By: Eric M. Chambers, AIA, CID, LEED GA, CDT

As an architect, it is exciting to design Mission Critical Facilities ranging from Police Stations to Fire Stations, EMS Facilities, Emergency Operation Centers, and other similar public safety facilities. These facilities are unique since they have such distinct features and are icons for our communities. It is also due to the fact that our First Responders (Policemen, Firemen, Dispatchers, EMT’s, etc.) work to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. They work for us to make sure we are safe and secure. However, have we ever stopped to think that they need protection too?

Unfortunately, we have to think about these men and women who protect and serve us and how to make their work environments safe and secure. This can be difficult since their duties are to deal with the general public in the worst of situations. The facilities need to be inviting to the public but must still protect the staff who work in these buildings. The first responders have to respond in the worst of conditions and so the facilities must withstand damaging effects that come against them so the responders are safe and able to respond when called upon.

The threats to consider:

Technological Threats: such as hazardous materials, structure fires, service interruption, identity theft, hacking, etc.

Natural Threats: such as tornadoes, ice storms, flooding, lightning, hurricanes, seismic activity, etc.

Man-made Threats: such as explosives, active shooter, protests, chemical or biological agents, etc.

Here are twelve considerations when designing mission critical facilities for your communities that will protect your first responders:

Conduct a threat analysis that analyzes threats from humans, nature, and technology.

Create single entry points to the site and the building for the public to enter and exit.

Keep the public in the lobby. No access unless escorted.

Security Lighting and Secure Parking areas for the staff.

Use Passive Deterrents around the building to protect the building but still beautify the site and building.

Use Ballistic Glazing but don’t forget to consider the ballistic ratings of the frames, doors, and wall materials around the glazing.

Utilize security access control and security cameras on the exterior and interior of the facility.

Develop adequate standoff and blast distances from the building.

Ground all technology systems in building for protecting sensitive systems and equipment

Use Air Filtration and System Emergency Shutdown for HVAC systems.

Develop “Hardened” areas in the building for staff protection.

Plan, Review, and Practice situational protocols for man, nature, and technology threats with all staff.

These twelve considerations will help create a safe and secure environment for your First Responders.

By the way, next time you have a chance thank a First Responder for their service.