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Storage systems: It’s not just about turnout gear

Three strategies for creating order out of chaos at the station

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There’s no question that fire stations have a lot of stuff – and knowing where to put it can be a challenge.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Ask any firefighter to describe things they don’t like about their current fire station and the two likely responses are not enough room and not enough space. And those space and storage issues in existing fire stations are only getting more pronounced as existing floor space is reallocated for PPE storage and washer/extractors and dryers for PPE cleaning. So, what’s the solution? One answer lies in making the most effective and efficient use of space using commercially available storage systems.

Cleaning up the fire apparatus bay

The apparatus bay area for a fire station can often be a chaotic and cluttered environment – and that’s before a call comes in! We’ve all seen it – turnout gear piled next to apparatus waiting for a response or hanging from any available hook or space to dry after a call or after cleaning, or even SCBA cylinders sitting in a corner waiting for refilling, repair or hydrostatic testing. Not only does this make the apparatus bay look bad, it creates a significant risk for trip and fall injuries.

Here are three strategies for creating order out of that chaos – and making the workplace safer:

1. Gear lockers: Get that gear up off the floor but still ready for rapid response using open-wire grid storage lockers. Locker options include wall-mounted, free-standing tube wall, and mobile free-standing (on wheels). There are even wall-mounted two-tier lockers now (picture the top and bottom lockers in high school), making it possible to store two sets of PPE.

2. Storage for SCBA cylinders: Using the same open-wire grid construction and materials, manufacturers can now design rugged storage systems for safe and secure flat storage as well as racks for upright cylinder storage. Mobile racks can make it easier and safer (reduced risk of dropping) when moving cylinders back and forth between fire apparatus and the SCBA fill station.

3. Fire hose storage: Hose storage systems can accommodate hose ranging in size from 1½ inches to 5 inches. Some have adjustable “bookends,” ensuring that rolled hose is always stored upright. Many models also come with attached hose-winding apparatus for safer and more efficient rolling of fire hose after it’s been cleaned and dried – a nice feature to have when it’s raining cats and dogs outside and you have limited room for that task indoors. These mobile storage units also make it easier and safer to load hose back onto the fire apparatus. Just wheel the storage unit to the truck, load a roll of hose into the hose winding unit, and use it to “unwind” the hose onto the apparatus.

The mobile nature of work around the station

Is your department one of many where personnel do more than the normal emergency response and training? Maybe it’s repairing and maintaining your department’s SCBA or doing minor repairs to fire apparatus (e.g., replacing light bulbs or reattaching a step with new bolts).

Mobile workstations can help your department’s personnel to do their work more efficiently and effectively by giving them a heavy-duty work surface, safe and lockable storage space, and convenient and easy access to tools and equipment. Individual units can easily be moved through halls and doorways, allowing the workstation to be brought to where the work needs to be done. There are options for work surfaces, including stainless steel or butcher block. Most have options like adding a power strip to provide electrical outlets for power tools, and/or having a vise mounted to the workstation.

And for departments looking to store additional accessories, like cleaning supplies, consider a maintenance cart for keeping your wash, maintenance and cleaning materials in one convenient location. Such carts can be wheeled around the station, moved to an apparatus in need of a shine, and then wheeled back to its designated storage location.

General station storage needs

Many fire stations also need a more stationary storage area, like the station’s equivalent of a janitor’s closet. These non-mobile storage options include open-wire grid constructions, free-standing cabinets, and shelving, racks and tool hangers that can be installed in an existing space in your station.

There are storage options that can help store apparatus-washing accessories (e.g., brushes and squeegees), and that come with tool hangers and four-prong hooks for easy organization to help extend the life of your brushes. There are also options for storing brooms and mops, instead of getting thrown into a dark corner of the apparatus bay or in a closet.

Efficiency is essential

There’s no question that fire stations have a lot of stuff – and knowing where to put it can be a challenge. The good news is that there are several storage options that can help firefighters be more efficient around the station.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.