There is a growing trend within the Design-Build industry from city managers and elected officials to chiefs and facility administrators — combining like services under one roof. Many aspects have to be considered when deciding to house independent sources, but with the design freedom and a knowledgeable Design-Build contractor, merging entities including law enforcement, EMS, fire and rescue can be obtained in a seamless venture. Factors to consider are: space needed now and for future growth, common availability of daily activity concepts, readiness and responsiveness for each entity and cost savings.
In no particular order, factors that restrict many emergency service stations are space, function and durability. As you try to build a 50 year building, plan accordingly with your space utilization and have a large scale plan of attack for future expansion. All emergency responders, truck apparatus and stations need to have more space, be more functional and have longer durability. This is a huge reason new stations are being proposed and where the question arises, “what needs do we have for our station?” An answer we often receive is “bedrooms and storage.” Emergency service personnel need lots of storage because of ever changing laws and regulations requiring new and updated equipment, gear and tools. Having a space that can cohabitate storage is essential. Individual lockable storage rooms that are in conditioned space or non-conditioned is also a concept to consider. Most gear and tools can handle a dry but non-conditioned space, while EMS responders need a more controlled environment to house bulk supplies. If a sheriff’s report substation is needed within the district, plan for a potential two desks in lieu of one, for additional space that will be well appreciated in the future. Bedrooms are also a must have. If not currently, most departments are looking toward the future and having paid staff available full time, which requires building code acceptable sleeping quarters. These sleeping quarters need to be located near the apparatus bays and away from the congestion of the dayroom and kitchen. Giving the men and women a quiet place to rest, read or relax will make for a better responder when the call comes in. Including these aspects for space is key to a successful future within your new building.
Meeting room and offices are all essential to the trade for parties such as sheriff, EMS, fire and rescue. These parties need to have access to rooms for small meetings, as well as for reports and filings. Having offices that are interchangeable for living quarters gives the station employee options for space utilization. Having common bathrooms, shower rooms and kitchens can be useful while keeping in mind shift responders that come in or leave out at odd hours can make arranging your building tricky. In some cases having separate bathrooms for each responding unit is the best route to prevent hampering of schedules and restricting access to certain areas during specific events. Planning ahead with a proven Design-Build contractor and the local responders involved is key to a successful project layout.
Less notable daily activities that stretch across all emergency service landscapes are parking and training. Parking includes interior for emergency service vehicles and exterior for responders on the job. Be sure your space is utilized efficiently and you have ample parking for the numbers of vehicles and size of vehicles to be parked there. Understand your needs for each shift, as well as high traffic times like shift change, training night, meetings nights and public events. Job specific training for staff, as well as local community training, can be successfully exploited with proper placement of rooms and door locations inside a building. Giving access in the same building to sheriff, EMS, rescue and fire responders to a single training room inside a facility saves valuable space and allows a common ground for training appreciation between the responders.
Another common reason expansion is needed is responsiveness and readiness to an emergency. Whether it be a new road located within the district or a new development occupying land, all local emergency services will be needed to continue to cover effectively. Having all responding services in a community keeps local insurance rates down and keeps the general public safe and engaged in public service work. Oftentimes a substation can be utilized in this instance, with each responding member having one bay each and one office each. These buildings can be designed efficiently and will do wonders for community appreciation and involvement.
Finally, cost savings is the single largest reason to combine emergency services under one roof. Sheriff, EMS, fire and rescue can combine their needs of new facilities and together can take on the expense of buying land, grading property, paving parking lots, building construction and common utility bills. These construction costs are projected to continue to rise as time passes, and being able to split the cost between responding entities with the same needs of growth and expansion as well as giving the public a central location in time of emergency is forever a reason to look at one building for all local emergency service needs. Also, knowing that tax payers dollars are being spent efficiently will keep good graces within the public and keep the public safer when faster response times are evident. On the surface, a combined building is bigger and is more costly, but once examined and individual buildings for each responding entity is accessed, one building, one roof, one parking lot, and one piece of property is a common sense move when building new.
Plan ahead with your joint venture and understand the needs and requirements of the combined responding entities. Be sure each entity has the needed space for sleeping quarters, living quarters, kitchen requirements, apparatus bays and storage. Bring each local responding entity in and invite a common ground to assist with growth complications that are similar to your own. It will be found that you are not alone in your struggles and working with a reputable Design-Build contractor will allow your station to be designed and built in a quality manner, full of space, function and durability.