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West Friendship Fire Department

At West Friendship, Fire and Ice "Are Dealt With Accordingly"

When fire and EMS personnel need to make a quick break from base camp, the last thing they need is to contend with are the hazards of snow and ice.

That's why - when the new, 40,000 s.f. two-level West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department headquarters was completed earlier this year as one of the largest facilities of its kind in the Northeast, an 18,000 square foot snow melt system was installed in the heavy concrete slabs around the building.

Fortunately, the thought of in-slab radiant didn't escape the consideration for interior comfort, too, so the quick-responders at this facility get the benefit of radiant heat all winter long. That is, until the alarm sounds, alerting them of the next emergency need.

The very essence of quick response is predetermined here. The West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department was organized by the Minutemen of Company 769 in Howard County. The Minutemen were organized during World War II to protect the citizens from acts of sabotage. As the war drew to a close, the group was disbanding. At their final meeting on September 4, 1944, they instead chose to form a volunteer fire department.

Several descendants of that group today enjoy the new facility, an unchanged public service mission and the greatly improved base camp facility built to enable quick response. "Around here, we can now say that fire and ice are dealt with accordingly," said Fire Chief Mickey Day.

The L-shaped facility in Howard County, MD, is home to EMS personnel and equipment on one side, and large fire equipment bays on the other. Common areas were placed at the "L-bow" joint, providing room for food service, office and training areas.

According to Chief Day, the facility is the base of operations for two full-time and 10 part-time personnel and 85 volunteers. In the enclosed, radiantly-heated bays, 10 pieces of equipment are kept in mint condition: two engines, two tankers, one tower truck, two ambulances, one brush truck (for brush and wild fires) and two utility vans.

"The equipment actually has it a bit better than the personnel do," joked Chief Day. "The radiantly-heated slabs provide warmth for the equipment bays, but not inside the facility's common and bunk areas."

The West Friendship Fire Company job - typical of the commercial work done by Gaithersburg, MD-based Mallick Plumbing & Heating, Inc. - billed-out at about $1.5 million. The 58-person-firm had revenues of 18 million in 2008, with 95 percent of earnings stemming from commercial and industrial work. A small percentage of work comes from residential service and retrofit work.

According to Mike Mallick, general superintendent and project manager for Mallick Plumbing & Heating, said that the jobsite foreman for the project was Greg Green. The engineered design was developed by Timonium, MD-based Schlenger Pitz and Associates, Inc.; the project mechanical engineer was Jennifer Varacalle.

The job at West Friendship Fire Company entailed the installation of a large hydronic system with radiant heat, snow melt, and hydro-air heat for the common and bunk areas. Mallick professionals tapped the design and on-site expertise of manufacturer's rep firm Cummins-Wagner for, among other system components, 32,000 lineal feet of Watts Radiant EPDM synthetic rubber Onix tubing and manifolds, two pre-engineered, prepackaged HydroNex system panels from Watts Radiant for equipment bay radiant heating and one larger, custom-built HydroSkid package built specifically for the project to control the snow-melting operation outside.

"We prefer working with Onix because of its flexibility and ruggedness," said Mallick. "It doesn't kink and bounces right back if it's crushed. It's also unaffected by exposure to the sun, which would've been a concern if we had done the job with PEX tubing. It also has an aluminum oxygen barrier layer, and Kevlar for tensile strength."

Mallick and jobsite foreman supervised installation crews that were at work on the fire station mechanical system for about nine months.

For snow-melting, a single boiler provides the heat with low temperature valves in the supply and return piping so that it can't bring less than 70°F fluid back into the boiler, avoiding the risk of condensate accumulation. The system heats 660 gallons of 50/50 glycol mix for the exterior slabs. The 18,000 s.f. of un-insulated, 8-inch concrete slab - divided into three separate, 6,000 s.f. slabs - operates off of one outdoor temperature-and-humidity-sensitive sensor.

"Facility managers can over-ride the automatic activation of the system if they know from weather reports that a winter storm is coming in," added Mallick. "That way, they can turn on the outside slab heat before the sensor would pick it up."

The HydroSkid package is a skid-mounted mechanical unit by Watts Radiant designed to keep mechanical projects on schedule and on budget. The units are built entirely to specification, greatly simplifying involvement at the jobsite. UL-listed components are used, and they are custom engineered and manufactured in a factory-controlled environment to assure quality control. The number of zones, flow requirements and component choices determine overall footprint and height.

"The snow melt operation is actually quite simple," said Mallick. "When the snow melt system is activated, all loops are warmed at once. There are two pumps on the Hydroskid: one serves six manifold sets and the other operates seven manifold sets."

The three equally-sized slabs are found outside the EMS bay (entry and exit), and on both sides of the drive-through fire equipment bays. Though the exterior slabs are un-insulated, the interior bays, six-inches thick, are insulated from below, and along the perimeter.

A Higher Calling

With all that gear and personnel, a new and larger facility (and some kindly harassment from neighboring fire companies for the superb mechanical system) comes an added expectation that - should a large-scale need arise, the resources of West Friendship could be called on to serve.

After all, Howard County is a mere 40 miles from the nation's capitol.

Such a need would likely come with little warning, and that's why fire and rescue personnel recognize the need for 24/7/365 readiness, a mission that harks back to the early days of Minuteman soldiering.

Maryland Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director of Operations, Ed Hopkins, said that there are "mutual aid" agreements in place all over the country. These are designed to get emergency resources quickly into an area of need. If the capitol would be threatened by attack, acts of terrorism, or struggle with an actual, large-scale need, these mutual aid agreements come into play, calling-in resources in ever-widening perimeters.

The World Trade Center attack drew-in resources from many miles away. So did the more recent flooding in Iowa and coastal hurricanes.

In this regard, the focus at West Friendship is no different than at fire stations nationwide: maintain readiness at all times. Yet, with the national capitol within a stone's throw, there's the realization that a higher calling could always arise.

West Friendship is ready to serve.


Howard County, MD

Radiant Systems Installer

Fred Covati, Mallick Plumbing & Heating, Inc



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