How to buy fire station equipment

There are obviously a lot of tools, gears, gadgets, and equipment that make up a fire station's resources. Here are a few things to consider when buying some of the most important pieces of equipment for your firehouse:

Exhaust Removal Systems
Exhaust removal systems help to create a safer environment for firefighters in confined environments by protecting them from noxious vehicle exhaust. According to NIOSH, studies show that an "occupational carcinogenic hazard exists in human exposure to diesel exhaust."

There are two types of exhaust systems available to fire departments: direct source capture systems and filtration systems. The direct source capture systems are categorized into two sub categories: exhaust evacuation systems and direct source filtration systems.

Exhaust evacuation systems
These consist of control panel, a track-mounted hose and cables, an exhaust fan and ducting. The system attaches directly to the tailpipe, thereby capturing all exhaust emissions and carrying them out of the building via a fan and duct system.

Requirements of the systems include adequate electrical power (amperage and electrical phase capability) and a duct to the exterior of the building to vent the exhaust. Consideration should be given to the location of this discharge point regarding neighboring occupancies and intake points of a breathing air system if located in the same station.

When operational procedures are followed for attachment of the systems, especially if the vehicle backs into the station, firefighters attaching the systems will not be exposed to diesel exhaust. Remember that backing spotters are necessary any time a vehicle is moving in reverse.

Vehicle-mounted filtration systems
This system consists of a filter diverter, filter and an electronic control unit. The system automatically operates for 10-99 seconds after the vehicle starts. This time is adjustable to suit the department’s needs and allows the vehicle to leave the station. The system also activates when the vehicle is in reverse gear. After the vehicle is shifted out of reverse gear, the system will continue in the filter mode for the pre-set time allowing the vehicle to back into the building and shut it off.

Filtration systems
These are sometimes referred to as "hoseless" systems and are mounted to the ceiling. Harmful exhaust components are forced through a series of three disposable filters. The filters trap certain particles and chemically absorb other diesel exhaust components. The system automatically activates through a system of door switches or electric eyes that detect vehicle movement. Filtration systems involve the least amount of work necessary to install an exhaust removal system. No vehicle modification is needed and only an electrical power source and ceiling mounting space are needed in the fire station.

EPA rules
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2007 Highway Diesel Rule (EPA07) requires a reduction in the diesel particulate matter and nitrous oxide in diesel exhaust emission. Manufacturers have adapted their products to work with the vehicle changes necessary to meet EPA07.

Regeneration is a process to eliminate particulate matter in the ATD. It is recommended that this regeneration process be conducted outside of the fire station. EPA07 does not address issues relevant to diesel exhaust indoors; however, NFPA Standard 1500 and most building codes do. Therefore, a vehicle exhaust extraction or filtration system is highly recommended to protect firefighters from the risk of exposure to harmful diesel exhaust emissions.

Gear Racks
One piece of fire station equipment that is used daily is the gear rack where firefighters store their gear between shifts. There are several different options when considering gear racks.

Racks need to have an open air design to allow gear to thoroughly dry. If gear remains wet, it will wear our faster and cause steam burns to firefighters. Commercially purchased racks are available with wheels allowing them to be moved throughout the station. Others are designed to be secured in one location such as stand alone, or wall-mounted units. Options can also include having locking doors to secure gear. However, locking doors can be a problem when quickly locating keys if gear needs to be accessed or moved, such as in a major emergency.

Racks should be large and tall enough to allow wet turnout pants to be pulled up to fully dry. They should also be painted or coated to prevent rusting. Some companies have a 15 year warranty against rust and corrosion. A last resort in difficult economic times is to build your own racks. This can be an option to help manage costs but may have drawbacks depending on the experience of the builder.

Fitness Equipment
As firefighters we are prime candidates for acquiring and hopefully utilizing appropriate exercise equipment within the confines of our firehouse. The best way to select such equipment is to take a reverse engineering approach. What health issue kills firefighters (cardiac), and what serious injuries are firefighters most likely to sustain during our career (back, shoulder, etc.)?

Cardio Equipment
It makes sense to start with your heart. While there are numerous products out there designed to improve cardiovascular health, the gold standard by which all are compared is the treadmill. It is simple to use, versatile (walk, jog, incline, etc.) and can be placed in a climate controlled environment (unless it’s stuck in an apparatus room). Stair climbers, elliptical machines and other similar products are useful and can offer great cardio options but seem to get less overall use.

Strength Training
From a muscular strength and endurance standpoint there are also many options. Standard barbell, dumbbell, and squat rack options can be effective, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that improper application can lead to acute or chronic injuries. Multi-station, cable based units are also effective and possibly safer from a solo participant standpoint. Today’s flavors include kettle bells, medicine balls, Bosa or Swiss balls that provide an infinite amount movement options with moderate resistance. Education ultimately is the key ingredient to long term success.

From a purchasing philosophy get the best you can afford. Treadmills in particular are notorious for breaking down when buying on the cheap. A great treadmill starts with a great motor (A/C preferred) and frame, and commercial grade products generally run in the $4-7k range.
Keep in mind that whatever the tools available for training, participation is the goal. Safely exercising goes hand in hand with participation and education ensures a successful experience. Keep on moving!

This How to Buy guide was compiled from articles written by FireRescue1 contributors.

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