Emergency Response and Narrow Streets - CivicWell

Emergency Response and Narrow Streets

Community Design

Fact Sheet

For decades wide suburban-style streets have been the norm in new developments. As the Smart Growth movement gained momentum, emergency response agencies, especially fire departments, expressed concern about the narrower streets seen in many Smart Growth developments. Their fears were that these streets would slow down responding vehicles in an emergency situation where seconds are precious, not provide sufficient setup room for fire trucks with ladders and “outrigger” stabilizer legs, and not allow second or third vehicles on a scene to pass a deployed fire truck.

CivicWell (formerly the Local Government Commission) prepared two fact sheets that address these issues, summarizing the solutions that make safe Smart Growth streets work for emergency responders as well as residents. The first fact sheet “Traffic Calming and Emergency Response“ discusses retrofit solutions and the second, “Street Design and Emergency Response” looks at initial street design.

These fact sheets are part of a larger project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to explore trends in emergency response activities, fire vehicle types, and model fire codes. As part of this project, CivicWell (formerly the Local Government Commission) and Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, Inc., have conducted workshops in Northern and Southern California with planners, engineers, and fire officials. These sessions have discussed the hazards represented by excessive street width, and present design solutions that produce narrower streets that are safer for drivers and pedestrians alike.

Development of this publication was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.