Fire stations, also known as fire halls or fire houses, provide a home base for firefighters and a place to store their equipment. They also house administrative and living spaces. Many cities have different standards for the size, shape and layout of fire stations. These standards may be based on a combination of factors, including population density, fire risk, traffic patterns and the availability of land at reasonable prices. The design of a fire station must take into account the needs of the firefighters, as well as the need for them to be able to reach emergency situations quickly.
The main function of a fire station is to store the firefighting apparatus: fire engines, fire trucks, protective gear and fire hoses. Some also contain a vehicle maintenance bay, an area with the appropriate heavy lift and utility connections for performing routine maintenance on these vehicles. Administrative areas include standard offices, as well as conference and training rooms. They may also have a specialized dispatch room for receiving calls from the public.
Most stations are staffed by full-time firefighters, who live at the fire station when they are on duty. They are called to their duties by siren, pager or radio. When the alarm rings they must quickly get to their fire engine, which is typically parked in a garage or driveway of the fire station. In buildings with multiple floors, the firefighters may access the garage via a pole or slide.
During non-emergency times, the firemen often perform routine inspections and cleaning of their equipment in the garage. They also hold regular training drills to improve their skills. These drills may be for the benefit of local residents, or for other fire departments. The facility may also be used for fund-raising by the firemen’s association, “fire buffs” or a “fire auxiliary.”
In large cities, most fire stations are named for their company number, which is unique among all city companies. The number of companies that answer a first alarm depends on the fire hazard and the city’s total fire fighting force. The companies are arranged in a service order, so that the three nearest the fire box can respond as soon as possible. The other companies are assigned to fill in when the companies nearest the firebox are occupied or unavailable.
In addition to storing their equipment, most fire stations have a dormitory and kitchen. The kitchen is used to prepare meals for the firefighters. The firefighters must be able to eat quickly, as their shifts are usually 24 hours long. The sleeping quarters, sometimes called bunk rooms, are equipped with beds and lockers. There is a laundry for washing and drying the firefighters’ turnout clothing. In some stations, a hose-drying tower is provided to reduce the amount of time needed to clean their clothing after a call. This allows the firemen to return to their station within a short time, so that they can respond to other calls as quickly as possible.