely reprogram the systems.

There are other good practices to safeguard your station. Add timers on interior lights that rotate the rooms that are illuminated during the course of evening hours, or in the case of volunteer departments during long durations when no one is physically at the station. Exterior cameras can deter and identify potential vandals. All of these services can be monitored and controlled remotely by your security system, and the support staff your monitoring company offers can provide real-time service in case of burglary, arson and vandalism.

These are only a few of the options available today. Your alarm service representative can help determine what programs will work best using the physical survey assessment.

Conclusion

The importance of emergency facilities is obvious, but knowing and understanding how to best protect your facility isn’t an easy task. Whether you do a security assessment yourself or have an outside party evaluate the station for potential weaknesses, you need to understand where your potential vulnerabilities lie and formulate a plan to address them. Make sure you have the right security measures in place at all times to be certain that you are protecting the life-saving assets that are your station.

John Griffin is Project Developer and Ben Wilson is President of Bobbitt Design Build’s South Carolina division. Bobbitt provides architectural, engineering and construction services for commercial and industrial buildings in North and South Carolina.
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Issue 33.4 | Spring 2019

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