The current Balboa Fire Station No. 1 in Newport Beach, California,

Revamping America’s first responder infrastructure – an untapped market for contractors

June 12, 2024

The National Fire Department Registry lists more than 52,290 registered fire stations in America, which are managed by approximately 1.2 million career, volunteer and civilian personnel. A similar list of state police departments in the U.S. outlines more than 19,000 local police facilities, 11,788 local police departments and 2,889 sheriff’s offices –  this first-responder segment is staffed by more than 1 million people.

The data justifies massive amounts of current public spending but also boosts the probability of future spending exponentially. That’s because at least 43% of the country’s fire stations are over 40 years old and need immediate upgrades, equipment, technology and more. There is similar data related to the age and situation of America’s police facilities. Maintaining and updating these types of critical first-responder facilities is extremely costly, and their critical needs cannot be discounted. 

Repair costs for fire departments alone are estimated to be approximately $70 billion annually. Another $115 billion is spent annually on policing, and another $5.4 billion on other capital projects.  There is no currently available data for capital projects related to police divisions because most of this funding comes from multiple contributors at the state and local levels of government. First responder spending represents a substantial market for contractors of all kinds. Government officials overseeing first responder operations regularly seek assistance, services, products, funding and collaborative initiatives.

Officials in Southampton, Massachusetts, have announced plans to build a much-needed public safety complex to replace several outdated fire and police stations. The current stations are housed in older, historical buildings with structural issues. The new facility will be designed to consolidate the police and fire departments and meet all codes and guidance required by compliance with the Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) requirements and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The project will include green technology for efficient heating and cooling, a secure sally port entrance, a training room for police and firefighters, and a community room. Construction will launch within the next two years.

A new $30 million police headquarters is planned for Ocean City, New Jersey. The project will renovate and expand the building. City officials are currently overseeing a project related to a $6.5 million project to construct a police substation. The old red-brick building, first constructed in 1980, was initially used as a school until it was converted into the current police station. It now houses both the police department and the municipal court. Its leaky roof is among the many problems that need to be fixed by the renovation. This project is part of a capital improvement plan outlining this and other projects worth $160 million over the next five years.

San Mateo County in California will soon benefit from completion of a project that will replace Fire Station 59. The new station will cost approximately $20 million and will be situated about 1.7 miles to the east to move it out of the current flood zone where it is now located. The project is currently in the design phase, and construction is set to begin in 2025.

A final design for the hybrid Balboa Fire Station and Library project was approved by the Newport Beach City Council. An estimated cost of $16 million will cover the reconstruction and expansion of the fire station and library. The current library was initially built in 1929, and the Balboa Fire Station was built in 1962. Neither has received major renovations since. In addition to reconstructing over 9,000 square feet, the plan calls for a playground, green space and additional public parking for the community.

Residents of Sycamore, Illinois, will benefit from a planned $ 11 million replacement project related to Fire Station No. 1. The original facility is seriously outdated, and many upgrades are needed. There are regular electrical, heating and drainage failures, and the building has asbestos. As a result, the fire department’s response times were negatively impacted.

The fire station upgrades will include enhanced space for needed equipment, such as a ladder truck. There will also be space for training, cooking and dormitories for on-duty firefighters, along with a public walking path. A multi-use educational area for police, firefighters and students to practice community-wide safety will also be included. Solicitations for construction services have not been issued. Construction of the fire department is expected to begin in the spring of 2025.

Officials at the city of Johns Creek, Georgia, are moving forward with a plan to construct a fire station large enough to double the current available space available. The new facility will also be designed to consolidate the city’s south precinct police substation. The effort will include structural work, mold remediation and plumbing upgrades. The project is in the design phase, and the cost estimate has been placed at $10.4 million. However, now there are conversations about the potential of adding a third bay at an additional cost of approximately $11.5 million.

The fire station project, the top priority in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, will go out to bid in August. The city hopes to consider bids and award construction contracts in September or October 2024.

The operations and needs of first-responder units are often overlooked when contractors are seeking new collaborative initiatives. This one is definitely worthy of note.

Photo courtesy of Newport Beach, California

Mary Scott Nabers

Mary is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships (P3s). Mary is also co-founder of the Gemini Global Group (G3), a firm that works with national and international clients on business development, P3s, and other types of government objectives.

A recognized expert regarding P3s, Mary is the author of Collaboration Nation – How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government and Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.

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