A feature, with a stabilized surface, that allows access for emergency vehicles to a particular property.
Chester County's Emergency Management Services provided the following general suggestions on providing emergency access to a property or development:
- Provide more than one access point for subdivisions over 24 dwelling units.
- Provide the proper turning radius and turnaround areas for emergency vehicles. See also the VEHICLE CHARACTERISTICS design element.
- Reduce strings of flag lots to allow drivers the ability to find the correct parcel.
- Make driveway grades no steeper than 12 percent.
- Ensure proper pavement thickness for emergency access areas, especially at the rear of apartment buildings.
- Provide emergency access routes, maintain them and make keys available if gates and locks are used.
- Provide adequate distances between buildings and fire lanes for apartments, offices and commercial development.
- Provide easy access to fire hydrant hook up locations.
Emergency vehicle response is time-critical and vehicles are directly affected by poorly designed roadways. If roads are designed to facilitate emergency vehicle access, response time may be improved.
The following options as illustrated in the following Emergency Access Points exhibit (or combination of options) are some ways emergency vehicles can be accommodated when a development is unable to provide a second, fully improved access point:
- stabilized grass paver and curb cut;
- stabilized or paved surface with gate or chain and curb cut; and
- undercarriage preventer device and curb cut.
An efficient system that prevents misuse is the use of grass paver which provides a stabilized surface. This allows for grass to grow in the crevices and over the pavers so that they cannot be seen. In most cases they do not require a chain.
A gate or chain requires an emergency vehicle operator to dismount from the vehicle to open a gate or unlock or cut through a chain. They must also have the proper keys if it is locked. Gates are used more infrequently because of their susceptibility to violations and frequency of disrepair.
Undercarriage preventer devices are susceptible to violation by other motorists and may cause damage to the vehicle or pose a safety problem to the crew from the shock of crossing.
Where curbing exists, curb cuts should be provided to allow vehicular crossings without causing damage. Individual options should be evaluated based on specific site characteristics.
- Municipalities should require that all major developments have two, fully improved access points for the provision of emergency services. In the event that a second access point is not feasible then an emergency access point should be provided. If an emergency access point is used, an easement delineating maintenance and ownership responsibilities should be determined prior to plan approval.
- An emergency access point is only a temporary measure. It should only be kept in place until logical roadway extensions into future, adjacent developments can occur. If a road provides for an emergency access point at its terminus, then it should be designed according to its intended future use within the local road network.
- An emergency access route should be provided with no gates or chains that is traversable by emergency vehicles only or, if gates and locks are used, make keys available to emergency services. Use lightweight chains that are highly visible and can be easily broken by emergency vehicles. Provide a stabilized surface for use as a fire lane on all sides of apartment, commercial or industrial buildings.
- Municipalities should coordinate subdivision plan reviews with local emergency service providers.
(aka Perimeter road)
A right-of-way for emergency vehicle access, within which no parking shall be permitted.
Residential, commercial or institutional buildings should be located within a reasonable distance of a dedicated, accessible and improved public street to ensure access to emergency fire vehicles. An emergency fire lane should be provided within the property lines to provide access to all buildings.
Minimum curb radii adequate for all emergency vehicles should be provided throughout the length of the fire lane. Fire lanes should also be designed to be continuous and not terminate in a dead-end.
- Locate all commercial or institutional buildings within 150 feet of a dedicated, accessible and improved fire lane easement or no more than 600 feet from a dedicated, accessible and improved public street.
- Provide a minimum unobstructed right-of-way of 40 feet, with a 20-foot cartway width for fire lane easements.
- Provide a minimum of 55-foot radius on horizontal curves to accommodate emergency vehicles in the fire lane.
- Fire lanes should be designed to be continuous and not terminate in a dead-end.
The entire Multi-Modal Handbook PDF may be downloaded here.