The Fire Department wanted the building to be distinctive as over 30,000 people travel 1st Avenue daily and it is a gateway to those entering the City off of the interstate. It is important to note, though, that the new 67,140 square foot fire station has leading edge technology, training facilities and energy-efficient features. Further, this was the first Central Fire Station in the United States to achieve Platinum LEED Certification – the top level for energy efficient buildings. It includes geothermal heating and air conditioning that have reduced operating costs – the system paid for itself within 18 months.
The $20 million building was funded with a Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Disaster Grant for $15 million and an I-JOBS Grant for $5 million.
The City’s Emergency Operations Center is located in the new Central Fire Station. The room also serves as central command in the case of a citywide emergency, such as the flood event that occurred in May 2013 when fire, police, public works and other departments worked together to prepare for a possible 20 foot river crest. Staff from different City departments can orchestrate the city’s emergency response from this room. There are numerous electrical and data ports so that the room could have several break out areas. Plus, there is a kitchen just off the center of the room as the EOC will likely need to be staffed continuously day and night in some circumstances. When not used as the EOC, the Fire Department hosts seminars and conferences in this room.
Because this is an emergency center, the fire station can function 100 percent off the grid within an hour. There are backup generators for electrical power, the few gas appliances have electrical receptacles behind them so an electrical stove or water heater could be plugged in, and if city water disruption occurred, the geothermal well water could be used. Telecommunications are routed in two pathways to avoid a break in service.
The Central Fire Station has two distinct response functions. The Engine Company responds to emergency calls in the immediate area in and around downtown Cedar Rapids. The Truck Company and Rescue Unit, along with the Battalion Chiefs, need to respond to the entire City. This is why this central location with ready access to 1st Avenue and Interstate 380 was so important. There are specialty response vehicles and equipment that need to respond to a water or ice rescue or hazardous materials situation anywhere in the City – ideally within 8 minutes.