Modern decontamination suites and progressive station alerting system designed with crew health in mind
“They shouldn’t let rookies work in a station like this,” quipped a Fire Rescue veteran as they cut the ribbon on Fire Rescue Station 46 on Rhodine Road. “They’ll never be able to work anywhere else.”
Of course, Hillsborough County’s newest fire stations barely resemble the smaller stations built in the 1970s and ’80s. The new stations are built with firefighter safety in mind.
This story is part of Hillsborough County’s 50-for-50 Series, a historic review of some of the memorable events, dates, and people in the history of Hillsborough Fire Rescue, which was born on Aug. 27, 1973. Want to know more? Read additional stories that show the growth, bravery, and specialized operations of Hillsborough County’s largest department.
Today, station locations are determined by powerful analytics that help Fire Rescue leaders optimize service and cut response times to residents in need, critical to saving lives and property.
Everything else about a new station is designed to optimize firefighter safety.
Fire stations pose unique architectural challenges. They have features of residential, office, and even industrial sites all in one structure– and they are used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Few buildings endure that kind of stress.
New fire stations are designed to prioritize the well-being of first responders. State-of-the-art station alerting systems and modernized decontamination suites utilize the latest technology to keep fire fighters safe physically and mentally.
Hot Warm Cold
Station 46 is in a new class of fire stations that are designed with hot, warm, and cold zones, but this doesn’t have anything to do with the temperature of the room. Instead, it refers to the level of dangerous contaminants that may be present. Fire and smoke are not the only threats firefighters face daily. Plastics and other materials in modern furniture and household products give off noxious fumes when they burn, and those fumes can penetrate bunker gear, clothing, the hoods firefighters wear under their helmets, and even the upholstery of the fire truck.
Bunker gear protects firefighters from heat up to a point, but it is not resistant to absorbing carcinogens. Toxins from the fumes embed in the gear and off-gas the chemical contamination until the fabrics are professionally cleaned.
The days of wearing soot on one's gear as a badge of honor are long gone. Immediately decontaminating the gear before leaving the scene eliminates many of these carcinogens, and Fire Rescue is taking this process even further.
So, the station “hot” zones are areas where materials that were exposed to smoke are staged before cleaning. The “warm” zones are where they get cleaned and the “cold” zones are living spaces in the fire station like dining and sleeping areas where those materials never go.
Bunker gear extractors and drying systems are installed at the stations’ warm zones so the gear can get cleaned immediately when the firefighters return from a fire. These commercial-grade laundry machines effectively remove soot and harmful chemicals to limit exposures to first responders and preserve the protective qualities of the gear.
Designing the stations intentionally this way protects the firefighters.
A safer wake-up call
Another safety element designed into the new Station 46 (and being installed in all the other stations as well) is the new station alerting system, which is optimized to get Fire Rescue personnel ready for incoming calls more efficiently and more peacefully.
Gone are the days when a loud alarm slammed the entire station out of a deep sleep to run a call. In most stations, only part of the crew staying at the station is required to respond to a specific call, so the new alerting system only wakes up the crew that is being dispatched. Also, it alerts the crew with a gradually building alert volume and lights. The old way was contributing to heart issues: Imagine waking up four times a night to a loud alarm for your entire career. It can have a lasting effect.
Fire Station 46 contains the most modern features and will better serve the emergency and fire safety needs of residents living in the Rhodine Road and U.S. Route 301 areas of Riverview.
As one of the largest stations in Hillsborough County, the four-bay station is home to a fire engine, a rescue ambulance, a ladder truck, an air truck, and at least 10 firefighters per shift.
The ladder truck provides hoses, a water supply, and an elevated master fire stream and enables personnel to easily access areas far above the ground. It also carries special equipment used for vehicle extrications.