A few weeks ago I wrote about the specifications of constructing fire department access roads, which included dimensional details from NFPA 1, Fire Code, Section 126.96.36.199 such as width, vertical clearance, surface, turning radius, grade and dead ends.
To provide effective manual fire suppression operations, the fire department must be able to gain reasonable access to a building. Approved fire department access roads must be provided for every facility, building, or portion or a building that is newly constructed or relocated. Fire department access roads consist of roadways, fire lanes, parking lot lanes, or some combination of those. (Note: The Code does not require the modification of previously approved access to existing buildings to meet the current Code requirements and some modifications may be permitted for specific structures, See 188.8.131.52.3)
Just yesterday, a coworker referred to me a story in the news that highlights the importance of fire department access. On Monday night, a home in a San Antonio gated neighborhood caught fire after it was struck by lightning. The story reports that neighbors said the siren-operated sensor (SOS), at the gate was not working and delayed the response time of firefighters and it was reported that some residents said they had to open the gate by hand. The gate had been inspected at the end of last year and was reported to be functioning properly.
Does NFPA 1 address gated neighborhoods? In fact, it does. Section 184.108.40.206, titled 'Access to Gated Subdivisions or Developments', states that the AHJ shall have the authority to require fire department access be provided to gated subdivisions or developments through the use of an approved device or system.
Source: NFPA 1 Handbook, 2015 edition.
Access to gated communities or other developments must comply with the same requirements for buildings or areas that utilize an access box where access to a structure or area is difficult because of security.. Access gates might use card access readers, siren-operated devices, infrared receivers, or other approved devices rather than keys, but it is critical that the means of access is approved by the local AHJ.
Fire department access is essential to providing immediate and effective manual fire suppression operations. Obstructions, inoperable devices, and improperly constructed access roads can mean a longer time for the fire department to reach a fire, protect property, and save lives.
Have you seen obstructions to fire department access? Share your stories and photos!