When Belfast constructs its planned joint public safety headquarters, public safety officials say they want to see increased storage space, shared training rooms and improved cleaning systems to make their jobs easier.
The showers are especially important to the fire department, which will share the facility with emergency medical services personnel and police. There are cleaning systems for gear at the current fire station, but emergency personnel have to shower at home, said Belfast Fire Chief Patrick Richards.
“If an EMS person or a firefighter is exposed to some sort of carcinogen, or some sort of bloodborne pathogen, there’s really no good way to decontaminate here,” Richards said.
Ideally, the facility will also include a big upgrade in space for emergency personnel and their equipment, Richards said. He said a climate-controlled storage room to house emergency gear and supplies would also be a big benefit, since those supplies currently take up space in the station’s engine bay.
Plans for the new headquarters are still in preliminary stages, and the total cost and timeline are still undetermined, officials said.
Belfast Police Chief Robert Cormier said a goal for the facility is to provide a more modernized space for public safety personnel to work together. That might include dorms, training facilities and more space for the departments to grow into down the line, Cormier said.
The new combined facility will improve communication between different public safety departments and help attract and retain first responders and other emergency response staff, officials said.
The planning for the facility is still in its early stages. A committee has visited other recently built public safety buildings around the state to learn from them. And the location is still uncertain. The city is waiting to hear back on soil samples which will determine whether the facility can be built on property already owned by the local government behind Belfast’s current fire station.
Belfast received $1.5 million in federal funding to build the new public safety facility as part of a $1.7 trillion spending package passed by the U.S. Congress in December.
Correction: An early version of this story contained inaccurate information about where emergency personnel wash their gear. They clean their gear at the station.