Headlines: December 20th, 2007

New-style fire stations which are more open and inviting, as well as environmentally friendly, can play a part in driving down the number of deaths in fires, according to new guidance on how the buildings are designed. The Fire Minister, Parmjit Dhanda, said engagement with the public was a vital part of continuing to cut the number of fatalities.

The vision of a new generation of accessible stations where local people can come together socially and to hear important fire safety advice is set out in ‘Achieving Design Quality in Fire and Rescue Service Buildings’, which has been produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It wants to get away from fire stations being intimidating and closed-looking Victorian buildings that are not inviting places for the public. Launching the guide, Mr. Dhanda said fire and rescue services needed buildings that allowed them to do the best job possible. “Firefighters’ first job will always be fighting fire, but stations can also play a greater role in promoting good community relations by opening up to them and putting a greater emphasis on prevention by increasing education about fire safety,” he added.

He accepted that many traditional fire stations were magnificent buildings and were architecturally important but said the aim was to add to the range of buildings and facilities that fire and rescue services had. Specifically the guide aims to help services commission buildings that are functional, aspirational and with high tech facilities as well as being pleasing to the eye and welcoming and accessible to the community. They also need to be environmentally friendly and offer good working and motivational conditions for staff.

It also suggests a number of possible new uses for fire stations to encourage local people to visit them as a way of increasing the opportunities for services to spread fire safety information. Possibilities include hosting community events and services, cash points, providing car parking in rural areas and offering space for art displays.