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FDNY image: Ladder 8 Firehouse.

A firehouse (also known as fire station, fire hall or firemen's hall) is a building designed for the use of firefighters and other emergency personnel to assist in responding to structure fires and other emergency situations. Firehouses occupied by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) are often designed with emergency vehicle bays on the ground floor and offices and living quarters located on upper floors. There are 218 firehouses operated by the FDNY. These buildings serve as workplace and temporary residence for 10,282 Uniformed Fire Personnel, 3,240 Uniformed EMS, and 1,594 civilian staff members that constitute the FDNY.[1] There are 28 firehouses located within the five SIRR flood zones, which account for the largest percentage of DDC-maintained buildings at risk of flooding.

According to FDNY Annual Reports, "70% of the FDNYs firehouses are more than 70 years old, with an average age of 79 years" and architectural designs produced during retrofit and construction of firehouses are careful to include the characteristics of the surround neighborhood.[2]

Special Resilience Considerations

Firehouses play a vital role in city-wide resilience and emergency planning. They serve as hubs for emergency preparation before extreme weather events, a launching point for response teams during extreme weather events, and keystone for recovery response after extreme weather events. The firehouse, therefore, plays a key role in resiliency planning, and must aim to be an example of resilient building design in order to maintain steady operation under extreme situations. FDNY personnel lead the way during heavy storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, flood events, power outages, snow storms, heat waves, and any other disaster which posses a threat to New York citizens.[3] In their design guidance, FEMA notes that "many residents view the local fire station as a point of shelter, and will seek it as a refuge when winds and conditions become dangerous in their own homes."[4]

Flood Events
Generally, firehouses locate areas for fire engines and emergency vehicles on the lower level of the building, placing offices, staff living and sleeping quarters on upper floors. This design lends itself well to wet floodproofing measures because it can be utilized in non-residential spaces composed of masonry construction, such as parking garages. Wet floodproofing design measures, combined with emergency plans that identify all materials and equipment that must be relocated in a flood event, can support the possibility of continuous operation of firehouses during flood events.

FEMA image: Gulfport Fire Station #7 destroyed by storm surge.

High Wind Events

In preparation for high wind events, careful consideration should be given to securing loose materials on the exterior of the building to ensure that they do not become missiles. One example of an exterior architectural element that should be secured for hurricane force wind is rooftop pavers, which may be present in firehouses because of their use as a covering for flat roof surfaces. Special care should be taken to anchor any exterior mechanical or service equipment that is a component of communications or building services that are essential to the building's functioning.

Power Outages
Utility systems design should be designed to accommodate power failure events that occur in any weather condition. This is of particular concern to critical facilities such as firehouses that serve as communication hubs during such events. Natural gas-powered and/or solar photovoltaic generators should be able to run in island mode and backup reserve power should be able run continuously in order to operate communications and essential building functions. Additional measures can be taken to reduce the need for energy. Day lighting design, airtight construction, and high performance thermal insulation are passive survivability measures that add to the functionality of building services during power failures as well as reduce building energy demand during normal daily operation.

Further Consideration
FEMA provides guidance for critical facilities that should be consulted for a thorough assessment of design considerations applicable to critical facilities such as firehouses.[5]

Case Studies


  1. ^ FDNY. Vital Statistics - FY 2013.
  2. ^

    FDNY. Annual Report 2012/2013.
  3. ^

    FDNY. Annual Report 2012/2013.
  4. ^ FEMA. Design Guide for Improving Critical Facility Safety from Flooding and High Winds. FEMA 543 ed. Risk Management Ser.
  5. ^

    FEMA. Design Guide for Improving Critical Facility Safety from Flooding and High Winds. FEMA 543 ed. Risk Management Ser.