Monday, August 27, 2007

High Tech and Personal Touch at new Fire Station 2

The new Fire Station #2 on Patton Chapel Road was unveiled for citizens at an open house Sunday afternoon. The station had to be relocated as part of re-configuring the intersection with Chapel Lane, a process that took several years but appears to have been worth the wait.

It is larger than the old station, with enough storage space that the HazMat Team (response team for Hazardous Materials accidents) will operate from here, as Mayor Tony Petelos said in his remarks. There is one more vehicle bay, and all the bays are larger. A state-of-the art classroom is located upstairs, where Open House attendees could see a presentation on the construction of the building. (If you drove by during construction, it was hard to see, because the new station is tucked away. But most everyone noticed when the old station was demolished - it was there in the morning, and gone by afternoon!)

Most interesting for me, as a resident of Hoover, was the computer technology that gives firefighters all the information they need at their fingertips when they respond to a call. All Hoover Fire Department units are equipped with Toughbook computers linked to a central database. Fire Station 2 and Fire Station 4 (Municipal Drive) are testing an on-site system as well.

Lt. Tommy Sizemore demonstrated the on-site computer, which has a large flat screen monitor on the wall and a telex machine. On the display at the open house was a list of all the Hoover units and where they were (this is information transmitted from the on-board laptops). There was a map that showed every fire hydrant in Hoover, which can be zoomed in when there is a call. Lt. Sizemore said the computer can overlay satellite images, most of which are only a few months old, which show the “lay of the land” for firefighters. This is especially useful in areas where there is a lot of new construction.

The department also keeps information from individual citizens, such as handicapped or elderly residents. Lt. Sizemore said the department encourages people to call their local station with emergency information, so the firefighters will have it when they respond to a call.

The telex machine prints out all the dispatch information for the units to take with them. One of the advantages of this system is privacy, Lt. Sizemore said. “Before, we had to transmit over the radio, which can be picked up by other people. When we use printouts, we know that information about individual residents stays secure.”

Architecturally, the building looks like many new homes in Hoover: brick and stone with arched windows and a peaked roof. It was designed by Duncan & Nequette Architects to fit in with the neighborhood while being highly functional, and it appears to have accomplished that goal.

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